If Obama and Maurer in particular carried a grudge against McLachlin for not giving them more playing time, they did not disrupt the team. “I never saw [Barry] complain or do anything detrimental to the team, to what we were doing,” said Hale, who played countless hours with Barry in pickup games. “Maurer wanted more playing time. Everybody did. They all worked hard for it.” If anything, their inner anger only fueled the team. They channeled their frustrations into practice, pounding away at the starters as leaders of the second string. “We had good, tough practices” Hale noted. “Guys would go at it hard. Taking charges, getting in each other’s faces. Maurer was leading the charge for the second team, but also Topo and Barry. They were never going to concede a shot. You got hammered. You never thought you could just take off a practice. You fought every day.” Most of the time Barry had Squeeze Kamana or Boy Eldredge, and those guys are tough. But we could play with those guys and it was all to better the team. That was the understanding. Your contribution may not be on the court that night at eight o’clock, but what the team reaps is the benefit of your dedication during the week.”
After his team finished the preseason schedule, including winning the St. Anthony’s Invitational on Maui, McLachlin became increasingly stingy with playing time for Obama and Maurer and most of the other subs. One exception, though not by choice, came in the game against ‘Iolani, a smaller private school in Honolulu, on the Friday night of Feb. 2, the first night of the Carnival. In the Punahou social world, nothing compares to the Carnival, a two-day extravaganza of exotic foods (particularly the school’s legendary malasada Portuguese doughnut-like treat), art, auctions, white elephant flea markets, and amusement rides run by the junior class but involving the entire student body along with faculty and parents. The purpose is to raise money for academic scholarships such as the one that helped Barry Obama. With the considerable wealth available from the Punahou family, the fund-raising in this case goes far beyond the normal school bake sale. For the 1979 Carnival the gross profits were $360,519.01.
But basketball players at Punahou considered Carnival weekend a jinx. There would be a basketball game on opening night, and usually something would go wrong.
On that Friday afternoon, Barry and the boys were driving back to school after a shoot-around at Neal S. Blaisdell Center, the multiuse arena between Waikiki and downtown Honolulu where they played their league and tournament games. The shoot-arounds were part of the pre-game ritual. They returned in a car caravan, with several players jammed into Darin Maurer’s van. On the approach to campus, they passed the girls softball team, and Darryl Gabriel, the star shooting guard, could not resist opening the van’s sliding door and yelling out to the girls. Just then, Maurer made a sudden stop and the heavy door slid on its track to close, clobbering Gabriel in the head. “I heard it. THUNK! Whoa! He was down. A big knot on his head,” recalled Dan Hale. Alan Lum said “Gabe had a huge head. His nickname was Pineapple Head.” But not even Pineapple Head could withstand the bruising of this playful accident. He was woozy the rest of the night, and did not play against ‘Iolani, though press reports said he had a swollen ankle. To make matters more problematic, Squeeze Kamana had the flu and could play only sparingly.