Getting down to business


POSTED: Sunday, July 26, 2009

The plan—always—was to return to Hawaii and coach volleyball. But when it was going to happen was the question.

Three years after leaving the associate coach job with the Hawaii women's team for the head job at Pacific, Charlie Wade returned, becoming the fifth UH men's head coach. The 45-year-old Wade recently sat down for a Q&A session.

Question: Have you settled in?

Answer: I don't think “;settled”; is the right word. There's so much stuff to do that I'm not spending a lot of time organizing my office. It will come together eventually.

Q: You had always planned to come back, kept the house in Kailua. Did you think it would happen so soon?

A: You can always speculate about how things are going to unfold. But I decided not to spend that much time thinking about it because it's one of those things I didn't control. I was just focused on doing the best job I could at Pacific and do a good enough job there that, when the opportunity did arise, that hopefully I'd be able to come back.

Q: Were you hoping it would be for the Wahine job instead of the men?

A: I didn't think of it that way. I don't think anyone is surprised Mike (Wilton) retired before Dave (Wahine coach Shoji). It wasn't something I spent a lot of time thinking about but it wasn't a surprise that this job would open first.

I didn't want to come back just to come back. I didn't want to get a job—men's or women's—because I hung around for 15 years. I wanted to go and kind of do my own thing for a little bit, and be “;The Guy”; that someone they selected. I'm thrilled to be moving back, but I'm moving back to help win a national championship.

Q: So this is home?

A: This is home. My wife (the former Tani Martin) is from here, went to Kaiser. The kids (sons Makana, 4, and Kainoa, 3) were born here. I felt embraced by the community from the time I started coaching the Wahine (1995-2005).

Q: How did you tell the selection committee you were going to be able to do that?

A: What I did was go through and point out what had happened and what needed to be done. The attendance had dropped off, the team was not as competitive. Then I outlined specific ways to help get it back. There are a lot of volleyball fans in Hawaii—that gets demonstrated all the time—but they're not coming to men's volleyball. We have to do things to get them energized, come back in and support the program.

Q: Keeping the good kids home is part of it?

A: We're going to make it a real priority, and make it a real priority earlier, identifying them as soon as the seventh, eighth grade. We want to be involved with the junior volleyball community here, build relationships not just with the kids but with their families.

We want the local kids to recognize the benefits of staying at home and playing. If you're going to come back to live and spend the rest of your life, there are great benefits to being an athlete at UH. It's not like you're going to get a great job because you played volleyball at UH, but it could get you in the door.

We want to put that local flavor back into the team. Right now on our roster, there is not one player from Hawaii on scholarship. We're looking at (local) kids for 2010-11 who are going to be good players in the league. We want them to be on our team.

Q: Did you have a sense of pride, going to the Junior Olympics (last month) and recruiting as the Hawaii head coach?

A: Absolutely. I genuinely believe in the Hawaii experience, the quality of education you can get at the University of Hawaii, the student-athlete experience, the volleyball experience. These are really unique and special things, and to be able to again represent that is something I take real seriously. I'm very proud to be able to do that. It's not that I didn't believe in the product at Pacific. It's just different. Hawaii is so much a part of me and my family. Coaching is such a transient industry and to be able to come back to a place where you spent 11 years and really believe in everything you're offering is very significant.

Q: What was the reaction from potential recruits?

A: One, it's really nice to be able to go after every good player in the country seriously. At Pacific, you don't get that. The A-list, blue-chip kids are only going to the top 10 schools. The response was incredible. Literally, every single player we talked to is interested. (Athletic director Jim) Donovan may think I'm nuts for the kind of recruiting visits we're going to make this year, but if we're really serious about turning this thing around—and we are—that's just part of playing with the big kids.

Q: Will it be a hard adjustment to move from the women's game to the men's? A: I've coached guys before. I've watched a lot of men's volleyball, here and at Pacific. The nuts and bolts of the game are still the same. If you side-out better than your opponent, you're going to win.

Instead of making it a big gender issue, my sense is that it's more of a numbers issue in this country. There's such a sheer logistical difference between 320-something women's teams and 20-something men's. There's just not that many people moving to the smaller number.

There are differences for sure, but it's not like you're going from softball to baseball, which are totally different animals. The men are always trying to adopt things from the women's game and vice-versa. If something works, you want to be doing it.

Q: How's it going with the returning players and recruits?

A: I e-mailed everyone right after the (May 22) press conference, met the ones who are here this summer, and met Gus (Tuaniga) and his family in California.

Jonas (Umlauft, a 6-foot-8 freshman opposite signed by Wilton) is coming. Turned out, I knew his coach through a mutual friend and was able to contact him. Just wanted to confirm his amateur status and make sure there are no red flags.

We'll know more about what we have when we get in the practice gym.

We've had a couple kids from Europe contact us, but not for this year. We have contacts in Europe. Dan (new associate coach Fisher) played there for six years, I've been to Europe every year since I left here. We can quickly find out about someone literally anywhere on the planet. Volleyball is a small world.

Q: Going to have a graduate assistant?

A: Yes, but we haven't made that decision. Jake (Schkud) and Brian (Beckwith) are two names that it could come down to. We can either use the position to help someone advance themselves in coaching or help someone graduate.

Q: What's the one thing you want to tell people who have been waiting to come back and fill the arena?

A: One, reassure and promise them that we'll get more local players on the team. Two, we are committed to winning a national championship. We want them to understand how much their support plays into both those things. We can use the crowd to our advantage in recruiting and as a competitive advantage in a game.

It's one thing to say we lead the country in attendance. It's completely different to be able to bring a kid in and there's 5,000 or more in here. Kids will say, “;Wow, this is a big deal.”; We want every good player in the country wanting to play here and the community support will help us do that.

Q: So how soon can you win a national championship?

A: Not soon enough.



Charlie Wade's coaching resume:

Hawaii (Assistant/Associate coach)
1995311.969NCAA regional final
1996353.921NCAA runner-up
1997258.758NCAA first round
1998323.914NCAA regional final
1999292.935NCAA regional semi
2000312.939NCAA third place
2001296.829NCAA regional semi
2002342.944NCAA third place
2003362.947NCAA third place
2004301.968NCAA regional semi
2005277.794NCAA regional semi
Pacific (Head coach)
2006821.276First season at UOP
2007189.6673 tournament titles
20081216.429Fourth in Big West

Source: UH