There are a few memories that come to mind when thinking about basketball in my life at an early age, and the one constant has always been my family.
I remember getting a basketball hoop built for me in our back patio as a birthday present, I think it was my 10th birthday. My dad built it himself, and I loved having it growing up. That’s where I would have my own “countdown” and hit many game winning shots.
My dad was an NCAA basketball official and I remember tagging along with him as much as I could. I would either help out as a ball boy or a floor wiper and I always enjoyed getting to take in the competitive atmosphere of college athletics.
I remember when he brought me to Salt Lake City when the WAC Tournament was held at the Delta Center when I was in the eighth grade (1991). We stayed in downtown SLC and I loved being able to watch those games.
Growing up in Hawaii was pretty awesome. We were always playing outside or enjoying the beautiful beaches that we were blessed to have. If we weren’t outside playing tag football in the streets or basketball somewhere, we would just ride our bikes around the neighborhood looking for things to do.
I was lucky to have some friends around my age on my street, so we always had someone to hang with. The older we got, the more organized sports we all played and we ended up competing against each other by the time we were in high school.
We did a lot as a family and it revolved around both me and my sister, Malia. It was sports for me and Hula for my sister. Now having kids of our own, our parents must have gone crazy at times taking us all around the island to do what we loved.
MY PLAYING DAYS
Playing high school basketball was filled with adversity. To start off, we did not have a gym to practice or play in. We practiced off campus and the majority of our games were “road games.”
We went through two head coaches in my first two years and we were losing a ton with little-to-no discipline on the team. Heading into my junior year, my high school brought back Bobby Aw, a coach that had won the state title in the late 80s for UHS.
He was a major in the Honolulu Police Department and was a no-nonsense, old-school kind of coach. I can still hear him yelling at us as we were running our press-break verse the full court press in practice.
He challenged us and forced us to embrace the process of being successful. It was what we needed.
Karen and I met in January of 2005 when she was coaching at Sacramento State and I was at Idaho State. Both of our teams were in the Big Sky and we ended up meeting because we were on different sidelines.
We ended up talking on the phone and started a long-distance relationship as we coached at different schools. After doing the long-distance thing for two seasons, Karen decided to move to Pocatello, Idaho to give our relationship a real chance to grow.
We haven’t been apart since that move.
I knew Lynne through some other coaches in the profession. I actually met her in Launceston, Tasmania when we were both there recruiting.
It was a COLD gym, and there was only about five U.S. coaches at the event, so we all sat together and chatted. Lynne had her blanket and gloves on as she huddled herself up to watch games.
Pacific was leaving the Big West for the West Coast Conference, so for a career standpoint, joining her at Pacific was a step up in the world of women’s basketball.
From a personal standpoint, I knew her and respected her a great deal. From a basketball standpoint, I selfishly wanted to learn from her and her staff the intricacies of AASAA (Dribble, Drive offense).
We had a very talented team as we transitioned into the WCC. I fell in love with coaching once again because of the players and the coaching staff. We had a good season and we all felt good about the direction of the program in the WCC.
When we got eliminated from the WCC Tournament our last year at Pacific, we both stayed in Vegas to recruit. I was at one of the tournament games and I saw online that the Utah job had become open. I immediately texted her and said, “too bad you hate the cold.”
She text back and said she had talked to her agent about the job already. As the process developed, I was hoping for the best. When she accepted the position at Utah, it got real right then and there.
Scenarios started to go through my head – what if she can’t hire me, what do I do then. She texted and asked if she could come over and chat with Karen and I at our home in Stockton, Calif. I had built it up in my mind that she was going to deliver some bad news.
She offered me the job, and once again – I was all in.
WHY U COACH
My love for the game of basketball and all that it has done for my life is probably No. 1. In a very close second, are the relationships that I’ve been able to make through this profession.
Each player I’ve coached, or a colleague I’ve coached with, becomes a part of our extended family.
I’m so thankful for those friendships in my life – including meeting my wife in Reed Gym in Pocatello, Idaho because of the game. It is pretty special.
The job can be demanding, but it is so rewarding. IT ends up NOT being “work” because I love what I do and enjoy the process. I take personal pride in everything I do.