UH-Hilo still searching for its next men’s coach


When the University of Hawaii at Hilo names its new men’s head basketball coach, it will be the most important decision made by athletic director Dexter Irvin in his four years at the college.

“This is going to be the biggest hire since I’ve been here,” Irvin said Friday. “We have over 200 applicants, and more are coming in every day. I think we have some excellent candidates, and a pool of quality coaches to pick from. I’m excited about the opportunity to hire the new coach. It’s complex because of the community, and the nature of basketball here and its historical significance. Men’s basketball has always been our flagship program, and it’s critical to our athletic program.”

Irvin said a five-person review committee, headed by UH-Hilo assistant AD for compliance Pam Knox, will begin sifting through the applications next week and whittling down the list to four or five finalists. The finalists will be interviewed by the committee and ranked in order. That list will be presented to Irvin, who will recommend his top choice to the UH-Hilo administration for final approval.

“We’re hoping to interview the finalists by the first week of May,” Irvin said, “and we’d like to have the new coach on board by June 1.”

The UH-Hilo collegiate athletic program began at the NAIA level in the late 1970s and later transitioned into NCAA Division II. Men’s basketball always has been the biggest revenue producer and its highest profile sport — at one time consistently drawing crowds of 3,000-plus at Afook-Chinen Civic Auditorium and occasionally having postseason games shown on statewide television.

But those Vulcan heydays have since passed, and almost anyone who watched the UH-Hilo men’s basketball team struggle the past two seasons before smallish crowds at UH-Hilo’s gym knows the program needs a major energy boost to win a lot more games to bring back the fans.

Irvin watched intently as the Vulcans struggled those two years, and when veteran coach Jeff Law resigned at the end of this past season to take another coaching job on the mainland, the AD quickly focused his attention on finding a new coach to re-energize the program.

The Vulcans finished 6-19 overall and 4-13 in the Pacific West Conference this past year, averaging between 300 to 400 fans per home game.