Former UCLA All-American and University of Cincinnati head coach Reed Sunahara is living a dream while working with the U.S. women’s national volleyball team.
Sunahara, who graduated from Hilo High School in 1981 and went on to play on three national championship teams at UCLA, was hired earlier this year by U.S. women’s head coach Karch Kiraly. In 1982, Sunahara and Kiraly were teammates for a season on one of the Bruins’ championship teams.
Sunahara will serve as an assistant coach under Kiraly for the 2013-16 Olympic quadrennial, leading to the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro. The former Big Island high school standout also said he’s looking forward to Team USA playing in the Pan Am Cup next month in Peru. The Americans will then host Japan in a pair of high-profile matches in July in San Diego.
“It’s a wonderful experience working with Karch and his staff, and with the outstanding American women’s team,” Sunahara said. “It’s fun and a lot of hard work. The goal is to win the gold medal at the 2016 Olympics, and we will do everything in our power to accomplish that goal.”
Sunahara and Kiraly played together at UCLA during the 1982 title season, when Sunahara was a freshman and Kiraly a senior. Sunahara played on two more UCLA national championship teams in 1983 and 1984, and later became an assistant coach for the Bruins.
“It’s a great honor to represent USA Volleyball,” Sunahara said. “I’ve coached at every level and various USA teams, but this is an unbelievable opportunity to coach the best athletes at the highest level.”
Kiraly is pleased to have the highly respected Sunahara on his staff.
“Reed is all about success and standards — he’s coached successful USA campaigns, and he headed a strong NCAA Division I college program for over a decade,” Kiraly said in a press release announcing Sunahara’s hiring in February.
“It’s a great benefit to the program that he has joined our staff. The U.S. women have achieved tremendous success by setting very high standards, and Reed will be invaluable to that process going forward.”
Sunahara led the U.S. women to the 2012 Pan American Cup title last summer with a squad that didn’t include any 2012 Olympians. The team competed against the likes of Brazil and Dominican Republic, whose rosters were largely made up of Olympic players. The Pan Am Cup gold medal qualified the Americans into the 2013 FIVB World Grand Prix, where they will attempt to win a fourth consecutive title.
Prior to coaching with USA Volleyball last summer, Sunahara compiled a 289-109 record at the University of Cincinnati from 2000 to 2011, winning at least 20 matches in 11 of his 12 seasons and earning eight NCAA tournament berths. Sunahara led the Bearcats to three Big East championships and three Conference USA championships.
He was named Big East Coach of the Year in 2008 and 2011, and Conference USA Coach of the Year in 2001 while at Cincinnati.
Sunahara was a volleyball, basketball and baseball standout at Hilo before going on to play at UCLA. His father, Masa, still lives on the Big Island, and Reed has other relatives residing around the state.