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Hawai‘i’s Ganot receives Coaches vs. Cancer Champion Award

Since 2017, every Coaches vs Cancer Fundraising Event in Hawai‘i has been held at the OUTRIGGER Reef Waikiki Beach Resort.

ASSOCIATED PRESS Hawaii coach Eran Ganot watches during a game in 2022.

ASSOCIATED PRESS – Hawaii coach Eran Ganot watches during a game in 2022.

These are hectic times for Hawaii basketball coach Eran Ganot.

He is completing spring training, working on the Rainbow Warriors’ 2024-25 schedule, rebuilding the roster, and dealing with sponsors to compete in an NIL-influenced college landscape. He also is part of a group of college coaches raising money and awareness to battle a menacing foe.

“We’ve got to crush cancer,” Ganot said. “There have been a lot of inroads made, but we can’t rest on our laurels. There’s more work to do. We cannot let up. It gets you even more motivated to help fight this fight.”

At last week’s Final Four weekend, Ganot was presented with the Coaches vs. Cancer Champion Award by the American Cancer Society. Ganot has spearheaded an annual event that benefits the Honolulu Hope Lodge, where cancer patients — and their caregivers — stay for free while receiving treatment.

When Lon Kruger, chair of Coaches vs. Cancer, made the notification call, Ganot responded: “Did you make a mistake?”

Ganot recalled giving them another chance to change their choice.

“Leading up to the festivities at the Final Four, I said, ‘You guys can still correct this mistake if you like. Are you sure you don’t want to rethink this, because it’s such an honor?’”

Of those conversations, Kruger said: “He’s like that. He’s very unassuming. It was a call that was easy to make because Eran has done such a good job with it. Not just other coaches, but people at the American Cancer Society really appreciate what he does.”

When Ganot was hired as head coach in 2015, he reached out to Kruger, who was part of the Coaches vs. Cancer council. Kruger said Ganot wanted to use his “platform to advocate for others to get involved.”

The first event was at Murphy’s Bar &Grill and raised $8,000. The next year, it was decided to tie the event with the Diamond Head Classic, a UH-hosted, eight-team basketball tournament during the holiday season in December. The pre-tournament event includes each head coach. “Every year, we get seven new coaches in addition to me,” Ganot said. “Coaches who were involved (with CVC) have become more involved. Coaches who had not been involved become involved.”

Since 2017, every event has been held at the OUTRIGGER Reef Waikiki Beach Resort. The hotel donates the venue, food and beverages. “All the money stays in Hawaii,” said Sean Dee, OUTRIGGER Hospitality’s executive vice president and chief commercial officer. “It doesn’t go to the mainland and circle back. It stays here.”

Last year’s event raised $55,000. “Coach Ganot really understands how important this is,” said Karen Knudsen, CEO of the American Cancer Society, “and made it a priority that Hope Lodge has everything it needs, and to raise awareness about the importance of patient support while someone is undergoing cancer therapy.”

Knudsen noted that many neighbor island and Guam residents travel to Oahu to receive therapy at advance-care centers. Hope Lodge provides housing for those patients and their caregivers during their therapy. Knudsen said there is a “safety and health perspective of staying at the Lodge,” particularly for immuno-compromised patients. Patients and caregivers also can share their experiences with others in different phases of treatment.

“Last year, we gave 8,000 nights free of charge for cancer patients and their families, saving more than $1 million in lodging costs for people of Hawaii,” Knudsen said.

Coaches vs. Cancer, which is associated with the National Association of Basketball Coaches, has raised more than $155 million nationally in more than 30 years, according to Kruger.

Kruger said Ganot was deserving of the award. “He’s very passionate about doing everything he can to help fight cancer,” Kruger said.

Dee said: “Coach Ganot does so much for the community, and he’s such a humble guy. People don’t realize how active he is in events like this.”

Ganot, who credited the event’s organizing committee, said the group welcomes sponsors and ideas for the eighth event in December.