Coaching ripples from Laie's shores


POSTED: Sunday, March 01, 2009

As Brigham Young-Hawaii continues to ride the wave of success this season, former Seasider assistant coaches are making their own mark on the basketball world beyond the shores of Laie.

Much of that can be attributed to head coach Ken Wagner, whose longevity and character provide a good example for current and former assistants to follow.

“;I'm excited for them,”; said Wagner, who is in his 19th season at BYUH and is the school's winningest coach (win-loss record). “;It's like a parent, you want your kids to do better than you do. To me it feels good to see them do well.”;

Former Seasider player and current assistant coach Brandyn Akana is learning the same values that coaches before him appreciate. Akana said he respected Wagner, but it grew after becoming one of Wagner's assistant coaches.

“;The players may not realize it now,”; Akana said. “;But later it's these individuals who set good examples and who want the best for you and really care who make the biggest difference. As a mentor, he looks out for your best interest. He has his perspectives in life, family, God first.”;

One of Wagner's former assistants, Dave Rose, is head coach of BYU-Provo. Since becoming BYU's head coach in 2005, Rose has led the Cougars to two first-place regular-season finishes in the Mountain West Conference, two NCAA tournament bids and one trip to the National Invitation Tournament.

Lessons learned under Wagner laid a foundation for Rose's success.

“;He has great knowledge and is a real teacher of the game,”; Rose said. “;He is a great motivator and has genuine concern for his players and coaches and will do whatever it takes to reach them.”;

Rose was an assistant to Wagner from 1987 through 1990 at Dixie Junior College (now Dixie State College) in St. George, Utah. He became Dixie's head coach when Wagner left to become BYU-Hawaii's head coach in 1990.

Prior to Dixie Junior College, Rose was a high school coach with no college coaching experience.

“;That was a big step and (Wagner) took a chance on me,”; Rose said. “;I'll always be appreciative to him for that.

“;I learned a lot from him because he put a lot of trust in his assistants to do their job and fulfill their responsibilities. He values your opinion. But what defines Ken the most is his character. He does what he says and is trustworthy.”;

Barry Hardy, current coach of the Harlem Globetrotters, who played and coached under Wagner, agrees.

“;He was always real,”; Hardy said. “;Guys responded to him well. He was always a coach and a friend. He would help us with school and he could help with girl problems. He helped us with life, not just basketball.”;

Hardy played for the Seasiders from 1988 through 1992. He served as an assistant at BYUH during the 1992-93 season and went on to play for the Harlem Globetrotters from 1993 to 1999. After coaching high school basketball for several years, Hardy became a Globetrotters coach in 2006.

“;Coach always told us that if you work hard and use your brain, good things will come to you,”; Hardy said. “;I still follow a lot of what coach taught us in my approach to coaching. He taught us how to work hard and play smart.”;

Rob Nielson served as Wagner's assistant coach at Dixie Junior College. He came with Wagner to Laie and was an assistant until 1999.

Nielson has been head coach of Mt. Hood Community College in Gresham, Ore., since 1999. He also serves as the school's vice president for student life.

Nielson, who played at BYUH from 1982 to 1985, said one of Wagner's strengths is getting the most out of his players.

“;It didn't matter if they played a lot or a little,”; Nielson said. “;He has the ability to take anybody from wherever they are and make them better.”;

Nielson said coaches and players respect Wagner because of the respect he shows them. Wagner is very loyal and expects others to be loyal as well, Nielson said.

“;He always talks about the importance of doing the right things,”; Nielson said. “;If you do that, you will do well whatever you do.”;

Wagner said the number of coaches coming from BYUH has more to do with the quality of the assistants who have helped him than the way he has shaped them.

“;One of the great things about coaching is the people you get to work with,”; Wagner said. “;I've been extremely fortunate, because any time you're successful, it is because of the good people around you. We've been fortunate that any one of my assistants could turn around and be the head coach.”;

Wagner always had a passion for sports and coaching but thought he would join the family business in Mexico, where he grew up and where his family lived for four generations. He did just that after graduating with a physical education degree from BYU-Provo in 1979.

“;But after a semester, I said, 'no way,'”; Wagner said.

In 1980, Wagner became head coach of Lehi High School in Utah, during which time he earned a master's in physical education from the University of Utah.

As fate would have it, Wagner served as an assistant at BYUH during the 1984-85 season under Ted Chidester. Wagner became the head coach of Dixie Junior College in 1985, compiling a record of 126-36 (.778).

Wagner said he and his family have fallen in love with Hawaii and the atmosphere at BYUH.

“;It's been incredible,”; Wagner said. “;The people in Hawaii are super people. It's a lot like Mexico, where I grew up, where it's a real family atmosphere where people really do care about the people around them.

“;The (school) community has been incredible. We've had great support from the administration, the faculty and the students. It's a nice environment to work. For family to grow up in that environment, that's great.”;

Wagner said his family has been very supportive of him. Even with all his success on the court, Wagner said his family is his priority. He and his wife, Lisa, have four adopted children—Jenna and Kelsee and sons Kenyon and Gehrig.

“;There have been opportunities to coach in other places,”; Wagner said. “;A lot of times, you look at it and ask if it is good for your family. Maybe it's been for the good. I always tell my players that if you work and do a good job, you'll be happy wherever you are.”;

Harry Maxwell, a 19-year volunteer assistant at BYUH, said Wagner is a good ambassador for the school.

“;He is such a humble person,”; Maxwell said. “;Both school presidents I've talked with said that Coach Wagner is someone they don't ever have to worry about. He represents the community. He'll never bring a bad name to the university.”;




The Disciples

        » Jarinn Akana (BYUH assistant 1999-2000): Last coached with Milwaukee Bucks during the 2007-08 season but was let go when Scott Skiles took over as head coach before this season. According to the BYUH sports information department, Akana is still under contract with the Bucks but is not coaching. He is expected to get back into coaching next year.

» Jake Atwood (BYUH assistant 2005-07): Assistant head coach, Snow College (Ephraim, Utah).


» Rodrigo Da Silva (BYUH assistant 2006-08): Assistant coach, Brazilian pro league


» Barry Hardy (BYUH assistant 1992-93): Head coach, Harlem Globetrotters.


» Daniel Leeworthy (BYUH student coach and volunteer assistant 2005-07): Graduate manager, Ohio.


» Quincy Lewis (BYUH assistant 1995-97): Head coach, Lone Peak High School, Utah. Also coached at Utah Valley State and Southern Utah.


» Rob Nielson (BYUH assistant 1990-99): Head coach, Mt. Hood Community College, Gresham, Ore., also the school's vice president of student life.


» Walter Roese (BYUH volunteer assistant 2003): Assistant coach, Nebraska. Also coached at BYU and San Diego and was the Brazilian National Team head coach (university games).


» Dave Rose (assistant to Wagner at Dixie Junior College, 1987-90): Head coach, Brigham Young.


» Steve Trumbo (BYUH assistant 1995-97): Retired after serving as an assistant coach at USC and for Barcelona of the Spanish League.


» Isaac Turley (BYUH assistant 2003-05): Served as an assistant coach, Utah Valley State. Left coaching this year.


» Jae Hak Yoo (BYUH assistant 1991-92): Head coach, Phoebus Mobis, Korean Basketball Pro League.