- Andy Katz, ESPN.com Senior Writer
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Dave Odom is in Oahu and Maui this week conducting basketball clinics and working -- yes, working -- in paradise. Odom is the tournament chairman of the Maui Invitational, a post he has held for the past three years.
It's safe to say the former Wake Forest and South Carolina coach, who retired from the Gamecocks in 2008, won't be giving up this job anytime soon. And it was a job he didn't even seek in the first place.
"If I had, I probably couldn't have gotten it," said Odom by phone, as he finished a nighttime walk along the beach in Honolulu. "It was one of those things that fell out of the sky."
Former Big East commissioner Dave Gavitt, who passed away two weeks ago, couldn't continue as chairman due to health issues. Former Big Ten commissioner Wayne Duke was heavily involved but needed someone to take over the tournament. Odom got the call on a Thursday and by Tuesday he was in Chicago meeting with one of the primary organizers of the event.
"This has been unbelievable," Odom said.
As chairman, he has overseen a transformation in the historic tourney. Maui desperately needed to keep up with the changing landscape of early-season events, because it's no longer financially attractive for schools to venture to paradise for three games on a neutral site. Early-season tournaments all over the country have had to adapt and add one or two games before the teams get to the neutral site. The NCAA allows teams to play four games in these tournaments, and anything less is becoming increasingly less acceptable.
Odom said he contacted his coaching friends who have frequented Maui like Duke's Mike Krzyzewski, Connecticut's Jim Calhoun, North Carolina's Roy Williams and Gonzaga's Mark Few about their interest in adding a game on campus before going to Maui.
"Krzyzewski told me that paying to go to Maui wasn't the problem, even though it was expensive," Odom said. "But he didn't want to take money out of the athletic fund to do it since that would go to track and baseball and golf or whatever. But if they could make money on a home game then it would make travel easier."
So a plan was hatched to have a guaranteed game -- where the home team pays the road team a fee without having to return the game -- before Maui so the home team can keep the gate receipts.
For this year, Odom secured four teams for the mainland Maui Invitational, with Belmont going to Memphis and Duke, Towson going to Michigan and Kansas, UNC Greensboro heading to Georgetown and Tennessee, and Middle Tennessee State playing at UCLA. Middle has only one road game but gets to host the mainland tourney with Towson, Belmont and UNCG and keeps the gate from that event.
"This allows us to have likes playing likes," Odom said. "And it gives teams a chance to play in arenas that they might not normally play in."
This year's Maui field is easily the best in the plethora of early-season events that dot the college basketball calendar. The 2010 field seemed a little down at the time, but still ended up producing the eventual national champ (Connecticut), a second Final Four team (Kentucky), the NIT champion (Wichita State) and three lottery picks (Kemba Walker, Brandon Knight and Alec Burks).
This year, Odom lined up the likes of Kansas, Duke, UCLA, Georgetown, Memphis, Michigan and Tennessee.
"Over here this week, everyone is saying this is the best field we've ever had," Odom said.
Odom noted that he has one spot to fill in both 2013 and 2014 and three of the seven sports are available for 2015 (Chaminade is always the host). He still has to secure his four mainland teams in each of the next four seasons as well.
So the Maui Invitational occupies plenty of his time, but it doesn't consume him. Odom and his wife Lynn recently moved from South Carolina back to Winston-Salem, N.C., to be closer to their two adult sons and their three grandchildren.
When Odom made the decision to return to the home of Wake Forest University, he made a call to Nancy Prosser, who had moved back to Cincinnati after the sudden death of her husband Skip in 2007. Prosser took over the Demon Deacons after Odom left for South Carolina in 2001, and the two were close friends.
So Nancy decided to sell to the Odoms.
"I think Skip would be pleased that we're in the house," Odom said. "He and I were great friends. I know Nancy was pleased."
About to turn 69 years old, Odom seems as invigorated as ever. In addition to his duties with the Maui Invitational, he's also volunteering his time as a consultant for his alma mater, Guilford College, and just started assisting with the boys and girls teams at Forsyth Country Day School in Lewisville, N.C.
"I'm down there three or four days a week working with the girls and boys on pivoting, shooting, passing, and I'm having an absolute ball -- so much that I'm missing it here while I'm in Maui this week," Odom said. "I'm having a great time. I'm so excited to walk into that gym, and when I see the parents and they tell me how much their son or daughter has learned, I think that's great."
Odom is paying close attention to the reconstruction effort at Wake Forest, where he spent 12 years as a head coach (1989-2001) and led Wake to seven straight NCAA tournaments and back-to-back ACC titles in 1995 and '96. The Demon Deacons are starting over again under second-year coach Jeff Bzdelik and were a miserable 8-24 last season (1-15 in the ACC).
But Odom, a three-time ACC Coach of the Year, isn't giving up on Bzdelik, and said he's confident that with a solid recruiting effort he'll get the program back. He said he is encouraging the fans to stay resilient and have faith.
"But yes, it's difficult to see it. Yes, it's difficult to live it," Odom said. "I tell them there is no quick fix."
As for Odom? He's content with life, happy to still be teaching kids the game. Oh, and that job in Maui -- one of the best jobs a retired coach could have in college basketball -- isn't too shabby either.
"And the happiest person is my wife. She's delighted," Odom said. "I'm very busy and I'm very, very happy."
Andy Katz is a senior writer for ESPN.com.
Dave Odom might be a retired college coach, but he's hardly retired. Between his duties as Maui Invitational chairman and high school volunteer assistant, the former Wake Forest and South Carolina coach approaches 70 as invigorated as ever.