He still has remnants of a scar across the top his head, where doctors performed emergency surgery to remove swellings of blood near his brain.

It was one of several medical procedures Wallace has experienced during his tenure at Hawai'i. None of it has to do with his departure.

"Every time he had to go in for something, the doctors said he was fully recovered and gave him the OK to go and coach again," Joan Wallace said. "When he was in the hospital, I would be worried then, but they always said he was OK, so that made me feel OK about him going back."


During the past two seasons this one, especially practices have been shorter. The yelling is not quite as frequent. The cough is not as persistent.

"There were some days in the early years where I actually feared for the lives of the players, that's how physical and intense it was," said associate coach Bob Nash, who has been on Wallace's staff for all 20 seasons. "So he's mellowed out. We're seeing a gentler, softer, fuzzier Riley Wallace."

The gentle nature was always there, those close to him say. He just never let it show on the basketball court.

"In the gym, he was the meanest man you could ever meet," Hallums said. "But once you got past that, you could see what he was about. After I left UH, I put Coach Wallace down as a reference for all my jobs."

Wallace insists the desire has not changed, and never will.

"Unless we're winning, I'll never be relaxed," Wallace said. "I'm still coughing. I still can't sleep after we lose. I still get nervous before games. But I've matured as a coach, and I think that really helps. I don't have to yell as much because I let my assistants do some for me. Before, I never let them do that."


Wallace's once bright-red hair is now white and buzzed close to his scalp. The player once nicknamed "Slats" because of his thin build is now concerned about getting overweight.

Still ...

"I have a lot of energy left," he said.

Wallace has admitted regret in signing a contract that targeted his resignation for this year. When he signed it three years ago he thought he might be ready to retire.

Now, he's not so sure.

"My wife is retired, and I know she has a long honey-do list ready for me," Wallace said. "But I've never done those kinds of things in my life. I've always been a coach, and I don't know if I know how to do any of those other things."

Wallace has three young grandchildren and loves being "Papa," but is not sure he could do that all day, every day.

"That's the one thing I did think about hard, is spending time with the kids," he said. "But I'm not the kind of guy who likes sitting around the house."

He has been offered the athletic director's job at his alma mater, Centenary, and he said he is considering it. If the 'Bows make a postseason run this month, it could lead to offers to coach other programs.

"You all know Riley," his wife said. "He'll retire when he's ready."

Whatever happens, Wallace said his blood will remain as colorful as his personality.

"I will be a Rainbow Warrior until the day I die," he said. "Nobody's going to take that away."



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