Kinder primed to tackle job as UHH men’s basketball assistant, but quarantine comes first

  • Humboldt State photo Steve Kinder is one of two assistants recently hired by UH-Hilo men’s basketball coach Kaniela Aiona. Kinder was Humboldt State’s head coach for 10 years, compiling a 161-128 record, and a longtime assistant there before that.

Steve Kinder is the newly hired UH-Hilo men’s basketball assistant and is adjusting to the state’s 14-day quarantine with friends in Pepeekeo.

He flew in Tuesday from Arcata, Calif. to San Francisco to Hawaii, which is having a nightmare dealing with the coronavirus pandemic.

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On Thursday, Gov. David Ige reimposed the 14-day quarantine on interisland travel.

Despite the unsettled situation, Kinder is soaking up his time.

“It’s a pleasure to be here,” he said. “We’ve got tropical weather. In Northern California, it’s 48 degrees. The climate change is welcome.”

It’s also a coaching job change as well. Kinder was Humboldt State’s head coach for 10 years.

But he has no problem being a second banana to UHH coach Kaniela Aiona, who also added his old Menlo assistant Jamison Montgomery to his staff.

Asked to name his strength, Kinder pointed to recruiting.

“I was an assistant for 20 years under Tom Wood (Humboldt’s former coach) and we brought in a few All-Americans in the last 20 years. We went to the NCAA tournament 11 times.

“To do that and sustain that level, you’ve got to have the players. You want kids who will acclimate to the town and be mentors in the community. We’ve played an uptempo style all my years.”

Aiona and Kinder met at the NCAA coaches convention and scheduled a game between Menlo and Humboldt, a rarity since Menlo is an NAIA school while Humboldt is on the Division II level. The Lumberjacks are in the California Collegiate Athletic Association, which is a part of the West region along with UHH and the PacWest.

Kinder said he’s looking forward to his new role as an assistant.

“Being an assistant is in my DNA, I did it for 20 years,” he said. “I’m honored to be an assistant. It’s much appreciated. It’s a great opportunity.”

He described the COVID-19 scene in Arcata, which has a population of 17,231, as similar to Hilo.

“It’s quite different from the rest of California. There are low numbers low cases, and low hospitalizations,” he said. “It’s kind of a little town on its own. It’s located on the coast. We dodged an outbreak in Humboldt, like we’re trying to do on the Big Island.”

Kinder finished 161-128 at Humboldt, including losing seasons in three of his last four years.

He has three daughters, who all graduated from college, and planned to see them. They live in California, but he put safety first.

“I was going to see my kids,” he said. “But I didn’t want to risk it being in the middle of COVID-19. I came here directly from Arcata.”

Kinder has been through the process and knows safety is the first step to starting a sport.

“It’s a matter of getting the student-athletes here safely,” he said. “Then we can start working the kids out, getting them into the weight room and conditioning and running. That would be stage 1. Then we could play 3 on 3 or 5 on 5. But no date has been set.”

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Montgomery worked with Aiona the last four years and was named to the Under Armour 30 Under Club, an honor for the top assistants in the nation.

Like Kinder, Montgomery has a track history with Aiona, who was an assistant at Benedictine University in Chicago, where Montgomery led the team to three conference titles.

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