After a decade as the head coach of ‘Iolani, one of the most successful boys basketball programs in the state, Dean Shimamoto announced his retirement today,
He shared the news this afternoon, not long after speaking with his team, the same one that finished third in the state.
Over the years, the Raiders, by and large, often overachieved, beating taller and bigger teams with more athleticism. They did it the old-fashioned way, putting in reps on the hardwood and in the weight room year-round. This year’s team went 23-12 overall, posting memorable wins over Servite (Calif.), Diamond Bar (Calif.) and OIA champion Moanalua — in the state-tourney quarterfinals. The Raiders eked into the state tourney because the Interscholastic League had three state berths instead of the usual two this season — and after beating Moanalua, nearly knocked out Punahou in the semifinal round.
Letting go was a process for Shimamoto, 42, who has coached at every level at ‘Iolani since his sophomore year of college.
“I talked to the boys today. I let my coaches know last night, my head coaches and staff,” Shimamoto said.
He had some discussions with athletic director Eddie Maruyama earlier in the season.
“I wanted to give him a head’s up. He kind of wanted to let the season finish up and me not worry about it until the season was over. Just do the best you can with the guys we’ve got at becoming successful,” Shimamoto said.
If he had an increasing amount of difficulty being away from his young family, Shimamoto didn’t show it much, if at all.
“I would say I’ve had a few thoughts over the last few years about when my time would come or when it would feel right. About midway through the season, I thought about it more. My kids have more things going on. I started missing out on more things,” he said. “Over the last 10 years, there’s been a lot of great moments and incredible experiences, but with my boys getting older I don’t want to miss out on those same type of experiences with them. I don’t get these years back.”
His wife, Teresa, and sons, ages 7 and 5, have known him and basketball as one identity for all this time.
“For her, she was the one to make sure I was sure. Because really, basketball was around before she was at least in my life. I was already a pretty committed coach even though I was an assistant at the time. She knows it’s a big part of my life,” he said. “Coaches wives, you can’t be a successful coach unless you have an understanding wife and mother. Look at (Maryknoll’s) Kelly Grant, (Punahou’s) Darren Matsuda, (Mid-Pacific’s) Ryan Hirata.”
During his 10 years, Shimamoto’s teams won three state championships. The first came in 2010, a 46-43 nail-biter over Kamehameha.
Then came the ’14 crown, another close battle. The Raiders edged a talented Farrington squad 43-40 that season in the final. That year, ‘Iolani switched gears in one of the most impressive chameleon-DNA performances. The Raiders began the season as a high-pace, run-and-gun outfit, but after struggling against the talented Maryknoll Spartans, Shimamoto had his team modify its approach. While most of the ILH kept speeding up, his team was contrarian and bought into a controlled tempo and stellar defense.
In ’16, led by 6-foot-9 Hugh Hogland, the Raiders outlasted Punahou 45-40 in the title game. ‘Iolani reached the semifinals in ’17 and again this season.
Shimamoto has already been busy coaching his sons in youth leagues. He might even be an assistant coach in the near future if asked.
“I’m not naive enough to think I’ll be able to just put it behind me. I’ve been coaching for 23 years and playing for 10 before that, so basketball’s been around me longer than anything I can remember besides my parents and my family,” he said. “It’s not totally going away. I could very well be on the sideline next year as an assistant depending on who gets the job and if they want me to be there. I think I’ll still be involved in coaching, but the burdens of being a head (varsity) coach won’t be there.”
Shimamoto leaves as a content coach, ready to give his family every one of his days and nights now. The task of being ‘Iolani’s boys basketball head coach is a whirlwind.
“We plan the summer league, run it, have practices. Offseason workouts three times a week. A big clinic. Travel and fundraising, all these little pieces are always on your mind. Even if I’m standing there with my kid or my family eating dinner, my mind’s not there. Those types of things make head coaching difficult,” he said.
For Shimamoto, there is no other place to coach besides his alma mater. Not in the past, not in the future. He is, like a good number of coaches at the prep level, uniquely qualified and even overqualified with a resume and vast experience.
“I love high school basketball. It’s a totally different animal from college, not like bringing guys in for your system. It’s easier said than done, but you’ve got to work with what you’ve got,” he said. “Every coach is going to say they’ve got great kids, but at ‘Iolani, we really have great kids and great parents. This is the top of the mountain for me as far as a coaching job.”
Shimamoto’s father, Sonny, once owned Mike’s Engraving and Trophies. He was also a baseball coach, but eventually coached basketball. Sonny Shimamoto went on to coach at Moanalua when Na Menehune won state championships in ’96 and ’97. The head coach there? Eddie Maruyama.