JAMES ALEGRE / 1937-2005
Basketball lifer always smiled
It was only last basketball season when James Alegre was smiling, soaking in the atmosphere.
Whether it was Radford's preseason tournament -- renamed the James Alegre Invitational a few years ago -- or the state championships, the former coach always smiled.
Players and contemporaries will never forget the aloha of Alegre, who died on Sunday at The Queen's Medical Center following a year-long bout with cnasopharyngeal cancer. He was 68.
"Oh, yeah, he never showed that he had cancer," current Radford coach Kai Enos said. "That was him."
The mild-mannered Alegre led Radford to more than 600 victories during his illustrious career. Under his watch, the Rams won four state championships (in 1969, '71, '77 and '89), nine Oahu Interscholastic Association crowns and 11 Western Division titles. He was involved for 34 years as a coach and athletic director.
Current Radford coach Kai Enos asked Alegre, who was long retired, to help the Rams program a few years ago. The Honokaa native responded enthusiastically, serving for two seasons as an assistant.
"He let me put in our system, and from there, he helped me with small stuff that turned out to be very positive and helpful," Enos recalled. "He was always smiling. The boys liked him."
Alegre's consistency left a huge impact on Enos.
"Nowadays, you get coaches who yell a lot. When you look at coach James Alegre, he did things with gentleness and kindness, it seems. He was able to get the best from players without raising his voice," Enos recalled. "He was such a gentleman as a coach and a person. He helped me for a couple of years, and he never did tell me, 'Kai, you gotta do it this way.'"
At just 5-foot-2, Alegre was an outstanding high school and college athlete. He was a long jumper with 20-foot ability at Northern Colorado, then known as Colorado State Teachers College.
After returning to the islands, he taught at Jarrett Intermediate School before moving over to Radford in 1961.
Alegre brought unity on the hardwood to a student body that had a wide array of backgrounds, both local and military.
He was stunned when Radford High School renamed its annual tournament in his honor. He was equally shocked when the Rams dedicated the gymnasium as well.
"Oh yeah, he was surprised. Now you see his name on the court and it's wow," Enos said. "He was so humble. His reaction, he was happy, elated. At the same time, he was honored.
"I'm glad we got to name the tournament and gym after him while he was still here."
Alegre was among the longtime coaches at the school who set the tone for future mentors. To this day, coaches from different sports break down and clean up the gym when games are done.
Services are scheduled for Tuesday at Central Union Church.