Two days ago, a rumor swirled about Sol Batoon’s status as the boys basketball coach at Saint Louis.
On Thursday morning, the rumor transformed into reality. Saint Louis administrators met with Batoon early in the day and told him he has been released as head coach.
“I have no regrets. I enjoyed the experience,” Batoon said. “We had a successful year and turned the culture around.”
The Crusaders began the nonconference season with a 7-0 mark, including a win over No. 6 St. Francis at the Walter Wong Invitational. They rose to No. 6 in the Star-Advertiser Top 10 going into the ILH season.
The gauntlet of ILH foes — all ranked in the Top 10 at one time or another — included the state’s top three teams in Maryknoll, Punahou and ‘Iolani. Saint Louis opened the slate with a win at St. Francis, then ranked No. 5, but seven consecutive losses followed. Among them was a 75-69 loss to ‘Iolani, a 65-60 overtime loss at Punahou and another close loss at ‘Iolani, 60-55.
After wins over Kamehameha and Mid-Pacific, Saint Louis lost to Kamehameha and Punahou. In the playoffs, the Crusaders lost at ‘Iolani, 65-41, ending their season.
They were 10-10 overall this season. In two seasons, the Crusaders were 17-32 overall and 3-17 in regular-season play. They were also 0-2 in playoff games. Yet, there is a sense that the arrow is pointing up. The JV program is competitive and the intermediate program is winning games. There are offseason teams playing in outside leagues from the elementary level on up.
This year’s varsity team had eight athletes from the three-time defending state-championship football team. The team was extremely competitive against unranked teams — 6-0 — and 4-10 against Top 10 teams. Batoon was hoping for a year or two more to get his system rooted from the ground up.
“It’s changing from the bottom up. You’ve got to give it time,” Batoon said. “I didn’t enjoy the losing part. I never lost so much in my life. I was hired a year ago when the (2017-18) season started, so I didn’t get a chance to really know the kids. That was a rough year. This year, I had a little better kids, not basketball kids, but we were competitive and worked hard. They progressed. Next year, I would’ve had 90 percent basketball guys.”
Keith Spencer and Allan Silva, two prominent coaches with successful histories, preceded Batoon. Neither achieved their previous levels of success at Kalaepohaku.
“It’s a football school, so you get a lot of good athletes. They’re playing basketball, but they’re not basketball players. It’s my fault for jumping in the fire,” Batoon said. “The (administration) is going to do what they want to do. That’s why it’s a changed world. You no longer are given opportunities to really provide change. Everything is immediate gratification.”
Batoon is open to new opportunities.
“I have the energy and the mental capacity to develop a program, any program, Division I, II, III, if that’s what the school wants to do. That’s why we were successful at St. Francis,” he said.
Batoon led the Saints to a Division II state title in 2013. Two years later, he was released as athletic director and boys basketball coach.
“It took eight years, but we left it in a good place and it continued the success,” he said.