On his 22nd birthday — Sept. 8, 2003 — Eran Ganot began his new life.
It was his first day as a volunteer for the Saint Mary’s basketball team, a job that included helping with videos, travel, academics, practices, corresponding with boosters, cold-calling potential sponsors, statistical and data entry and filling the ice bath.
Because the ice machine was in a separate part of campus, Ganot would use a bowl to scoop ice into a bucket, then carry it over to the bath. Then he would go back to get more ice. “We had to go bucket by bucket to fill this ice bath,” Ganot said.
He lived in one of the bottom units of a house in Lafayette, Calif., paying under-market rent because the couple who owned the place had empathy for a young man living on savings. The school’s cafeteria workers also were understanding. After all, Ganot was paid zero the first year.
But Ganot described it as one of the best — and most useful — times of his coaching life. “I thought it was awesome, to be honest,” Ganot said. “I thought I was getting better and learning a lot. It was fun, as crazy as it sounds, because the tasks were not, what some people might say, the most pleasant.”
From head coach Randy Bennett, Ganot learned to own each task. “You want to look at it as you’re the head coach of each task,” Ganot said. “You want to crush every responsibility. You want to get an ‘A’ in each responsibility.”
The reward? “You get more responsibility,” Ganot said, proudly.
Sixteen years later, Ganot is beginning his fourth season as UH’s head coach. He has hand-picked each assistant coach, each staff member, and assigned them jobs he had performed through the years. Ganot is the CEO who started in the mail room. Except for point guard Brocke Stepteau, the Rainbow Warriors are a Ganot-recruited team. But he disputes that description. That first team he inherited? “Those were our guys,” he said of the hanai players. “They were always our guys.”
In his first three years as head coach, Ganot adjusted the playing style to fit the personnel. He also tried to shield the players from the cloud that hovered because of previous NCAA indiscretions. Under Ganot, the academic progress rate — a four-year measurement — went from a 900 score the year before he took over to 952 his first year and 978 the second year. Last year’s score will be 1,000.
With three 7-foot freshmen, a sharpshooting junior-college transfer and eight of the top 10 players returning — including both point guards — Ganot has options ranging from a traditional lineup with a back-to-the-basket center to the modern game (inspired by the San Antonio Spurs and Golden State Warriors) of wider spacing, inside-out movements and ball screens.
“There are no clouds,” Ganot said. “There’s a lot of sunshine.”
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