Takahara-Dias Saved Wahine Hoops
After so many years of success, it was difficult to witness what became of the Wahine basketball program. Built to prominence under the careful guidance of former coach Vince Goo, the program collapsed among the alleged physical and emotional abuse by a coach seemingly gone mad.
The university’s reputation was on the line. To correct the mess it needed a coach with an impeccable personal and professional reputation. Experience was less important than character. The new coach was expected to win, yes, but more important, the new coach would have to rebuild the program’s image.
If that person happened to be a woman, so much the better.
That UH insiders and power brokers wanted a female coach made sense. The players were emotionally fragile and the program needed an injection of cultural sensitivity that perhaps no male coach, regardless of past success, could fully communicate. The Wahine didn’t need just a coach, they needed a mother and an older sister.
Enter Dana Takahara-Dias, short on college basketball credentials but very long on personal accountability. She re-created the program in her image: community conscious, grounded in academic excellence, unfailingly charming. The women did everything from cleaning beaches, volunteering at the Institute of Human Services’ Women and Children Center to being official huggers for Special Olympic athletes. For their outreach, the Wahine were recognized with the Ahahui Koa Anuenue Community Service Award.
Takahara-Dias had it all, just not enough experience to lead a Division 1 program. For her efforts, the university owes her its thanks and an apology. You do no one a favor by giving them a job for which they are unprepared. You set them up to fail.
UH set no precedent in its appeasement through employment program. It’s been a mismanagement philosophy for years.
In 2002, the Detroit Tigers were a train wreck. They had lost 109 games that year and had not had a winning season since 1993. A complete roster overhaul wasn’t possible, so management did the next best thing: Hire a legendary former player to appease fans until talent could be brought in. The experiment failed miserably. Fans got a kick seeing Alan Trammell and his collection of former teammates back on the field, but they didn’t win. The four-time Gold Glove winner and bubble Hall of Famer had no managing experience and wasn’t prepared for the job. He was fired three years later with the team no better than when he started and his reputation in tatters.
Takahara-Dias finds herself in much the same position. She was a very successful high school coach, athletic director and a well-thought-of member of Mufi Hannemann’s mayoral team. But she had never coached at the collegiate level. She was a former administrative assistant under Goo, but that’s a long way from the top.
Though Takahara-Dias likely saved the program’s moral reputation, athletic director Jim Donovan had no choice in the decision. In the end, university athletics is about winning, and winning generates revenue, something of which the university is in short supply.
Who the next coach will be is anyone’s guess. Whoever it is will be asked to do what no Wahine coach has been able to do since Goo traded basketballs for golf balls: win consistently. Replacing the coach will be easy; replacing the person will be much harder.
Sometimes bad jobs happen to good people.