Wednesday, November 10, 1999
Kang was key in turning aBy Cindy Luis
group of individuals into
This is the 11th in a weekly series featuring the 1979
University of Hawaii women's volleyball team,
the Wahine's first national championship.
Coaching and teaching. They are one and the same to Alan Kang.
His tenets are simple:
1. Life is not fair.
2. If you can't handle failure, you can't be an athlete.
3. Team bonding is highly overrated and isn't necessary if the team is focused and dedicated to winning.
The last tenet came into play in 1979 when Kang was an assistant volleyball coach for Dave Shoji at the University of Hawaii. He knew there was some personality conflicts among the Wahine but he didn't see it as a negative.
"I think it was a matter of strong personalities and strong egos,'' said Kang, a sales representative of Pacific Financial Group, an insurance and financial planning company. "They all wanted to be on the court playing, they all thought they should be playing and they all wanted to win.
"One of the reasons they did win was because, day in and day out, they competed against each other in practice so they could be out there playing. When they played that final match, they refused to lose. They were going to find a way to win.''
The 1979 AIAW championship match against Utah State was not going Hawaii's way the first hour or so. The Wahine found themselves behind, 0-2, to the defending national champion Aggies.
"It was looking really, really bleak,'' said Kang. "Dave (Shoji) is a very good game coach and he had pulled every string he could. But no matter what we did, they had an answer.
"Utah State was bigger, stronger, had so much of an advantage (in height) at the net. Somehow, and I don't know how, our team just refused to lose. They played point by point, won Game 3, won Game 4 and, eventually the match.''
Hawaii rallied to upset top-ranked Utah State, 8-15, 7-15, 15-9, 16-14, 15-12. The Wahine program was only six years old.
Kang had been there from Day 1. As the Wahine's first head coach in 1974, he took an undermanned team from obscurity to national runner-up in one month.
The only match the Wahine lost that season was to UCLA, in the national final.
"For those girls back then, the highlight was the national tournament, because they received nothing else," said Kang. "They got to go there and played against some well-established programs like UCLA, UC Santa Barbara, Portland and Long Beach State."
Not a bad showing for a team run by a guy who came out of the intramural office just to set up the volleyball net and ended up running the team.
But back to Kang's No. 1 tenet: Life isn't fair.
Within months after the 1974 season, he was replaced as coach, first by Chris McLachlin (who decided not to take the job), then by Shoji.
Shoji hasn't left in 25 years. Kang came back as an assistant from 1975-79 and Hawaii never finished lower than third nationally.
In the 20 years since he left Manoa, Kang has coached volleyball at various levels, and sold everything from real estate to vacuum cleaners. The UH graduate has also seen the game of volleyball change.
"The difference in the women's game is it's moved toward becoming like the men's game, physical and powerful,'' Kang said. "When I coached UH, it was more finesse, more of a skill game."
In 1980, Kang married former Wahine volleyball player Ann Goldenson, the longtime girls' volleyball coach at Iolani School. The couple have a son and a daughter: 11-year-old twins, Barry and Marci.
Kang said the players' commitment during the summer of 1979 set the tone for the championship season. Terry Malterre, Waynette Mitchell, Bonnie Gouveia and others spent hours in the weight room.
He goes back to his tenets when reflecting on the 1979 team.
"You don't have to like each other to be a team,'' he said. "It helps, it makes things easier, but it isn't necessary. What is necessary is to share a common goal and have the willingness to work hard toward that goal.
"The players in 1979 had their own private agendas but they shared a common goal. The goal and the agendas were the same and that was to win.''
Ka Leo O Hawaii