Arnold was hired to replace BYU coach Glenn Potter. Prior to coming to BYU, Arnold had been tutored by UCLA legendary coach John Wooden, working as an assistant for the “Wizard of Westwood” during the school’s glory years. Arnold was Wooden's assistant coach for three NCAA championships.
Arnold accepted the head coaching position at the University of Hawaii in 1985 and coached at the school for two seasons and led the Rainbow Warriors to an 11-45 (.244) record. He resigned in 1987 and noted that his lack of success at the school was because "In order to win here you have to have J.C. transfers and that doesn't fit into my recruiting or coaching style".