Along with mental agility, McLachlin was obsessed with physical conditioning. His practices lasted an hour and a half, all intensity. “His theory was the best conditioned teams make the least mistakes, so he killed us,” said Lum. “A lot of sprints, a lot of defensive sliding and five-man weaves where the ball couldn’t touch the ground. If someone forgot and the ball hit the ground we had to start over again.” During layup drills before games, he enlisted his wife to keep track of every shot; anyone who missed a layup knew he would be running “suicide” sprints in practice later. But there were rewards for performing at his level. McLachlin treated his players like adults, members of an elite club, and let them use his on-campus hideaway apartment to hang out and listen to music between classes. He wanted his players to think and act more like a college squad than a high school team, and drew his inspiration and game strategies from the best college coaches. “It was virtually unacceptable to him for us to play at a high school level,” said Topolinski.
Larry Tavares, his starting point guard, said McLachlin confined his criticism to practice and was upbeat during games. It was not just his coaching that made Punahou special. He benefited from a bounty of exceptional talent on the roster Barry Obama made as a senior. They had graduated one star from the team that lost the state finals the year before (Mark Tuinei, who went on to play pro football as an offensive lineman for the Dallas Cowboys for 15 years before his untimely 1999 death from an overdose of heroin and ecstasy). The returning players came in with the attitude that “we’re gonna die on the court before we lose again,” said Dan Hale, who replaced Tuinei as a six-foot-six sophomore center (so skilled he had made the team the year before as a freshman). Hale was joined on the front line by John Kamana III, the second-generation Squeeze, a sprinter as physical as he was fast, who could out-leap players half a foot taller, and went on the play fullback at Southern Cal; and Boy Eldredge, from Punahou’s legendary hapa-Hawaiian Eldredge clan, an all-around athlete who was considered the team’s best defensive player and inspirational leader. Tavares, as the point guard (another hapa teenager, his father of Portuguese descent, his mother Filipino), was a three-sport letterman and smooth floor-leader, though not much of an outside shooter (McLachlin established the Taveres Rules detailing where on the court he could shoot and where he could not). And the star of the team was Darryl Gabriel, the shooting guard, who went on to play Division 1 college ball at Loyola-Marymount.
Squeeze, Gabes, T, Danny, and Boy. No team in Hawaii, and few on the mainland, featured a more versatile starting five. All five went on to play college sports -- baseball, football, or basketball. Topo was the first big man off the bench, and Orme the first small forward – two of Barry’s Choom Gang pals. Next in, usually, was the gunner, Darin Maurer, and the reserve point guard, Jason Oshima. Obama was in that mix, and often played well when he came in, but only as the eighth, ninth or tenth man.