Legends Sellitto, Okita In HPU Hall
When you think about individuals being selected to a hall of fame, you usually imagine them in a lofty setting, perhaps living lives of grandeur.
But when I spoke with Tony Sellitto and Howard Okita about it, one was taking a walk around Waikiki, while the other was thinking about working on his field in Kaneohe.
Yes, despite their recent selection to the Hawaii Pacific University Athletic Hall of Fame, Sellitto and Okita remain just regular guys.
But both are excited about the honor that will take place Friday, Sept. 28, at Aloha Tower.
“This is extremely meaningful. If it wasn’t for Chatt Wright, this never would have happened,” says Sellitto as he takes his daily two-hour walk. It was the former HPU president who plucked Coach Tony out of Maryknoll High School back in the late 1980s.
“He could have hired one of a hundred other guys, many with great college experience,” Sellitto says. As HPU coach, Sellitto won a national title, the only national collegiate basketball championship ever won by a school from the Islands. As HPU’s athletic director, he also selected coaches who helped the SeaWarriors win national titles in women’s volleyball and softball, and brought their tennis teams to national prominence. He won more than 300 games as HPU head basketball coach.
“I’ve made my high school hall of fame and my college hall of fame as a player. I made the Maryknoll Hall of Fame as a coach, and now the HPU Hall of Fame as a coach. They’re the only four things I’ve ever done – it’s a great honor,” he says.
ESPN’s Neal Everett, whom Sellitto hired as the school’s sports information director years ago, will make Sellitto’s presentation at the HPU Hall of Fame event.
Okita, meanwhile, will spend his 50th year as a coach this season.
“I started with Kailua Little League T-ball back in 1963. This is 50 straight years without a break,” he says.
Along the way, he coached Sid Fernandez as a rising baseball star in Kailua American Little League, and then went on to prominence as the outstanding softball coach at Kailua High School. He then took over the Hawaii Loa softball program and won the national title there, and was named National Coach of the Year. He was the PacWest championship coach at Hawaii Pacific for many years, and was Bryan Nakasone’s top assistant when the SeaWarriors won the NCAA Division II title in
2010. He has won more than 700 games as an HPU head coach, co-head coach or assistant coach. He says this year as an HPU assistant will be his last.
“I’ll still help with keep ing care of the field,” he says. The field, which is now named after him, is his baby. “Normally, when they name a field after you, you’re 6 feet under. I’m very fortunate to work on it every week. We want to make it nice all year round.”
Okita attributes “the good coaches and team members” for his hall of fame induction. “It’s a nice honor,” he says. “I’m just proud we’ve given so many Hawaii girls a chance to play college softball.”
Okita and Sellitto, plus men’s tennis standout Mikael Maatta, volleyball star Gabriela Artigas and cross country sensation Nina Christensen will be inducted as HPU’s second Hall of Fame class. It’s an honor well-deserved by all.
For more information, check out goseawarriors.com.