Shoji unequaled in level of UH success


POSTED: Thursday, December 24, 2009

For some folks out there, not even the final four is good enough.

A segment of University of Hawaii sports fans exists that thinks volleyball coach Dave Shoji should be replaced. This group has been around a long time, and to them it doesn't matter how well the Wahine volleyball team performs—anything short of the national championship, and they're calling for Shoji's firing. (Anonymously, of course.)

I've never understood this.

Shoji has brought four volleyball national championships to Manoa. The problem seems to be that he doesn't do it every year.

Whenever someone tells me Shoji should be shown the exit, I laugh for about 15 minutes.

When I finally get off the floor, I ask: “;Well, who would you replace him with?”;

The answer to that is usually incoherent mumbling and slinking away.

If you're going to fire Shoji, you'd better cut everybody else loose, too. Because no one else at Manoa has come close to his level of continued success.

His teams have won more than 1,000 matches.

And he's done it over four decades, building the program from the ground up.

He's brought in millions of dollars of revenue (after expenses). At almost every other school around the country, volleyball is subsidized by other sports. At UH, it helps keep the lights on at the baseball stadium and pay for the soccer nets.

He's a bargain at a shade less than $200,000 a year. Maybe he should be UH's $1 million coach.

Shoji was named national coach of the year the other day, his second such honor. This is not a Bobby Bowden situation; Shoji is a young 63—just because he's been at or near the top of the mountain a long time doesn't mean he's over the hill.

Let's just put it this way: Dave Shoji is Hawaii volleyball. And Hawaii volleyball is very, very good.

GRANTED, the Wahine haven't won it all since 1987. But the program has remained astonishingly consistent under Shoji for a very long time. And every now and then, UH puts together a fantastic season like the one just completed—a 32-3 record, No. 3 ranking in the nation and national semifinal loss to Penn State, which has won 102 matches in a row.

The guy's not perfect; he admitted to regretting he didn't make what might have been a key adjustment during the Penn State match. But he must have done something right to have his team ready to take that first set from the Nittany Lions juggernaut.

UH has plenty of firepower returning next season, including first-team All-American Kanani Danielson and an experienced and competent setter in Dani Mafua. If Shoji and his staff coach up a bunch of tall and talented youngsters well enough, there's no reason Hawaii can't return to the final four.

WHAT MORE do you want?

Well we all know the answer to that. A fifth national championship, of course.

Those who think that can only happen with a coaching change ... well, perhaps in a few years you will get your wish. Shoji doesn't know if he'll continue after 2012, when his current contract extension ends.

But if it does happen that way, and UH wins it all again with somebody else as coach, it will still have been built upon a foundation that Dave Shoji began constructing back in the 1970s.

And the latest renovations have not been bad at all.

Reach Star-Bulletin sports columnist Dave Reardon at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address), his “;Quick Reads”; blog at starbulletin.com, and twitter.com/davereardon.