Hawaii has been more than just Paradise Lost for UCSB the last few basketball seasons.
The Gauchos’ very life, limb, and property have also seemed at risk of loss.
They awoke to news of an imminent nuclear attack on the eve of last year’s game in Honolulu.
“My wife was hiking Diamond Head, and she called me in tears, saying that there was a missile alert … and that it wasn’t a false alarm,” UCSB coach Joe Pasternack said. “That’s what it said in the text message she got.”
What does one do in the face of such vaporization?
“We all gathered in the lobby … and then we had a team meeting,” Pasternack said.
The alert turned out to be a false alarm. The basketball missiles that Hawaii fired that night — hitting its target on nine of its first 10 launches — did prove lethal enough to beat the Gauchos, 77-76.
The final indignity came on the bus ride home from LAX, which included a 300-mile detour through Bakersfield to circumvent the Montecito mudslides.
Disaster was in the air again last Thursday night, half-an-hour after an overtime defeat to UC Irvine, when UCSB boarded a bus to LAX for another trip to Hawaii.
Every Gaucho onboard wanted to go nuclear about the missed goaltending call that allowed the Anteaters to send that game into overtime.
So what does one do when his season faces such vaporization? That’s right … Call another team meeting.
“When we got there, we had a really intense film session just to understand why we lost,” Pasternack said. “You have to understand why you lost to put it behind you.”
But they didn’t obsess on the segment when the referees missed the basket interference on Jonathan Galloway’s slam-dunk put-back. They focused instead on how the Irvine center was able to get into position for the jam in the first place.
“You’ve got to eliminate the reasons why you lose — coach Knight would always talk about that,” said Pasternack, who had been a student manager for Indiana coach Bobby Knight two decades earlier. “We lost because we got out-rebounded.
“It wasn’t because we missed shots. We got out-rebounded. I think once our guys understood that, then we could move forward with Hawaii.”
The Gauchos rebounded from their loss to Irvine by out-rebounding the Rainbow Warriors, 35-26. Hawaii eventually collapsed under the relentless assault, suffering a 75-54 loss — its worst Big West Conference home defeat ever.
UCSB, which returns home tonight to face Cal State Northridge, continued its season-long trend of bouncing back from defeat with victory. Its longest losing streak this year is one.
“It points to the character of these guys — of how competitive and hungry they are,” Pasternack said. “You can’t get down because one loss can become two losses, can become three.
“To their credit, they’ve done a really great job of hunkering down and having a chip on their shoulders the next day … the next practice … the next film session … the next game.”
And even after the next disaster: On the eve of Saturday’s game, Pasternack got word that a storm back home in Santa Barbara had uprooted a eucalyptus tree which scored a direct hit on his Lexus ES 350.
“The tree literally chopped it in half,” he said. “I’m just glad I wasn’t in it.”
It was enough to stir him into calling his next team meeting.
“I’ve had it since I got the job here,” he began, “but I’ll be totally honest with you … I’m more worried about Northridge.”