A Few Thoughts On UH Athletics

It seems that every week there’s much more to talk about regarding the future and past of University of Hawaii athletics. Here are some of my thoughts about four men who have shown their tremendous passion and pride for the university.

Of all the names I’ve seen in the early search for a new Hawaii athletic director, the one that impresses me the most is Keith Amemiya. Knowing Keith as I do, if he reads this, he’ll probably be embarrassed by the praise — that’s his nature to be very humble and to try and deflect accolades to others. I consider it a great strength, because he gets the job done and without an ego.


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Then-UH Wahine coach Vince Goo with his father Ah Chew Goo in 2001 KEN SAKAMOTO / STAR-ADVERTISER PHOTO

Amemiya did a masterful job as executive director of Hawaii High School Athletic Association, forming partnerships with a number of local companies to raise funds for state championships, as well as building awareness for fans and media alike. He served as executive administrator and secretary to the UH Board of Regents, and now sits on the state Board of Education. He’s also senior vice president of Island Holdings Inc.

I’ve heard some say that his lack of collegiate athletic administrative experience might be a weakness. But as someone who also rose from a non-athletic administrator background to my current position as a NCAA Division II commissioner, I don’t see it as an issue. Amemiya has all the important qualities — local knowledge, business and legal acumen, team-building skills, integrity, demeanor and a love of sports — to be a very successful athletic director, if he wants to pursue the position.

I was distressed to hear that former UH basketball coach Riley Wallace suffered another stroke, but was heartened to hear that he is beginning his recovery. Wallace and I had a few run-ins when I was a local sportscaster, but I tried not to take it personally. I knew he was extremely passionate about his program and tremendously loyal to all those who supported it. I think we patched up any differences of opinion we might have had at the time, and I’ve become one of his biggest fans.

I still remember how excited he got when he won his first Rainbow Classic tournament title, and how proud he was when he won his first WAC tournament championship, turning a once woebegone program around. I recall what a classy gesture it was for him to personally walk through the long ticket lines to greet the fans waiting for North Carolina-Hawaii tickets when Special Events Arena (now Stan Sheriff Center) opened up two decades ago. I remember the send-off Hawaii fans gave him in the same arena in 2007, when he retired from UH. I know he and his family appreciate the outpouring of love and aloha they’ve received from Hawaii fans these past few days.

Finally, much aloha to the family of late UH athletic director Ray Nagel, and the ohana of the late Ah Chew Goo, the father of former Wahine head coach Vince Goo. Nagel was 87 when he passed away this past week, while the elder Goo was laid to rest earlier this month at the age of 96. Nagel was instrumental in leading the UH athletic program to prominence in the late ’70s and early ’80s, and later served as executive director of the Hula Bowl, as well as a UH football commentator. He had a great love for the Islands.

I once wrote a MidWeek story about Ah Chew Goo’s magical exploits as a basketball player and coach. His incredible ball-handling and passing skills were stuff of legend on the Big Island, and he eventually passed on that knowledge to future LSU coach Press Maravich, who in turn taught it to his son, Hall-of-Famer Pete.

I remember how fondly Vince talked about his dad and how much Ah Chew loved the game. Appropriately, the annual Wahine basketball Most Inspirational Player Award is named for Ah Chew Goo. That love of the game and the love of university, along with the memories he created, will live on forever.