Thursday, March 8, 2001
Okita takesHawaii Pacific softball coach Howard Okita joined some very elite company with his 400th career victory last Sunday.
400th in stride
SMALL COLLEGE NOTEBOOK
By Brandon Lee,
Special to the Star-Bulletin
But he's fine with the company he has had all along.
Okita became just the 22nd coach in NCAA Division II history to reach the 400-win mark after his Sea Warriors crushed Elizabethtown College (Pa.) with a school-record 24 hits in the opener of Sunday's doubleheader to help him achieve the milestone.
HPU also took the second game, pushing Okita's overall record to 401-144-2.
His .736 career winning percentage is 11th best among active Div. II coaches.
Though few in the game have achieved as he has, Okita still prefers to deflect the attention away from himself.
"I don't really think about those kind of things," said Okita. "If you coach long enough, you'll start getting these things. I've had a lot of great players and outstanding coaches, and I like to give those people the credit."
As his winning percentage attests to, however, it really hasn't taken Okita that long. Okita has simply been a winner at whatever school or level he's chosen to skipper.
In his eighth season at HPU, Okita's current record stands at 276-79-2.
He has guided the Sea Warriors to seven straight postseason appearances, and 35 or more wins in each of the last five years.
In five years (1988-92) at Hawaii Loa College (prior to its merger with HPU), Okita went 125-65 and won the 1991 NAIA national championship. During the 1980s, he also turned Kailua High School into a prep powerhouse by guiding the Surfriders to six state titles.
"Dedication has a lot to do with it," Okita said. "To the program you run and the people who help you."
Okita's current squad is off to the best start in school history at 15-1 (11-1 Pacific West Conference).
HPU hosts a doubleheader against Brigham Young-Hawaii (6-10, 2-10) this afternoon, then a non-conference double-dip against national No. 4 Armstrong Atlantic State (Ga.) next Sunday.
In other action, BYUH visits Chaminade (7-7, 5-7) for a doubleheader Saturday, while Hawaii-Hilo (6-6, 6-6) hosts a non-conference twinbill against Wisconsin-Parkside Sunday.
While Okita acknowledges that his current players know the past success of the Sea Warriors' program, he doesn't want them to become burdened by it.
"Every year, it's the girls' team," Okita said. "Last year's glory is for last year's team.
"I always tell them they got to go out there and play to the best of their ability, but they also got to have fun. We'll worry about the outcome after."
Okita's enthusiasm in working with his players and assistant coaches hasn't diminished over the years, and he maintains that he'll stay in the game as long as he still enjoys himself.
Ironically, it's not winning on the softball diamond that motivates him most. Seeing his players become well-rounded individuals who triumph in the classroom is the strongest fuel for his passion to continue coaching.
"My biggest reward is them getting their sheepskin," Okita said. "Our kids here are very athletic and have talent, but nobody comes here to scout our kids. I just love working out with the local kids and giving them a chance to get their college degree."
Hoops HonorsThe PacWest basketball Pacific Division all-stars were announced this week with players from local teams taking up many of the prestigious spots.
On the five-man first team, two Hawaii players were honored.
Hawaii-Hilo's 6-4 senior guard, Alan Thomas, out of Brooklyn, N.Y., was a unanimous and repeat selection. Brigham Young-Hawaii's 6-4 senior forward, Kerry Hendrickson, also from Brooklyn, was honored after his only season with the Seasiders.
Four of the five players on the second team were from local teams.
Hawaii-Pacific's Nick Spajic, a 6-4 junior guard from Las Vegas, and Kawika Smith, a 6-4 senior forward from Honolulu made the squad.
Also honored were Chaminade senior guards David Toya (6-7, Bratislavia, Slovakia) and CJ Cowgill (6-1, Grand Island, Neb.).
Receiving honorable mention accolades were Hilo's Scott Prather (guard, 5-11, Jr., Kula, Hawaii) and Stanley Ibia (forward, 6-4, Sr., San Jose, Calif.), and HPU's Nash Subotic (forward, 6-5, Jr., Belgrade, Yugoslavia).