1-ON-1: Eric Kadooka opens up on stepping down at Maryknoll

Eric Kadooka (left) won seven state titles at Punahou while coaching the likes of Michael Suiter (right). He spent the better part of the past three seasons coaching at Maryknoll before stepping down last week. Photo by Dennis Oda/Star-Advertiser.

Eric Kadooka made a stunning, seemingly out-of-the-blue decision last week, leaving his position as baseball coach at Maryknoll.

But he did it after lots of reflection on the state of the program he was running. The Spartans were 4-9 in the ILH when he departed.

“I don’t blame anybody, but I felt that if I removed myself from the situation, it would give another coach a chance to see if they can make that connection,” said Kadooka, who won seven straight Division I state baseball championships at Punahou from 2004 to ’10. “There are steps you need to take to get into contention. I couldn’t get them (the players) to buy into it. There’s always more stuff to do to advance. Lift weights. Bottom line, if you don’t do more, you don’t do well.

“In our league, there are good players everywhere, but the more you do things to improve yourself the better your chances. I couldn’t get them to make that commitment that’s required. I gave it three years. It is what it is. I thought I would be able to influence people and make them better and I didn’t. I probably should have waited until the end of the season, but I was thinking the faster they can get someone else to give it a fresh shot the better off they’ll be. There’s no hard feelings.”

Kadooka realizes that he set the bar high, with a goal to contend for the state title since coming to Maryknoll starting with the 2017 season.

“That (seven state titles) is difficult to live up to,” he said. “When you’ve done it, all you want is to be at that level, whether the goal is realistic or not. That’s all you envision is being at that level.”

Kadooka didn’t think it was unrealistic for Maryknoll to win a state title.

“I knew what I was up against,” he said. “I’ve been doing it so long. I love the ILH and its brand of baseball. You gotta compete every day. There’s no good or bad teams. You play three games a week and anybody can beat anybody. So to win it all, so many things have to go right. You consistently have to do a lot, put in the work making yourself better. You pull your weight or you get run over. I could not change the culture. It takes a whole tribe to make that change.

“But it’s baseball. It’s not life and death.”

Kadooka wishes the best for new Maryknoll coach Alakai Aglipay, who he coached at Punahou.

“He’s very level-headed and very mature for his age,” Kadooka said about Aglipay, who played for the Ewa Beach 2005 Little League World Series championship team. “He’s appreciative of what he’s got. He’s young enough to relate to the kids and he’s old enough to make that separation between coach and player.”

Kadooka will continue to remind the ILH coaches that the league hasn’t won the state championship since 2014.

“At Punahou, I always felt the league prepared us to put our best foot forward,” he said. “That’s why when coach Don Botelho (former ILH executive director) would have informal coaches’ meetings after the season, I would always bring the state trophy. I wanted them to share in it. The league is such a grind. They are helping teams move forward to be better. Every game, you have to perform or you’re going to lose.”

Kadooka, who is 51 now, will take a break from coaching, but he does plan to go to Maui to watch the state tournament next month and he does think he’ll coach again at some point.

“Almost every day, I forget that I don’t have to be anywhere, that I don’t have to be at practice,” he said.

“I was so lucky to have learned from lots of people through the years. Coach Pal and Dave Eldredge at Punahou, Dunn Muramaru (Mid-Pacific), Vern Ramie (Kamehameha), Dean Yonamine (‘Iolani). I was just somebody who wanted to listen.”


  1. ILH April 9, 2019 7:30 pm

    Cue the disgruntled parents…………

  2. Uncle Kino April 9, 2019 10:14 pm

    Kadooka is a very knowledgeable baseball coach. No one will ever question that. When he is ready to coach again he will get that opportunity. Not sure if it will be in the ILH. Running out of schools.

  3. teresa April 10, 2019 6:13 am

    too bad, so sad. tired of losing

  4. Falcon Future April 10, 2019 7:53 am

    This is proof that the toughest coaching job is to be at a school with less talent than the rest of the league. Kadooka is a good baseball coach who truly knows the game. He already showed it at Punahou. If Kadooka was the coach at Iolani instead of Maryknoll, I am pretty certain that Iolani would be in contention for the ILH title right now.

    But it takes a different kind of coach to mold talent from the bottom and build them up. Ryan Hirata knows all about it for basketball. I guarantee you Hirata will be leading Iolani to some ILH basketball titles in the coming years. Does that mean he will get better as a coach? No, he’s always been a good coach. Its just that Mid-Pac doesn’t have the basketball talent to contend in the ILH. Same like Maryknoll for baseball.

  5. Dakine April 10, 2019 9:55 am

    Attitudes reflect leadership…how can a program with 4 championships within 6 years, as recent as 2015, have unmotivated players?..hmmm.

  6. Falcon Future April 10, 2019 2:06 pm

    ^^^ LOL, no offense Dakine but I hope you realize there is a big difference between D1 and D2 baseball. To put it simple, if Maryknoll was still in D2 baseball, they would be winning more “championships” in these last couple years. Kadooka wanted to push Maryknoll up to D1 but those boys found out the hard way that it is a different beast to play against the big boys.

  7. Coach/fan April 10, 2019 5:42 pm

    Would be really interesting to hear from some former Punahou players that played for Kadooka. I don’t think his coaching style has changed; the only changes are the talent level he has (or doesn’t have) and the parents he had to answer to. Much like Hirata in basketball, Kadooka chose to “play against the best” rather than dominate in Div II. I applaud both of them for trying to raise the level of play of their players.
    So . . . Former Punahou players, what was Kadooka like in your heyday?

  8. Friedrice1 April 10, 2019 9:23 pm

    Hmmm. Sounds like he was overmatched. Too old school. Easy to win if you got talent like at Punahou. Hard to win if your players don’t believe in you.

    Maybe Randy had a better clue on how to take this program to the next level. He won 3 in a row.

    It’s ok. The Basketball program finally won a State Championship. Great Job in recruiting.

  9. Friedrice1 April 10, 2019 9:27 pm

    Former Coaching Staff wanted to make Maryknoll a Div 1 power. I know they wouldn’t quit like Kadooka did. He couldn’t handle what it takes to take this program to the next level.

  10. Braddah Bu April 11, 2019 10:49 am

    Coach Kadooka is a great coach! I am close with a lot of former players in their heyday of the 7 years in a row. They all say Coach Kadooka was old school, he was tough on everyone whether you were all state or a state champion. He treated everyone the same. He brought the best out of players and challenged them to the point where you wanted to fight, but at the end. They all say the same thing, he was a great coach! If anyone could do it, he could. THE DIFFERENCE from what I heard, these kids didn’t fully buy in and listen to what he said or commit to being better. He is obviously not sugar coating what happened by what the article states.
    Everyone knows if he stayed at Punahou, he probably would’ve won at least 4 in the least 9 years.. At least! I wish the best of luck to his former player Aglipay, he’s a product of Kadooka and we’ll see if he can create some magic for this new generation. Don’t listen to the noise or negativity.

  11. Dakine April 13, 2019 4:20 pm

    Falcon Future…I do in fact believe the transition from D2 to D1 was a big one, and one that would bring on a lot of challenges. However, losing the motivation of a team that had experience winning is a reflection of coaching. Take for example Kalaheo’s championships in back-to-back years in D2 and D1 from 2012-2013 (funny, as they beat Maryknoll too lol). They made a huge jump and had a change in coaching, but had a good staff and made their players believe. Who’s to say Maryknoll will ever win a D1 championship. I just hope people realize that it takes more than a hefty resume and a well known name to get guys to buy in.

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