Kalaheo Alumnus To Lead Mustang Girls Basketball

As the new head coach of Kalaheo girls basketball, Royce Kurihara doesn’t have to look far for a model program to emulate.

The Lady Mustangs share the school gym with the boys team, which is riding high on three state titles in the last four years under head coach Alika Smith.

“The boys have set such a high standard we want to try to emulate some of what they do, like their defensive intensity, their ball movement and their ability to give maximum effort every time out,”

Kurihara said. “It sounds like a cliché, but we want players that define hustle and always try their best to represent Kalaheo.

“What Alika is doing with the boys program is fabulous. Our goal is to try to bring some of that back to the girls program as well.”

Kurihara knows Kalaheo well, as a 2003 graduate of the school. He was a three-year letter winner in football under Mike Akiu and played two years of basketball under then-head coach Walter Marciel.

“I’m very happy to give back to my alma mater and be a part of Kalaheo again,” he said. “We look forward to setting the kids up for success — that’s our goal.”

His coaching stops have included the Castle boys program, where he worked under Rocky Fraticelli and in the Kailua girls program, where he worked under Zak Stevens.

Kurihara teaches at Damien Middle School during the day.

“I’m a firm believer that you have to be a student, first,” he added. “No matter the sport, it always should be considered a privilege to be on a team. Studies will be one of the points emphasized.”

Kalaheo athletic director Mark Brilhante believes Kurihara can relate to the kids. “I think he’ll be a real good fit as far as teaching them the ‘student’ part of being a student athlete,” Brilhante said. “His saying is ‘Hard on the court and hard in the classroom.’ He’s getting back to his roots, coaching where he went to school and wanting to give back to the community.”

Kalaheo is in rebuild mode after going 1-10 this past season. As in boy basketball, however, its girls program has a strong tradition. The Mustangs won the first two OIA-sanctioned tournaments in 1977 and 1978 under then-coach Lee Cashman, later to become the school’s longtime athletic director. Kalaheo’s most storied period came between 1998 and 2002, when the Lady Mustangs won five straight OIA titles under Chico Furtado. The team also made state tournament runner-up in 1998, 2000 and 2001 under Furtado.

Kurihara recently finalized his assistant coaching staff, which will include Shaine Harada, Kandace Kinney, Frank Talcat and Randall Galleon.

Harada played a role in three OIA titles and a state championship from 2001-2003 when he played for the late Pete Smith. Kinney and Talcat both have coached previously at Kalaheo.

“I’m very lucky to have a supportive staff around me,” Kurihara said.