Hoopbook: Hiring of Ryan Hirata at ‘Iolani starts domino effect

Roosevelt boys basketball coach Steve Hathaway is a possibility to fill the vacancy at Saint Louis. Photo by Bruce Asato/Star-Advertiser.

The news is in and, to no surprise, Ryan Hirata has returned to his alma mater to become the new boys basketball head coach at ‘Iolani.

He talked about the decision Friday afternoon.

Hirata spent the past five seasons at the helm of Mid-Pacific’s boys program, which was highly competitive in the state’s most challenging league. Now he has the tradition, legacy and expectations of the Raiders’ program, where he was an All-State second-team guard alongside his best friend, Derrick Low. Hirata will follow in the footsteps of Dean Shimamoto, who guided “One Team” to three state titles in 10 years.

The hiring of Hirata means the dominoes will fall sooner rather than later for other vacancies. Among the favorites for the Saint Louis position is Steve Hathaway, the longtime coach at Roosevelt. Both of his sons attend Saint Louis. Hirata’s hiring at ‘Iolani also ends speculation that Saint Louis was interested in him for the position. Hirata is employed at Chaminade, which shares the campus with Saint Louis.

The lure of the ILH is real. Other possible candidates may be Brandyn Akana of Kahuku and Walter Marciel of Kailua. Both coaches had senior-heavy rosters this season.

Akana led Kahuku to a D-I state championship in 2017 and might be a good fit if he is a candidate at Saint Louis. Akana also has a longtime friendship with Kekoa Ng, the assistant coach at St. Francis and father of Kordel Ng.

The younger Ng has not chosen a new school for his senior year. Kordel Ng was voted to the Star-Advertiser All-State Fab 15 as a junior. All St. Francis student-athletes will be permitted to resume eligibility at any ILH program next season.

Marciel was a longtime assistant at Kalaheo under the late Pete Smith. Then he led Academy of the Pacific to new heights until the school closed its doors. Kailua has been a consistent Top 10 team statewide since he arrived in 2012.

If that falls in line, the Roosevelt job would open up for a slew of talented and currently available veteran coaches. Among them, maybe, would be Greg Tacon. He had success at Punahou and Moanalua, and at Kamehameha, the Warriors were competitive in the tough ILH.

The position at Castle remains vacant since Neil Bowers stepped down. Word is that Castle girls basketball coach Joseph Lilio is among the candidates. The Lady Knights qualified for the Division II state tournament for a second year in a row and reached the quarterfinal round again.

Circle back to Mid-Pacific, and the possibilities are intriguing. If longtime assistant coach Robert Shklov applies, the Owls can have continuity and build on what Hirata began. It’s very possible that longtime coaches with proven track records like Tacon will apply there.

Among other potential candidates include St. Francis coach Ron Durant, whose school will close shop when the senior class graduates in a couple of months; Sol Batoon, who was released from Saint Louis and has decades of coaching experience; Allan Silva, the former Farrington and Saint Louis coach, has not applied anywhere, but said his is open to possibilities. Keith Spencer, the former Leilehua and Saint Louis coach, said he is focusing on his son, who plays for Damien, and will not coach until his son graduates.

Elsewhere, the girls basketball position remains open at Waiakea, which released coach Brandon Kauhi last month. The Warriors will return nearly the entire roster from a team that won the BIIF title for the first time since 2008.


  1. Matt Motter April 6, 2019 1:57 am

    Amazing that Akana didn’t go to KSK last year, being that his daughters go/went there.

  2. HI HS FAN April 6, 2019 5:56 pm

    Kahuku didn’t get standout transfers this year as previous years. Even though they made the state playoffs, they didn’t have the chemistry. Akana lives in the community. Him leaving for an ILH job is intriguing. However, Kahuku is a good fit for him.

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