UHH goes full speed ahead in coaching searches

  • GUILLEN

  • MICHELLE BLUNCK/UHH UHH men’s basketball – the Vuls, with Elisha Duplechan above vs. Azusa Pacific, finished 12-14 in 2019-20 – is a desirable program to lead, athletic director Pat Guillen said, citing a slew of email interest in the program’s coaching search. While he hopes to fill that vacancy by May 1, Guillen is hopeful to announce his selection for women’s volleyball coach much sooner.

In this ever-worsening job market, UH-Hilo athletics is hiring.

Vulcans athletic director Pat Guillen said he plans to interview the three finalists for the women’s volleyball coaching position Tuesday, and hopes “to make an announcement (on a selection) by the end of the week.”

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Guillen said interim coach Chris Leonard reapplied for the position when it reopened in January, but he declined to say whether Leonard remains under consideration. In his first season at the helm of one of UHH’s premier programs, Leonard led the Vuls to their first NCAA regional postseason appearance since 2011 and a second-place finish in the Pacific West Conference.

As for the vacancy atop the school’s marquee program, men’s basketball, Guillen’s goal is to find a replacement for GE Coleman by May 1. The position is open through Thursday.

It was announced March 3 that Coleman wouldn’t be retained. Guillen, obviously, couldn’t have foreseen that the effects of the COVID-19 outbreak would prompt several states, including Hawaii, to shut down, but he doesn’t expect the pandemic to hinder the hiring process.

“This is the first coaching search we’ve done where the applications are online,” Guillen said. “We could have anywhere between 150 to 200 applications. It’s unbelievable the amount of emails I’ve gotten. There are a lot of people who haven’t emailed me and just have gone directly to the online application.”

The coronavirus appears to have triggered a buyer’s market for ADs. According to the Honolulu Star-Advertiser, only UHH, Humboldt State, Holy Names and Colorado Christian have openings among Division II schools in the West. There are no jobs currently open among Power 5 schools and just 17 in Division I. On average, there were 52 D-I openings per year the past decade.

The uncertain climate does increase Guillen’s sense of urgency.

“The general assumption is that things are closing down and locking down,” Guillen said. “As far as I’m concerned, I’ve got to ratchet it up and get someone in here as soon as possible.”

UHH was already the most isolated program in the country before travel restrictions were taken into consideration, but a university spokesperson pointed out that all interviews are done by Skype or phone.

The eventual hire inherits a program that hasn’t reached the Pacific West Conference playoffs in seven tries and hasn’t secured a winning record since 2011.

“The new coach is going to inject the program with energy, talent and direction,” Guillen said. “Fresh ideas. I think it’s going to be a new day for men’s basketball.”

While geography, finances and UHH’s public-school status in a predominant private-school conference are drawbacks to some, Guillen said the job sells itself because of the community.

“I can tell the coaches we have an incredible community that is very supportive of basketball, and I’m not just saying that,” he said. “When I go to meetings on the mainland, ADs of other schools will tell me how impressed their coaches are by the support we get here.

“The aloha spirit, I’m somebody who thought I knew what it was before I came here, but you don’t know what it is before you have a chance to live here and interact with people in this community. I say that from the bottom of my heart.

“If we get the right person for the job,” Guillen said, “and I’m very confident that we will, that same selling point is one the coach will give to prospective student-athletes.”

Also

• By April 1, Guillen has asked his spring sport coaches to give him a list of seniors who plan to return next season. Because the outbreak cut their seasons short, the NCAA announced all student-athletes in spring sports (at UHH: baseball, softball, men’s and women’s golf and men’s and women’s tennis) may ask for a waiver to retain year of eligibility.

“Some of our programs already have commitments and planned on these seniors graduating,” he said “Scholarships have already been committed to (incoming) freshman, so those are scholarship dollars where we’re going to have to figure out something.”

• It is too early to tell, Guillen said, just how big a chunk the pandemic will take from the school’s athletic budget from the state.

“I’m sure there is going to be lost funding, I just don’t know how much it’s going to be,” he said.

Guillen and Kula Oda, associate athletic director, have already worked through “worst-case scenarios.”

• Guillen said he wasn’t caught off guard Monday that Notre Dame de Namur dropped it athletic programs, leaving the PacWest with 11 members.

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Citing unsustainable enrollment decline and declining revenue, the school didn’t commit being open to beyond the spring of 2021.

“This had nothing to do with the virus,” Guillen said.

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