For now, the absence of Kamehameha boys volleyball coach Kainoa Downing is a mystery. Sort of.
Downing, who guided the Warriors to a state championship in his first season (2011), stepped down from the post on Sunday as the team was at the airport in San Diego, Calif. The Warriors had just finished playing in the Best of the West tourney, placing 11th in the tough Gold Division.
“We had a meeting and he told us he was quitting. We’re not sure why,” senior Devin Mau said.
Downing’s long, illustrious resume as a player and coach is matched only by that of his cousin and assistant coach, Alan Rosehill. The longtime mentor took the reins for practice on Monday, and was in charge as the No. 2-ranked Warriors hosted No. 1 Punahou on Tuesday. Punahou swept Kamehameha 25-21, 25-15 as Micah Ma‘a — who left Kamehameha and transferred to Punahou before his freshman year — soared for 15 kills.
Downing chatted briefly by phone after the match.
“For right now, I have to tend to some family matters,” he said. “Knowing that Alan is there, the team is in good hands. There isn’t anything lesser.”
Punahou coach Rick Tune was as surprised as anyone about Downing’s decision.
“I don’t know what happened. I didn’t find out he had stepped down until after the match. He’s been somebody who puts his heart and soul into what he does,” Tune said. “I wish him the best.”
Tune, like many prominent coaches and former players in the volleyball community, holds Rosehill in high regard.
“Alan is a fantastic coach. He has a wonderful way about him,” Tune said.
Rosehill, a cousin of Downing, said the decision wasn’t entirely a shock.
“He was thinking about it toward the end of last season. There’s a high level of frustration and a desire for him to give his time to his children and family,” Rosehill said.
If there was frustration, it wasn’t about the team.
“He wasn’t mad at us,” Mau said. “He’s not that kind of person.”
“His communication was fine with the team,” Rosehill added.
Rosehill’s experience and success is virtually unmatched by any former assistant-turned-head coach in the islands. He played for USC, then was an assistant starting in 1980. From ’83 to ’85, he was the head coach at Hawaii Pacific, then became the UH men’s coach from ’85 to ’91.
He spent nine seasons assistant at ‘Iolani under a former player, Mike Among, before joining Downing’s staff for the past three-plus seasons.
“He knew the team’s in good hands with me,” Rosehill said. “In a sense, it was easy for him to make that decision.”
Still, Rosehill was hoping against long odds for a different story.
“I asked him to come here tonight,” he said.
Rosehill, who runs a lumber company, has a talented group at hand. Even with the loss to Punahou, there may be no other team — aside from the Buffanblu — better than the Warriors.
“The nice thing for us is we’ve been to states six years in a row. I’m confident we’ll be back there,” he said. “I’m just hoping we’ll be next to Punahou in the finals.”