The 2016 Maui Jim Maui Invitational Tournament begins on Monday afternoon. It is perhaps the premier preseason tournament in college hoops, and it has established itself over the years with a host of top-tier teams and moments that’ve gone down in the strip of paradise it resides in.
Leading up the to 2016 Maui Jim Maui Invitational, I was able to talk turkey with Tournament Chairman Dave Odom. Prior to stopping in Maui, Odom was a coach from 1965-2008, coaching at the high school and college level. At the college level he made stops at East Carolina, Wake Forest - where he was both an assistant and a head coach - Virginia as an assistant, and South Carolina where his coaching career concluded in 2008.
The Georgetown Hoyas will be representing the Big East in this year’s Maui Invitational as they open up play later Monday against the Oregon Ducks.
1. Historically, the Maui Invitational has played host to some of the most tradition-rich programs in college basketball. Was that part of the thought process in selecting Georgetown?
Georgetown has been an inherent part of the history of the MJMI. Given the NCAA rule of appearing in our tournament in one in every four years, Georgetown as a university and basketball program is given consideration every year that they are eligible to come. We are always delighted to offer them an invite whenever their schedule permits.
2. Do you feel your connections made in your years as a head coach help get teams into the Maui Invitational despite often lengthy travel?
The Maui Jim Maui Invitational itself is what attracts teams to this Tournament. The experience is what encourages people to continue to support the Maui Jim Maui Invitational. To travel to a different part of the world for the Aloha experience, makes it special. That combined with the best early season competition, teams are sure to benefit when they get back to the mainland and begin their seasons.
3. The Maui Invitational has established itself as the premier preseason tournament in college basketball. Do you think there’s a pressure within your role and in the inner workings of it to maintain that level of success on a year-to-year basis?
I wouldn’t call it pressure. I would call it a responsibility to improve the tournament every year. Tournament operator, KemperLesnik and my goal is to objectively evaluate the tournament each year. As we look forward to the next year, the goal is to make the following year’s tournament better than the last. It doesn’t mean changing the face each year, but we always try to improve. One reason we continue to offer the best in college basketball is that we feel strongly about improvement, as well as the history of the tournament and its continuance on the island of Maui.
4. What’s the most gratifying thing about your role within the Maui Invitational?
I have two answers. One, watching the people of the various Hawaiian islands come enjoy the experience and go away feeling like this is their tournament. Two, the feedback of the teams each year. Regardless of how many games won, the coaches go home feeling like this Tournament helped them prepare their teams for the season.