By Cindy Luis
TV DVR note if you're going to the matches: 9 p.m. KGMB (Ch 7) has the Dave Shoji Special. might conflict watching the match on TV if first match goes longer than 2 hours. UH match match with a 7:30 p.m. start. Any longer than 90 minutes will run into the KGMB conflict.
Anyway, from Ann this morning
Two things Dave Shoji won't talk about as he heads into tonight's Hawaiian Airlines Rainbow Wahine Classic, and possibly makes volleyball history:
Becoming the winningest coach in his sport and just how much his family — constructively — criticizes him after every Hawaii match.
"The poor guy would get hammered by my brothers and (wife) Mary as soon as he walked in the door, win or lose," daughter Cobey Hutzler recalled. "Lineups, subs, adjustments, specific plays, stats … you name it, he's gonna hear about it when he comes home. His family is definitely his harshest critic and since he can't get rid of us, he has to take it. But on the flip side, since the family is pretty knowledgeable, I think he often looks to us for help or advice. Sometimes it helps having a new set of eyes analyze or give feedback."
Shoji's family could write a book the size of James Michener's "Hawaii" about volleyball, and it is not simply genetic.
Cobey lives in Albuquerque with her husband, Coleman — an assistant football coach for New Mexico — and infant son Micah. She played at Punahou, then in college at UNLV and Michigan, and was Stanford's first director of volleyball operations.
Brothers Kawika (‘Iolani) and Erik (Punahou) were All-Americans at Stanford, where they won an NCAA title in 2010. Both could play for the U.S. at the 2016 Olympics and are training with the national team before heading to play professionally in Europe.
Mary Shoji was a basketball player for UH, but coaches volleyball at Punahou and is a presence at every home match — as were Dave's late parents — and quite a few Team USA exhibitions, home and abroad. Now that the Shojis are empty-nesters, she is also the primary sounding board for one of the most recognizable and successful faces in Hawaii.
So when Dave Shoji says the 1,105 wins he has in 39 years at UH are "not about the coach," but "about all the players and tradition we have here at Hawaii," he is not completely wrong. He has had lots of help, from Hawaii's phenomenal fan base, many memorable players, assistants and behind-the-scenes support, and a family so wrapped up in volleyball that 10-month-old Micah watches live match webstreams from Hawaii, Germany (Kawika plays in Berlin) and Austria (Erik is in Innsbruck) and plays with a volleyball every day.
What Micah sees, at least from his grandfather's team, is a four-time national champion that has somehow stayed in contention while collegiate athletics has undergone massive change.
"There is a reason why Hawaii is the only non-BCS school to constantly compete in the top 10 each year," Kawika said. "Because it's been a while since the program has won a title, people don't understand how enormous this accomplishment really is, especially in today's NCAA landscape. People should enjoy it while it lasts."
Shoji's kids speak of their father in analytical and awed tones. They are his greatest critics and most unconditional fans. His boys admire his ability to adapt as the game changes and are thankful for the fundamentals he gave them. Cobey praises the "simplicity of his coaching and teaching."
"He's very technical and does a lot of reps of the basic skills," she said. "Nothing complicated, nothing really innovative, just reps and hard work in training. When I was coaching, I would ask him for help with a practice plan and he'd say, ‘Pass, set, hit, dig, PLAY.' He keeps it simple. It works."
It has worked for more than 38 years, with an intriguing cast of characters/players from Hawaii, the mainland and Europe that, in most cases, other top-10 programs did not want. More than any other aspects of their father's coaching, Shoji's children respect his ability to train talent at every level and make "gutsy" changes mid-match.
Cobey says flat-out that Shoji "trains players better than any coach in the country." Brother Kawika goes into more detail about how his father "gets the most" out of his talent."
"Not only does he develop his best recruits," Kawika said, "but he has also shown that he can take walk-ons or under-rated recruits and turn them into really good volleyball players. This is a special skill that most coaches don't have.
HAWAIIAN AIRLINES WAHINE VOLLEYBALL CLASSIC
>> Today: No. 10 UCLA (3-0) vs. Santa Clara (2-1), 5 p.m.; No. 9 Hawaii (2-1) vs. New Mexico State (1-2), 7:30
>> Friday: UCLA vs. New Mexico State, 5 p.m.; Hawaii vs. Santa Clara, 7:30
>> Saturday: Santa Clara vs. New Mexico State, 5 p.m.; Hawaii vs. UCLA, 7:30
>> TV: Hawaii matches live on OC Sports (Ch. 16)
>> Radio: Hawaii matches live on KKEA (1420-AM)
"The Texas match was a perfect example. Frankly, from a recruiting rating and athleticism standpoint, Hawaii should have no business competing, even if they play at home. But Dad and his staff have developed and prepared their players to play a high level of skilled, system volleyball."
Shoji's system provides for options linked to other options. He can change the Wahine's look at the drop of a substitution, and has done it so often and successfully it will probably be mentioned in his volleyball epitaph, when he ever retires.
"My favorite aspect of his coaching is how he makes so many adjustments within the course of a match," Erik said. "He is not afraid to switch lineups, change the offense, or move around the defense if he thinks that's best for the match.
"You could see it against Texas. He used several combinations of players and many different strategies on the court. I think his ability to adjust during a match makes him pretty unique in the coaching world today, and it is something I really enjoy watching."
Clearly, Shoji's kids are not objective. But 1,105 wins in, it is tough to disagree.
» A special titled "Dave Shoji — The Man Behind Miracles" will be shown tonight at 9 on KGMB (Ch. 7) and Sunday at the same time on KHNL (Ch. 8).
» Hawaiian Airlines will distribute 300 team photos approximately one hour before Hawaii plays each night.