Kula Oda already saved University of Hawaii at Hilo men’s tennis from the dead.
UH-Hilo will turn to Scott Hansen to help continue the resuscitation, tapping him to succeed Oda at the helm of the men’s and women’s tennis programs.
A Pahoa resident since 2007, Hansen has 24 years of coaching experience, including a stint at Saddleback Community College, where he guided the Gauchos to five consecutive undefeated conference seasons and earned coach of the year honors twice.
While the Vulcans have struggled at times on the court, they made their mark through community outreach under the guidance of Oda the past 14 seasons.
That’s a legacy Hansen wants to uphold.
“This is a fantastic opportunity for me,” he said in a UH-Hilo release Wednesday. “I look forward to the challenge in building on the solid foundation put forth by Kula Oda and the community.
“Helping young people become strong young adults that contribute back to the community and represent the University of Hawaii at Hilo is the ultimate goal.”
With tennis earmarked to be cut as a varsity men’s sport in 2009, Oda led a grassroots fundraising campaign to keep the program afloat. Oda, who resigned in May to take a position as a teaching pro in West Hawaii, also was instrumental in spearheading junior tennis on the island.
“We certainly expect no less of an effort by Coach Hansen,” UH-Hilo Athletic Director Dexter Irvin said in announcing the hire. “We believe Scott will be a positive force for stability as we work with our community to continue the strong outreach that was started and enhanced by Kula.
“Tennis is a staple for us, and we are determined, as any good Vulcan is, to continue to fund and compete with our tennis programs.”
Hansen played in college at Division I San Diego State and won a California doubles championship at Saddleback in 1991.
Steve Bickham, an executive director for the United States Tennis Association who has worked with Hansen in the past, thinks he’ll have no problem filling Oda’s shoes.
“Scott developed a high level junior program for us in San Diego, and I am confident he can do the same in Hawaii,” Bickham said.
Hansen could face even bigger challenges on the court. He inherits a men’s team that was 4-15 last season and a women’s team that went 6-16, and the Pacific West Conference figures to get even tougher with its expansion to 14 teams.
However, former Saddleback AD and coach Bill Ota says the Vulcans have the right man for the job, calling Hansen “an excellent young man and a high-class guy.”
“I can’t rate him any higher,’’ he said.