These Identical Twin Brothers Dominate on the Court and on the Runway
One’s a college basketball coach, the other an NYC fashion designer. But identical twins Eran and Asaf Ganot are both reaching pinnacles of success.
Photo: Tommy Shih, Courtesy of Asaf Ganot
OCCUPATION: UH Mānoa men’s basketball head coach
Currently Resides: Kaka‘ako
On His Coaching Style: Consistent, low-key yet competitive and direct, caring
Favorite day-off activity: “Spending time with the family. Our ultimate escape is to watch movies with our 5-year-old daughter. They’re always her movies—she runs the show.”
If you’re a basketball fan, or any sort of UH sports fan, really, you know Eran Ganot. Appointed UH Mānoa’s head men’s basketball coach in the spring of last year, the young talent was hard to miss, swooping in and propelling the Rainbow Warriors over looming NCAA sanctions and on to an epic, whirlwind season that scored the team its most wins in program history.
What you may not know is that Ganot is one half of another team that he’s been a part of, since, well, birth. The other half? Eran’s identical twin brother, Asaf Ganot, a rising star in the fashion world and owner-designer of his own New-York-based, men’s luxury apparel line.
The brothers’ worlds will converge in the Islands this November when Asaf makes his Hawai‘i debut with a collection showing during HONOLULU Fashion Week. In anticipation of this reunion, we caught up with the brothers to talk sports, small-town values and channeling sibling rivalry into career success.
Age: 35 (and nine minutes older)
OCCUPATION: Designer, Asaf Ganot clothing line
Currently Resides: Columbus Circle, New York
On His Line’s Aesthetic: “Masculine, versatile, active. I always say the Daniel Craig version of James Bond. Luxe, but rugged. Urban in a cool way.”
He’s got game: After college, Asaf played a year of professional basketball in Brazil.
Growing up on the quiet, tree-lined streets of Tenafly, New Jersey, it was all athletics, all the time for the Ganot brothers. The suburb, which was close to their father’s manufacturing job, green spaces and sporting facilities, set the stage for a major love of the game, any game. Along with basketball, Eran and Asaf dabbled in soccer and baseball. Football was on their to-do list until nixed by mom.
“We were obsessed,” says Asaf. “Anything we did outside of school was sports, sports, sports, and we loved it.” Basketball took center stage. Both played for their high school and sometimes on six different basketball teams within one season.
Competition was par for the course. When you look alike and spend nearly every waking minute together, a little sibling rivalry is bound to arise. “Oh, we were very competitive,” says Eran. “With twins, it goes up a notch; we were intense.”
“If he picked a player, I picked the opposite; if he picked a team, I picked the opposite,” says Asaf. “One of us always had to win.” And, while the constant battle for bragging rights could get old, it definitely had its perks. It was fun, for one thing. After all, who wouldn’t want a built-in buddy, always at the ready for a rematch?
The one-upping also pushed the brothers to always strive for their best, cultivating a strong drive in both that carried through to their college years. Eran played basketball for Swarthmore College, where he double majored in economics and sociology/anthropology while Asaf laced up for Franklin and Marshall College and earned a business management degree. Ultimately, the competition shaped their careers. “I subscribe to iron sharpens iron,” says Eran. “That’s why, now, we do what we do. I love the competition; that’s why I coach. Asaf is also in a very competitive field. We have a team; he has a team. There’s no difference.”
HOLDING COURT: ERAN INTENT DURING THE NCAA TOURNAMENT.
FALL IN LINE: MODELS QUEUE UP FOR A POST RUNWAY SHOW PRESENTATION OF THE ASAF GANOT FALL/WINTER 2015 COLLECTION.
Both credit life in their tight-knit, small town with instilling the values that anchor their work today: discipline, doing things the right way for the right reasons and surrounding yourself with good people.
In fact, it was the people at UH Mānoa who solidified the school as Eran’s dream job. After launching his career as an assistant coach at St. Mary’s College of California, he got his first taste of Island life with a gig as director of operations at UH in 2006. There was an immediate connection. “You can tell a place is special when it feels like home even when you’re 5,000 miles away from where you grew up,” says Eran. “UH is a larger school, but it maintains that family atmosphere. You feel that intimacy and sense of ‘ohana. The aloha spirit is real.”
He was promoted to assistant coach under Riley Wallace but returned to St. Mary’s in 2010. The lure of the Islands, however, kept calling. “Hawai‘i had a special place in my heart. After I left, I came back every summer,” says Eran. It also turned out to be the right fit for his family. Hawai‘i is where Eran met wife Barbea—at the time she had been working as an administrative assistant for the football department. The pair wed in October 2015, a few months after Eran accepted the head coach position. “My wife loves it here, our 5-year-old daughter Zeza loves it here,” he says. “It just felt right.”
ATTENTION TO DETAIL: A mid-game moment with guard Quincy Smith.
Across the country, Asaf was pursuing a disciplined path in fashion. “He hasn’t skipped steps,” says Eran. Post college, the self-taught designer threw himself into three intense years overseas, traveling to Asia and Europe, seeking out mentors and educating himself on every aspect of the textile industry. From production to design to technology, he laid a foundation for the label he would launch in 2013.
Today, the Asaf Ganot brand releases two full collections a year, and has been dubbed as one to watch for impeccable detailing and refined masculine aesthetics. The line has garnered a following among top athletes and celebrities (San Antonio Spurs guard Patty Mills and actor Vincent Piazza have both rocked the brand) who favor its beautifully tailored suits, sleek leather motorcycle jackets and innovative technical fabrics. This September, during New York Fashion Week, Asaf will debut a fresh addition, a range of women’s outerwear. “It’s impressive,” says Eran. “It’s a very difficult industry to jump into and he went about it the right way…I’m just really proud of him.”
HONOLULU FASHION WEEK THE ASAF GANOT BRAND WILL PRESENT ITS FIRST RUNWAY SHOW IN HAWAI‘I ON NOV. 10, DURING HONOLULU FASHION WEEK AT THE HAWAI‘I CONVENTION CENTER. FOR MORE INFO, CLICK HERE.
The admiration is mutual. “He’s really focused and persistent,” says Asaf of his brother’s coaching style. Those characteristics proved crucial to moving the Warriors beyond last season’s shaky start and looming NCAA sanctions, for infractions before he came aboard. The sanctions ban UH from post-season play during the 2016–2017 season, including the Big West Conference and NCAA tournament. “It’s very difficult for a team to see a third head coach in as many years,” says Eran. “Then you had on top of that the NCAA clouds, off-court issues, lack of consistency on the court.”
Eran’s approach was to build relationships. “We put a lot of time into coaches and players getting to know each other, building trust. That doesn’t happen overnight.” This included lessons on the program’s history, based on Eran’s belief that, in order to establish a legacy of their own, they need to honor their past. Emphasis was placed on professionalism, leadership and responsibility, on and off the court and in the classroom, with the understanding that what they are doing is much bigger than basketball. Building on that foundation, they developed a game plan together as a team that best utilized their strengths.
The results speak for themselves. During the 2015–2016 season, the Warriors won both the Big West Conference regular-season championship and tournament, and Eran was named Big West Conference coach of the year. The team made its first NCAA tournament appearance in 14 years, beating nationally ranked California in the first round, the program’s first ever NCAA win. And, by season’s end, the Warriors had racked up a record-high 28 wins, the most in program history. “He has his goals and will do whatever it takes to reach them, but in the most ethical and correct way,” says Asaf. “That’s what I’m most proud of.”
KEEPING IT RIO: BRAZIL-INSPIRED LOOKS FROM THE Asaf Ganot SPRING/SUMMER 2016 RUNWAY SHOW.
He Said, He Said
ERAN GANOT on…
The UH head coach position: “It just felt right. It’s not always the case where things align, where you get to do what you love where you love. I’m living that right now.”
Who was the better athlete growing up: “He (Asaf) was probably a little better athletically in terms of he could jump a little higher and was maybe a little stronger. I was a little tougher.”
His favorite Asaf Ganot designs: “He has some really nice blazers. His dress shirts are nice. I always ask about his suits. Actually, I think all his stuff is pretty good, is that biased?”
Goals for next season: “Sometimes when you look too much ahead you lose sight of today and the present. And our goal is to focus on the present. It worked for us last year, so we’re going to do the same routine this year.”
ASAF GANOT on…
Design influences: “I watch a ton of movies and sports. The sporting influence is in the way the clothes fit the body. They’re very versatile and comfortable, but with an appreciation for luxury. Movies are a huge influence, from the actors to the directors to the lighting. We’ve had a lot of Gotham influence in our collections.”
Who was the better athlete growing up: “Oh, I really hope he (Eran) was correct on this, definitely me. He might be a tougher competitor—although I don’t know if tougher is the right word, maybe more resilient or persistent. You can see that when he’s coaching. That’s why he now inspires me.”
Must-have Asaf Ganot pieces for Hawai‘i: “A modern, tailored T-shirt and a linen hybrid blazer. We do a moto jacket in the thinnest suede imaginable.”
Helping Eran up his style game: “I give him tips based on his personality. It’s more about elevating his conservative style to the highest level of conservative. He got a lucky break—the one team he went to is the only one in the whole country where he can coach in an aloha shirt.”
READ MORE STORIES BY BRIE THALMANN