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Up to the task


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POSTED: Sunday, June 07, 2009

Dana Takahara-Dias has a switch, and she isn't afraid to flip it. Don't be fooled by the self-deprecating laugh, disarming smile and overall charm of the new Hawaii women's basketball coach.

When it's time to work, all the niceties evaporate. A steely determination takes hold, fueled by a refusal to accept half-hearted efforts from her players.

That's exactly what former teammates, pupils and coaches of Takahara-Dias want her to bring to the program as the seventh Rainbow Wahine coach and the only woman handed the keys to the program since Patsy Dung in the 1970s.

Those who know her well share an appreciation for the labors—and results—she elicits from her teams, whether it was Moanalua in the 1990s, the Team Aloha all-star squad over the last few years or the people she currently oversees as director of customer service for the City.

Angela Perez Baraquio Grey, the former Miss America, was a freshman at Moanalua when Takahara-Dias, coming off her Wahine playing career from 1984 to '88, inherited Na Menehune as a rookie coach.

It didn't take long to instill the same discipline that Takahara-Dias was accustomed to under Vince Goo, her coach at UH.

“;She was very assertive, very cool under pressure,”; Baraquio said. “;I just liked the intensity that she came with at every game. She would definitely get up there and tell the ref how she felt. If she saw something that was wrong, she would stand up for us, say 'That was a bad call ref, come on!' She could hold her own against men, which I thought was really great. In a lot of ways she was a role model for me on and off the court.”;

Takahara-Dias started a run of five straight state tournament appearances that year by getting the most out of her oft-undersized players. She preached defense via man-to-man pressure, which Na Menehune would funnel into offense from their stingy play.

Baraquio and her teammates grew accustomed to their coach's approach—both defensively and in matters of principle—during practices when they'd run relentlessly and be respectful—or else.

“;The training I got in basketball was harder than anything I've ever done, and I've run cross country before,”; Baraquio said. “;That was pretty grueling, but the basketball training that we had—I don't think I've worked that hard in my life.

“;When it comes down to business, oh, forget it,”; said Baraquio. “;She definitely flips a switch. It's on, it's game time. Put your game face on. I love that about her.”;

Takahara-Dias, 43, expects much from her players. But they've delivered it because everything she asked of them, she did herself from among their ranks.

Hard work was her M.O. as a walk-on out of University High, earning her a scholarship at UH by her sophomore season. She started 17 games her junior year and was named a team captain as a senior.

“;It is true, people look at me and think I'm the nicest person in the world, maybe—just kidding—but there's a part of me who's very disciplined,”; Takahara-Dias said. “;With that comes a lot of humbleness and appreciation.

“;So I am very demanding, but to the point where I realize it will not compromise our integrity and we actually represent ourselves, or family, and our school to the best ability. I just think it's something born with me from my family and my parents.”;

Even as she coached Moanalua, she continued school at UH to get her master's in education, then latched on to Goo's staff as an administrative assistant for five years.

Kristie Morikawa has coached girls basketball at Moanalua for the past eight years. She played briefly for Takahara-Dias as a sophomore in the playoffs, then had her old coach back as a mentor when Takahara-Dias became Moanalua athletic director in 2001.

Though Takahara-Dias moved on to public service under Mayor Mufi Hannemann after four years, she left a lasting impression; Morikawa still calls her for advice. She reflected fondly on her short time as a player under Takahara-Dias before she focused on softball.

“;She is strict, and she has no problem yelling and that kind of thing,”; Morikawa said. “;But most of the time, for me, I remember being inspired. Wanting to do it for her. It wasn't a question of 'Gee, I got to run another one?' You know. It was what we had to do and we were just going to do it.”;

Takahara-Dias would have her teams visualize their goals by sitting in the dark together before games until they saw them happen—defensive stops, made baskets, a victory. More often than not, it happened.

She has some personal goals in mind for the program, which first largely involve earning the crowd's back to watch the Wahine on a regular basis.

Once she meets with the returning Wahine players in person, she plans to hammer out some team goals together for the coming season. (Her official start date has yet to be set as she ties up some loose ends with the City).

She was stacked up against seven other finalists for the Wahine job last month, and was the only candidate with no Division I coaching experience. The job application stated that several years of D-I was preferred, but the five-person search committee and athletic director Jim Donovan couldn't ignore her message of rebuilding the program at a grass-roots level.

When UH booster Don Murphy, a member of the committee, heard her talk with conviction about what she could bring back to the program, he was sold.

“;She was, in my eyes, the one,”; Murphy said. “;Once we interviewed her, that was it. She really seemed to be so sincere in what she wanted to do and how she wanted to do it. She really seemed to be the right fit.”;

               

     

 

Profile: Dana Takahara-Dias

        » Education: Bachelor's in elementary education (dual certification is special education), UH, and master's in education, UH
       

» Age: 43

       

» UH playing career: 1984-1988

       

Career UH averages: 2.2 points, 1.2 rebounds, 1.2 assists per game

       

» Resume:

       

» Teacher, Moanalua High School, 1988-1995

       

» UH women's basketball administrative assistant, 1995-2000

       

» Associate athletic director, Moanalua 2000

       

» Athletic director, Moanalua 2001-2005

       

» City deputy director of department of parks and recreation/enterprise services, 2005-2008

       

» City director of customer services 2008-present

       

» Coaching:

       

» Moanalua High School girls, 1988-1995, 2000

       

» Team Aloha all-stars, 2006-present

       

» Event chair, Mufi Hannemann's Girls Basketball Jamboree, 2001-present