LARRY MANLIGUIS / 1942-2007
Hilo coach touched the hearts of many in Hawaii
He was, not by decree but certainly by action, an unofficial patron saint for the underdog.
When Larry Manliguis died on Thursday, basketball brethren across the state mourned. Passionate without losing his cool, Manliguis coached what he preached. Hilo's two state crowns and 11 Big Island titles under Manliguis carried the same theme that brought an extra bounce to players and fans alike: fullcourt pressure and uptempo offense. They had fun while winning all those games. His Viking teams competed and entertained during his 23 years as head coach.
Manliguis was ill for several months, but his family requested privacy, and it was given across the board by media. That's how much respect Manliguis, 65, carried near and far.
"He was such a great people person. He was polite to everybody," interim coach Wayne Kaneshiro said. "Even if we lost, he wouldn't be yelling or screaming. He always considered the kids."
Manliguis played at Hilo under older brother Al during his final two seasons before going to college on the mainland. He returned in the early 1970s to work for the county's Economic Opportunity Council and began coaching with Al before taking over in 1984.
The 1991 Vikings upset Kalaheo in the state finals. In 2000, Manliguis emphasized a team-first mentality more than ever. Everywhere the coaches and players went, they carried a stack of sticks -- 13 in all to represent each player -- tied together. The Vikings defeated Saint Louis and won the state championship that season.
More than that, though, Manliguis may be remembered for the way he led his players. "There was one guy we cut for three years," Kaneshiro recalled. "Cut, cut, cut. He came out for his senior year. The boy had a good attitude, and we picked him up."
Later that season, in the finals against Kamehameha, Hilo lost several players to fouls. "He had to play. He was so nervous," Kaneshiro said. "But he got to play. That's Larry. Everybody gets a fair shot."
That was the case with Jordan Loeffler, a 6-foot-5 junior who was on the bubble. Manliguis was bedridden, but Kaneshiro and the coaches visited him.
"I was gonna make him a manager and work with him on his game after practice," Kaneshiro said. "But Larry told me, 'Work him. Big boy, you can't teach size.' He advised me to keep him."
Loeffler made the team.
Kamehameha-Hawaii coach Nelson Wong, one of the younger coaches in the BIIF, lost his father to illness almost one year ago to the day. His team is back for the Merv Lopes Classic at King Armory Gym, which is where Wong was when he received the bad news about his dad.
Manliguis, in some ways, has been his role model in the BIIF. "He was so low key, so professional. A real gentleman," Wong said. "One thing I appreciated was on their senior night, we stayed afterward to watch the ceremony. He came over later and said, 'Eh, Nelson, I appreciated you staying around.' He's a veteran guy thanking me, and I'm one of the newer coaches. That meant a lot to me."