Tuesday, March 30, 2004

LOUIS "KOKO" SANTOS / 1926-2004

Title-winning coach
was well respected

Louis "Koko" Santos, whose basketball coaching career spanned four decades and was highlighted by a state championship at Kailua High School, died early yesterday of prostate cancer.

He was 77.

The Surfriders won their last basketball state title in 1982 as Kailua beat Maryknoll 47-42.

Tony Sellitto, his opposing coach in that game, said Santos was respected throughout the state.

"When you play against a coach who knows what he's doing, it makes the game a lot more exciting," Sellitto said. "I knew that when we played Koko's teams they would always be well-conditioned and well-prepared. I always looked forward to playing them because I knew my kids would get a great run and we would learn something."

Santos also was the first basketball coach at Hawaii Loa College, an NAIA school that was later absorbed by Hawaii Pacific University.

His son, Rex, played for him there.

"He always believed no player was without talent, that he could get something out of anyone," Rex Santos said. "A lot of time was spent on fundamentals and the mental part of the game. One of his big things was that regardless of your position, you should know not just your position, but your teammates' too. And to take it a step further, you should know what the opponents are doing."

Louis Santos lettered in swimming, track, football, basketball and baseball at McKinley High School. He was drafted by the Army in 1945, and later went to the University of Oregon on a swimming scholarship.

In 1953, Santos became a teacher at Honokaa High School, and the Dragons won their first Big Island Interscholastic Federation basketball championship in his first season as coach in 1954.

He returned to McKinley to teach and coach at his alma mater, and then went to Kailua in 1958. Santos was also athletic director at Kailua, and later a vice principal at Kalaheo. He was also an outreach counselor for the Windward District.

His coaching record with the Surfriders also included three league championships.

Santos was diagnosed with prostate cancer three years ago. The cancer went into remission, but returned last year.

Louis Santos is survived by his wife, Rae, sons Rex and Richard, daughter Rayette, and six grandchildren. He is also survived by his sister, Hazel Lee, who is the mother of noted local football coaches Tommy, Ron and Cal Lee.

Services are pending.


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