LBSU’s Acker draws from Hawai’i pipeline, set to add Montgomery to staff

LBSU’s Acker draws from Hawai’i pipeline, set to add Montgomery to staff

LBSU’s Acker draws from Hawai’i pipeline, set to add Montgomery to staff

BY PAUL BRECHT | HONOLULU
PUBLISHED APRIL 23, 2024

HONOLULU – A new challenge awaits. 

After nine seasons with Hawai’i, men’s basketball associate head coach John Montgomery is taking a job at Long Beach State, joining 1st-year head coach Chris Acker’s staff in a similar role. The duo reunites after spending formative years in their coaching careers together on Eran Ganot’s original coaching staff that led Hawai’i through the highs and lows of winning the 2016 Big West Tournament before helping keep the team successful through a postseason ban and scholarship reduction that was levied on the program during the following season from the previous coaching staff’s sin. 

Originally from Menlo Park, Calif., Montgomery was the longest-tenured assistant on the UH staff after joining Ganot’s inaugural coaching collection in 2015-16 as an assistant coach and was elevated to his current role ahead of the 2021 season. According to Montgomery, the decision to leave Hawai’i did not come lightly and involved a combination of factors that together were too much to leave on the table. With a chance to re-join a close friend in Acker back in his home state and move within an hour’s drive of his parents, sister and his three nieces, a full family feel was the only way to pull Montgomery from the islands. 

“I am incredibly indebted to Coach Ganot for the opportunity to coach at such an incredible place for nearly a decade,” Montgomery expressed. “The gratitude I feel for allowing me to grow over these last nine years is huge. I have all the belief in the world in Eran and the rest of the staff to continue to keep this program a consistent threat in the conference.” 

Acker, a former University of Hawai’i men’s basketball assistant coach under Ganot, immediately draws from the Rainbow Warrior coaching pipeline that has not gone under .500 in Big West play since Ganot took over. The former SDSU assistant coach crossed over with Montgomery in the islands, cultivating a close relationship in two seasons with UH as a part of the original Ganot staff that helped lead the ‘Bows to a school-record 28 wins, a Big West Conference title, and an appearance into the NCAA Tournament Round of 32. 

Acker left the program after the 2016-17 season for a job with the Mountain West’s Boise State before jumping over to San Diego State where he has spent the past five seasons. Montgomery, who had a connection with another SDSU assistant coach that dated back to his childhood, continued to stay in touch with Acker over the years as the Aztecs made multiple runs in the NCAA Tournament. 

While at Hawai’i, Acker oversaw the Rainbow Warriors’ defense and post player development. Montgomery had since taken over the same roles for the ‘Bows following Acker’s departure, also wearing the hat of recruiting coordinator for UH at points of his tenure, showing a propensity for international and West Coast recruitment. 

Montgomery came to Hawai’i after spending seven seasons on the West Coast between San Francisco (2014-15) and the University of California, Berkley (2008-2014) in various roles. John grew up in California as the son of College Basketball Hall of Fame coach Mike Montgomery, played college basketball for four years at Loyola-Marymount in Los Angeles and now returns closer to family in his home state. 

“It was not an easy decision in the slightest,” the 40-year-old father and husband emphasized in a phone call. “My wife is from [Hawai’i], I met her here and we had our daughter here. A piece of my heart will always be in Hawai’i, and I wish I could express just how much I appreciate the fans and the aloha for the people here.” 

The elder Montgomery, 77, coached a combined 24 seasons between Stanford and California in a 32-year career in college that ended with an induction into the College Basketball Hall of Fame as part of the 2016 class, going along with his 2002 induction into his alma mater Long Beach State’s Hall of Fame. His decorated career also included a brief two-year stint coaching the NBA’s Golden State Warriors. 

Mike Montgomery was a member of the graduating class of 1968 and played three seasons of basketball for LBSU, joining behind his father’s footsteps as part of Long Beach State’s athletics’ department. The late Jack Montgomery, grandfather of John and father of Mike, was named the school’s first athletic director in 1951 and spent 13 years running the ship for the Beach before stepping down to return to coaching in 1964. With the move back to the Beach, the youngest of the Montgomery men will continue in familial footsteps in familiar stomping grounds. 

“It’ll definitely be weird [to coach against Hawai’i],” he said about the shift in-conference. “It was a chance to help rebuild another program and continue growing towards a head coaching role while being back closer to my family.” 

No decision has been made on the replacement for Montgomery. Sources close to the Hawai’i program believe that assistant coach Brad Davidson could be elevated to the associate head coach role while a search for an open assistant coaching spot will go on.

Phillips’ career-high pushes first-place Hawai’i by Long Beach State, 80-68

Phillips’ career-high pushes first-place Hawai’i by Long Beach State, 80-68

UH guard Daejah Phillips brings the ball down the floor in a home game. The junior had a career-high 29 points in UH’s 80-68 road win over LBSU on Feb. 24 | Photo credit: Michael Lasquero, HSRN

Phillips’ career-high pushes first-place Hawai’i by Long Beach State, 80-68

BY PAUL BRECHT | HONOLULU
PUBLISHED FEB 24, 2024

LONG BEACH, CA – Daejah doing Daejah things. 

The Hawai’i Rainbow Wahine kept sole possession atop the Big West Saturday afternoon, using a career-high 29 points from junior guard Daejah Phillips to take down Long Beach State on the road with a wire-to-wire win, 80-68. The 80 points are a season-best for UH, surpassing the 73 points scored against San Jose State back on December 3. 

Hawai’i jumped out to an early 10-2 advantage behind back-to-back 3-pointers from MeiLani McBee and Imani Perez. The triple from McBee was the Kennewick, Washington native’s 142nd career 3-pointer, tying the junior with Ashleigh Karaitiana (‘13 – ‘16) for third-most in UH program history. The Rainbow Wahine carried the 8-point cushion through the opening quarter, holding LBSU to 17% shooting across 18 attempts from the floor to take a 19-11 lead into the second frame. 

Long Beach State opened the scoring in the 2nd quarter with a Cheyenne Givens pull-up before McBee answered with a 3-pointer on the other end to give her sole possession of third place amongst long-distance shooters in Hawai’i history. The Beach pulled within four with a 7-2 run over the following two and a half minutes to force a timeout from Laura Beeman’s ‘Bows. 

The break in the action helped UH get back on track, trading baskets with the Beach before Imani Perez’s back-to-back buckets pushed the lead back up to seven just ahead of halftime, 35-28. 

Hawai’i blasted out of the locker rooms with 7 of the first 10 points of the second half to go up double digits for the first time since late in the 1st quarter, but Savannah Tucker hit a three on the other end with 6:43 left in the third to quickly pull LBSU back within eight. 

Then, Daejah was Daejah, again. 

The junior guard ripped off six of UH’s final 11 points in the quarter including back-to-back finishes out of the media timeout as Hawai’i carried a 12-point advantage into the final frame. 

Phillips continued her onslaught, assisting Jacque David for a score to open the 4th quarter before dropping through an and-one to match the Rainbow Wahine’s largest lead to that point at 15 less than a minute into play resuming. Despite a quick LBSU timeout to try and slow Phillips and Hawai’i’s momentum, the stud guard rattled off 13 of UH’s final 20 points as the Rainbow Wahine cruised to an 80-68 victory to reclaim the top of the Big West totem pole. 

Long Beach State was led by Cheyenne Givens’ 14 points off the bench as five different players finished in double digits for the hosting Beach, including three with 12 points apiece. LBSU’s defense was able to force 19 turnovers but only produced 14 points from the UH giveaways. 

Hawai’i was paced by Phillips’ career-best 29 points on 12-of-14 shooting, doing it in just 19 minutes and 41 seconds of action. The junior now has 1,041 points, good enough for 21st-most in UH Rainbow Wahine history. MeiLani McBee finished the night with nine points and seven boards. 

Hawai’i forward Imani Perez chipped in 12 points, nine rebounds, four assists and three blocks in the victory. The sophomore exited with an injury with 3:04 left to play and did not return. 

Laura Beeman’s squad returns to action on Thursday, February 29 to play host to UC Davis, one of just three Big West teams to beat the Rainbow Wahine this season. The Aggies were 61-51 winners over Hawai’i back on February 10.