Kam steps down as Punahou hoops coach

Punahou Co-Athletics Director Kale Ane confirmed today that Liz Kam is no longer the Buffanblu varsity girls basketball coach.

Kam resigned over the weekend, just halfway into her second season.

“She shared that it was for personal reasons,” Ane texted. “We told her we would respect that.”

Punahou was 2-3 in Interscholastic League of Honolulu play before Kam stepped down. She has been replaced by Co-Athletics Director Tita Ahuna.

Since Mike Taylor resigned in 2011 after four state titles in 10 seasons, Punahou has been through four coaches in the past five seasons: Kekoa Taliaferro, Courtney Robinson, Kevin Velasco and Kam. The Buffanblu won a state crown in 2014 under Velasco.


  1. Here today December 24, 2016 1:12 am

    Something smells afoul with the girls hoops program. While certainly not to the level of a Lahinaluna this many coaches in this many years seems odd. The previous article indicated that Kam was the co-head coach with Ahuna. Going from a head to a co-head seems like a demotion. Resigning for personal or family reasons always seems like code language so I wonder what was the true reason.

  2. ??? December 24, 2016 1:08 pm

    At Punahou you need to recruit and win the ILH or you will be gone. Furtado is recruiting young stars at Maryknoll and winning…

  3. Hala Tree December 24, 2016 3:45 pm

    Punahou has talent. Their PG signed a D1 college scholarship. The problem is the coaching. Two years ago after V stepped down, Coach Kam who never got her contract at MPI renewed (basically the equivalent of being fired) got hired at Punahou. She got hired over a couple applicants who had more experience and experienced more winning. Over the past 6 months the Punahou AD’s had to field many complaints from parents. This past summer, Punahou canceled both their Intermediate and JV summer teams due to lack of interest. To handle the parents, AD Tita Ahuna was named co-head coach. They brought on Kuehu who never coaches high school or intermediate before. For the past 2 weeks many head coaching duties were taken away from Coach Kam and given to Ahuna or Kuehu. So from what I heard, Kam decided to just pack her bags and cut out taking her buddy Mayumi Stevens with her. Now they are stuck with a team being coached by an AD who specializes in coaching volleyball, a former high school standout who has no experience coaching but yells a lot on the court, and a former Iolani standout who was an assistant JV Girls’ Coach. After watching their performance vs. Maryknoll the future looks very bad. Poor coaching, no adjustments, bad execution, are the new norms for Punahou Girls Basketball.

  4. Hala Tree December 24, 2016 10:39 pm

    Against Maryknoll the other night the Punahou defenders looked lost. They couldn’t defend simple screens and cuts that most intermediate teams can defend. They had their backs to the ball. They trailed on almost all the screens that were set. They never attempted to fight through the screens or switch the screens. They looked like they never saw Flex being ran before. It’s so dysfunctional. All that talent is going to waste. I feel so bad for these young ladies.

  5. Hala Tree December 24, 2016 11:16 pm

    For the record, Coach Kam resigned on Saturday, December 17 at 11:46am when she sent an email informing all of the parents that she was resigning effective on the day the email was sent.

  6. Northshore December 25, 2016 4:26 am

    IRT ???: “You need to recruit and win the ILH or you will be gone.” Having said that, that’s the key for the ILH in winning majority of the state major sports titles…”recruiting.” The ILH wouldn’t be able to dominate with only athletes whose parents could afford the tuition. It’s much easier for a coach to coach and look good with talented recruited athletes. The writings on the wall…this is the reason schools such as Kalani, Mckinley, Roosevelt, Kaimuki, Pearl City are constantly participating in Division II sports.

  7. Hala Tree December 25, 2016 7:57 am

    @Northshore. Punahou does not or hardly recruits for Girls Basketball anymore. That is why the cupboard is bare after these seniors graduate. More kids are choosing soccer over basketball. No one is going to want this coaching gig.

  8. Hala Tree December 25, 2016 8:03 am

    Mike Taylor – Stepped down in 2011 to support his kids

    Kekoa Taliaferro – Terminated in middle of season after the Kona Trip

    Courtney Robinson – Replaced Taliaferro mid-season and not retained

    Kevin Velasco – Coached two years and stepped down after 2 season due to family reasons. Assistant Coach Kii Vasconcellos not retained prior to Coach Velasco stepping down due to numerous parental complaints.

    Elizabeth Kam – Resigned on December 17 for personal reasons. Off the record, there are rumors about parent complaints; admin leaned on her to resign due to poor coaching; coaching power taken away; lack of interest in the program; numerous returnees threatened to play D2; grooming Kuehu.

  9. ??? December 25, 2016 1:41 pm

    Hala Tree knows all the inside scoops with punahou maybe he or she should apply for the job!!!

  10. Hala Tree December 25, 2016 3:08 pm

    @???, HELL NO!

  11. Hala Tree December 25, 2016 3:43 pm

    @NorthShore, while recruiting does help in certain sports, the ILH schools do not recruit in them all.

    Boys/Girls Soccer, Boys/Girls Volleyball, Boys/Girls Track, Boys/Girls Water Polo, etc. There’s little or no recruiting going on with these sports at Punahou. They win since there is great coaching and often the families can afford to pay for their children to play on club. Since they play more they improve more and at a faster pace.

    So Punahou is dominating in many sports where their talent pool comes solely from parents who can afford tuition and their kids can get in without being recruited.

    Please reword your statement to be more accurate. Thanks.

  12. Northshore December 26, 2016 5:40 am

    @Hala Tree: In general, Punahou and other ILH schools recruit by way of providing “financial aid” to the blue chip athletes that are not able to afford the tuition. There are more financially strapped athletes receiving financial aid than students who are academically deserving of furthering their college prep from the lower income families. Having said that, sugar coating my statement is not necessary because I’ve told it the way it is and majority of the people would agree as to how the private schools go out and recruit the top athletes throughout the state to enhance their sports program. Without the talented athletes, good coaching will not win titles and as example, Cal Lee couldn’t produce a winner while coaching at Kalani.

  13. Hala Tree December 26, 2016 7:28 am

    @northshore, you do know that at Punahou they use an independent 3rd party firm who handles their financial aid. And due to their accreditation status, the school has no control over how much financial assistance the school is able to give.

    If you look at the rosters for many sports that does not include football, you will notice that most of the sports I have listed have players who have attended the school since their elementary years. Punahou is not going out recruiting for track, paddling, soccer, volleyball, tennis, etc. Now granted, they have been active in finding football players.

    But to say they get all these kids recruited for all the other sport is very naive. Can you name a couple kids who do not play football who have been recruited? Since it’s so blatant, a couple for track, tennis, and water polo should suffice. Thanks.

  14. leewardhoboy December 26, 2016 9:48 am

    The comment about club team players being big influence on Punahou success in sports where club is prominent is exactly right. The ability of parents to afford for the kids to play club sports year round with high level coaching, and then send those same kids to private schools, is where the schools get the edge in soccer, volleyball, baseball, water polo.

    The Punahou soccer program is on a roll, and is dominated by boys who have played for the top 3-4 clubs on the island since they were 8 or 9 years old. They won the state title last year, will likely be competitive this year, but will crush everyone next year and the following year.

    None of the boys in the main group of top level players in the next 3-4 graduating classes were recruited or given financial aid. While they certainly enjoy playing for their school, the fact is that the level of competition they face in ILH, and for the most part in OIA (a couple schools are in soccer hotbed communities and have groups of talented players) from other schools is far below what they have faced at the club level for several years. Punahou just happens to have an aggregation of 8-10 right now who are among the best in their respective age groups at the club level. Most have been in Punahou for several years — none were brought in just to add to the soccer program.

  15. Hala Tree December 26, 2016 11:11 am

    Great perspective Leewardhoboy! Many people throw out the recruiting myth. Punahou only has so much money that they can offer in financial aid. They still have a huge operating costs to cover facility upgrades, employee salaries, etc.

    I am not saying that Punahou does not recruit at all. But to think they heavily recruit for all their sports that have success is ludicrous. It’s a combination of talent, club, and good coaching at the school.

    I stand by my comment that little or no recruiting goes on for the sports that I have been mentioning. It’s unfortunate that people are trying to take away from the success of some very diligent coaches.

  16. Northshore December 26, 2016 11:27 am

    @Hala Tree: Regardless if Punahou or other ILH schools do not recruit in other minor sports, the two major sports, football and basketball are recruited highly by providing financial aid. You can’t deny that and that’s the gist of how certain ILH schools has an upper hand on the Hawaii public schools. It’s like Bishop Gorman and St Louis for football and Findley and Maryknoll for basketball. It’s factual..not complaining. This is the reason that the ILH should run their own sports program and the Hawaii public schools do the same.

  17. Hala Tree December 26, 2016 12:26 pm

    @Northshore, can you please name 1 player on the boys basketball roster who got recruited for basketball and not football?

    Now I am not blind and I do understand the financial aid helps. But you do know that Punahou does not control the amount of financial aid the school gives right? I notice you didn’t reply back to that comment.

    It is a fact that Punahou uses a 3rd party company that Punahou has no control over. That is a fact. It is not a fact that Punahou provides financial aid for all of or the majority of the boys basketball players. To provide some credibility can you please let us know which basketball players were recruited.

    And you do know that many of Punahou’s students who do not participate in sports but do participate in band, music, and dance receive financial assistance. Are you saying that Punahou recruits for music, band, and dance so they can field competitive teams too?

  18. Hala Tree December 26, 2016 12:59 pm

    These are Punahou’s Financial Aid statistics for 2016-2017:

    665 Students receive financial aid
    $6.3 million in aid awarded
    $9,465 average per student
    86% of financial aid applicants were awarded

    Does the Financial Aid Office award scholarships?
    All financial aid awards are need-based and are not based on academic achievement, talent (musical, drama, dance, or athletics), or leadership.

    This is public information off their financial aid section of the website. So to say that financial aid money is given for sports is extremely negligent. It is based on need of the family. And there are many kids who receive this aid who do not participate in sports.

    Like I said with so many scandals at KS and STL before, Punahou doesn’t want bad publicity so there are pretty much up and up with their public statement.

    @Northshore, can you provide any evidence that proves this information incorrect?

  19. Northshore December 26, 2016 2:00 pm

    @Hala Tree: Now let’s keep this subject of recruiting (financial aid) in perspective. I’m assuming you’re a Punahou parent or alumni. First of all, you’re taking words out of context. If you go back and read my comments, i haven’t zeroed in on Punahou but have mentioned the ILH schools and haven’t mentioned Punahou recruiting basketball players. Before you do all the researching about Punahou and their financial aid program which I’m not concerned or could care less, it’s all about the ILH schools providing financial aid in the sport that are so dear to them and I’m sure that Damien does not recruit as much as St Louis in football. So try to keep things in perspective and not go out of the box.

  20. Hala Tree December 26, 2016 2:53 pm

    @North Shore, almost all private school use a similar model for financial aid other than KS since they use a different model because of their trust.

    Now there are certain school that recruit such as Punahou and STL in football. But you talk about major sports which I assume is football, basketball, and baseball. Other than football for these two school, where is all this recruiting going on and in which sports?

    If you look at the rosters for many of the top basketball and baseball program in the ILH, most of their kids have been in their school from elementary days or around 7th grade. I can speak for Punahou and Iolani and say that minimal recruiting exists in baseball, basketball, soccer, and volleyball. It has to do with repetition and coaching.

    If the coaching wasn’t a huge factor then Kahuku would win every sport they enter since they arguably have the best collection of pure athletes.

    So let’s be specific since you are throwing a blanket statement with no evidence. Other than Punahou and STL in football what schools are doing all this recruiting for the major sports like you said? You don’t need to make a huge list, a couple will suffice. Thanks.

  21. Hala Tree December 26, 2016 3:04 pm

    @Northshore, May I ask which teams are using financial aid to recruit when if you visit almost all of the ILH School’s financial aid pages, it clearly states that financial assistance is based up financial need and not academics, sports, music, art, dance, etc.

    Do you know something that the leadership in all these schools do not?

    If you don’t and you are unable to offer any specific example to support your statement, don’t you think that is pretty shallow to accuse the ILH or schools of doing something without evidence?

    I may be wrong, but in the US aren’t we supposed to provide evidence when an opinion is presented? No offense sir, but after 4-5 posts you haven’t offered any yet. You are just slinging accusations and creating stereotypes.

  22. Northshore December 26, 2016 3:32 pm

    @Hala Tree: Isn’t $6.3 million in financial aid provided to attend Punahou enough to be used as evidence? Providing names of people receiving the aid as evidence isn’t necessary. You know and I know and the recipients know and by you acting naive about the subject isn’t going to prove anything. It’s happening and I rest my case. Have a happy holiday season and a Happy New Year…safe and in good health. Wish your athletes at Punahou the best in sports.

  23. Calvin December 26, 2016 5:37 pm

    Hello I have worked at MPI, Punahou, and Sacred Hearts in the financial aid department. At no time were there any meetings with the principals, trustees, AD’s or within our department to discuss giving aid to certain kids based on athletics. Providing financial aid is simple. A family fills out the application. Our department in additional to the external company that is subcontracted checks the families financial history. Monies are awarded based on the need. I find it offensive that some people make asinine comments without doing their due diligence on how the process works. It’s amazing that anything can be written on here with no burden of proof. And what’s worse is this process involves kids. North shore please do some research before you comment about things you obviously do not understand was clearly written since you need to make excuses on why your “favorite” team didn’t win. Truth be told it’s not these schools fault that your kid didn’t receive financial aid.

    I love how hala tree even copied the words straight from the website that says “financial aid is awarded based on need and not athletics.” And your so ignorant that you keep fighting it. Yeah you know more than the public statement. So dumb some people.

  24. Northshore December 26, 2016 11:46 pm

    @Calvin: I’m impressed that you have worked in the financial aid department at various schools. You’re making accusations like a child that has nothing to do with the issue of financial aid such as mentioning about my favorite team not winning or it’s not these schools fault for your kid not receiving financial aid. Truth of the matter is, I would never have sent them to a private school and they’re doing very well after receiving their degree. It’s all about how each individual seeks to reach their goal in life and public school kids have done exceptionally well, I’m fully aware that monies are awarded based on need and not athletics. But the driving force of having the athlete’s parents fill out the application comes from the coaches that are trying to recruit the athlete and there’s no secret behind that. If an athlete is accepted through the financial aid process and if their grades are sub-par, tutoring are provided for them so that they would be able to meet the grade requirements and that would make them eligible to play. Com-on man, what happens behind the scene is no secret and calling me ignorant and dumb is a reflection of your ignorance. Truth is, I don’t have to provide evidence because I have discuss this matter with parents who were provided financial aid for their kid to attend and play for that private school.

  25. Pun Alum 95 December 27, 2016 7:24 am

    Mr. Northshore, I have noticed that many people have asked you to show any kind of evidence. Instead you only can make assumptions and accusations. I will make this simple.

    Do you have any evidence to offer to support your claim? Buddy, it seems no one believes you. And I have to be honest. If you think composing an argument consists of not having to prove it without any sort of evidence, I find it hard to believe that your children are highly educated since you are their role model. But then again, anyone can come on a blog and say anything so I can do it too.

    I am a senior adviser to President Barack Obama. I have no evidence. I am just saying it so believe me. Hey, I can do it too. I am just like you.

  26. Pun Alum 95 December 27, 2016 7:26 am

    “Truth is, I don’t have to provide evidence because I have discuss this matter with parents who were provided financial aid for their kid to attend and play for that private school.”

    Sure you did! HAHAH! Truth is, I am a billionaire and I own two islands. You should come visit sometime.

    I don’t have to provide evidence! LOL! Buddy, you don’t have any evidence. That is why you cannot provide any.

  27. leewardhoboy December 27, 2016 7:36 am

    Its not the issue of the awarding of financial aid that is the issue with “recruiting”. Its the question of admissions, and whether Punahou coaches can work through the school’s administration to get specific kids admitted in order to play football. Its a fact that Punahou expands its classes at 7th and 9th grade, admitting more than 200 new students total. Its also a fact that those incoming classes include a lot of big Poly boys who are new to the school, and end up playing football and other sports — but almost all of them play football.

    Because academics are so difficult, the school and the admissions office would be doing a disservice to kids who are not prepared to keep up, even with all the academic support that the schools offer. So I don’t think they admit kids solely on the basis of their athletic abilities. The kids must also meet the academic profile to the degree necessary to survive in the classroom. But do the coaches search out those kids? Or more accurately, is there a pipeline of information in the community that runs from youth football programs to the coaching staffs of the private schools that identifies for them kids when they are 12-14 who look to have the makings of top players? Absolutely.

    But the admissions decision and financial aid decision are completely separate. If a kid is admitted, and the family qualifies for financial aid, the kid is going to get it whether he plays sports or not. It just happens that many of the Poly players who come in at the 7th and 9th grade entry points come from backgrounds where they are clearly going to quality for aid under the guidelines in place for all students. I think the schools have a well-earned reputation — allowed by their endowments — that no kid who is accepted for admission is turned away because the family can’t afford the tuition.

  28. leewardhoboy December 27, 2016 7:49 am

    Here’s another fact about the admissions process — kids who come from a background of Hawaiian Royalty get denied admission while kids from families with no connection to the school and no history of donating to the school get admitted.

    People not connected to admissions, but knowledgeable about both Punahou and Iolani will tell you that repeatedly applying for admission at every allowable entry point, and staying on the “waiting list”, significantly increases chances for admission in the future. They keep track of how badly one wants their kids to attend by repeatedly making application, and that is a positive factor when the kids are going into 7th and 9th grades where there are a lot of new openings. But if you just drop in and apply for the 9th grade so your kid can get that Punahou/Iolani diploma, you won’t get the same consideration as kids who have applied multiple times before and not been accepted.

  29. Calvin December 27, 2016 8:33 am

    “Turth is, I don’t have to provide evidence because I have discuss this with parents who were provided financial aid for their kid to attend and play for that private school.”

    Honestly I am at a lost for words now. Wow!

    What school?
    What sports?
    What kid?

    Unless you provide evidence to support this no one believes you. You are as credible as the guy sitting on th street holding a sign saying “former war vet, needs money for food.”

    C’mon give it a rest. Anyone who has ever worked in a financial aid department of any ILH school knows this is BS.

    Now I am not talking about scholarships or financial packages paid for by alumni or boosters. I am talking solely about getting financial assistance through the financial aid department.

  30. Pun Alum 95 December 27, 2016 9:11 am

    So true leewardhoboy. Another year where Punahou admits a lot of kids are in grade 6. I totally agree with what you say. But unfortunately, people will always throw around the “recruiting” word to take away from what these great school accomplish. And in addition to winning sports, many of the kids go to fine institutions after high school. It’s not just win a state title that really doesn’t mean much several years after you graduate and then peak at 17-18.

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