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Okita: Decades Of Great Softball

The wins on the field never stopped coming for longtime Hawaii Pacific University and former Kailua softball coach Howard Okita.

As he reflects on his 50 years in the game, however, it’s the victories off the field that remain at the forefront. By his count, more than 80 Hawaii-born student-athletes have received their degrees by way of his programs at HPU (and at the former Hawaii Loa College).

“Players play the game,” said Okita, who is in his 25th year as a college coach, currently in an assistant’s capacity to Brian Nakasone at HPU. “I’ve been fortunate to have great kids, and a program can only be as good as its assistant coaching staff. We’ve always had an outstanding coaching staff.”

Okita always led the way, of course. After establishing a solid program at Kailua High School in the late ’70s — not long after softball became a sanctioned OIA sport — he was on the radar of Hawaii Loa, where Albert Minn was athletic director. Minn had brought Okita on at Kailua when he was still the principal there.

“He bugged me for four or five years,” Okita said. “I told him, ‘Build me a softball field.’ Finally, in 1987, I gave in, and we played our games at Keolu (Park).”

It didn’t take long for Hawaii Loa to make a name for itself. In 1991, the softball team won the NAIA national title with only 12 players, 11 of them kids from Hawaii. “We’d never played a road game,” Okita recalled. “We went to Missouri and were there for three weeks. Our only supporters were my wife and another parent. We missed our rice a lot, but the kids did really well there.”

Hawaii Loa and HPU merged a year later, and Okita and Nakasone spent a year as assistants before taking over the program themselves the following season. The program has thrived ever since, high- lighted by HPU’s winning the Division II national championship in 2010. Along the way, Okita helped build a softball field on campus, which now bears his name. “(Then HPU president) Chatt Wright gave us $10,000 to finish off the field we had started. It’s been a great run. The school has always been very supportive of me and the program.

“I never had visions of winning a national championship (at Hawaii Loa or HPU), but the Hawaii kids are very athletic, and it was just a matter of time till they picked it up,” Okita said.

HPU will honor Okita’s years of service Sept. 28 at Aloha Tower Marketplace (Pier 10). The dinner is sponsored by Chai’s Island Bistro and Wealth Strategy Partners.