Five years in the green, white and black of Mid-Pacific Institute was transformative for Ryan Hirata.
Hirata was announced as the new boys basketball head coach at his alma mater, ‘Iolani, on Friday. The emotions were mixed, for sure.
“I think this is one of the toughest decisions I’ve had to make since I started coaching basketball in the ILH. It’s best for my family. I had to follow my gut and my heart,” he said. “‘Iolani is a special place for me. I’m excited for a chance to give back.”
Hirata was an All-State second-team guard at ‘Iolani, teaming with best buddy Derrick Low as the Raiders captured back-to-back state titles, two of the five in a row that made the program a dynasty. He played at Chaminade, where he is currently employed, and coached for a year as an assistant at ‘Iolani. Then came an opportunity at Mid-Pacific.
The Owls did not have the tradition and success of ‘Iolani in boys hoops, but had made inroads in prior years. Hirata brought stability and a standard that was a big challenge for his players. The Owls rose and were very competitive in the ILH, the state’s toughest league top to bottom.
“I want to thank the Mid-Pacific basketball community for five wonderful years. All the players, families and alumni were good to me. Those kids and families mean a lot to me. I’ve always preached this to the kids — life is full of tough decisions,” Hirata said.
The announcement was made around mid-day, and Hirata’s phone lit up. By mid-afternoon, he had close to 50 texts waiting. Hirata will have a busy offseason organizing ‘Iolani’s summer league, organizing the system from varsity down to intermediate. Following in the footsteps of Dean Shimamoto, who won three state championships over the span of a decade, isn’t easy for anyone.
Hirata will still be rooting for Mid-Pacific. He won’t have input on the selection process there, but he’s also rooting for one of his longtime assistants.
“I couldn’t have done it without our outstanding assistant coaches. The right guy for the job is Robert Shklov,” Hirata said. “He knows the kids. He’s very loyal to Mid-Pacific and that’s where he wants to be.”