Hawaii coach firing sets up flurry of issues ahead of hoops season start

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With the university under investigation for questionable eligibility information, Hawaii took steps Tuesday to move forward. It fired basketball coach Gib Arnold and assistant Brandyn Akana.

On Wednesday, associate head coach Benjy Taylor took over the Rainbow Warriors program. Talk about being under the gun: Taylor must prepare his team for its first game of the 2014 season, against Arkansas-Pine Bluff, during the Rainbow Classic on Nov. 14. Taylor's team has a Nov. 6 exhibition against Hawaii Pacific.

This wouldn't be Taylor's first term as a coach. He was 28-46 in three seasons at North Central College, a small school in Naperville, Ill., and and 39-53 at Illinois-Chicago.

Other reports say former coach Riley Wallace could return for the 2014-15 season.

Key to the dismissal: an eligibility document that reports say was altered.

Arnold issued a statement about his firing. Among its comments:

"It pains me that they are taking my team and career away based on unknown allegations from unknown sources that have not been proven and that I have never been able to defend. I do know we have never paid any players or recruits, never committed any academic fraud, never had an off-court issue involving domestic violence or criminal behavior."

In his first Division I head coaching job, Arnold was 72-55 over four years, including 20-11 last season.

The school has been under investigation by the NCAA since March. The university earlier this year self-reported Jan. 9 situation in which "a men's basketball coach submitted an altered document that was essential for admissions purposes," according to information obtained by the Honolulu Star-Advertiser.

The player in question apparently is junior forward Isaac Fotu, a preseason All-Big West first-team selection.

Arnold will be paid the rest of his $344,000 annual salary.

Associate head coach Benjy Taylor, who with Akana joined Arnold in his first season, was named interim head coach. Taylor led the team in a practice Tuesday.

"We needed to get on the floor and be with each other," Taylor said. "(The players) are very, very upset right now. They just lost a family member, a patriarch. I thought they needed to get on the floor and sweat a little bit and just try to move forward somehow."

Contributing: Associated Press