Dave Shoji’s retirement marks the end of a remarkable era in Hawaii sports, and an emotional one for so many people.
He influenced the lives of his players both on and off the court.
Everyone knew he would be stepping down soon but Monday’s announcement still tugged at the heart strings for those who got to know the coach.
There were a lot of them.
Shoji wanted to make the announcement with his wife, Mary, sitting next to him. The emotion was still raw when we asked about her reaction to his decision.
“I think I felt relieved,” she said. “I think as this day has gone on, it’s become very emotional for sure, but that’s to be expected when you’ve vested your life as many years as both of us have, especially him.”
Former players are still in disbelief that he’s actually leaving.
“It’s a little bittersweet. He’s such a legend in his own time and here in Hawaii, he’s done so much for the growth of the sport,” said former player Lisa Strand Maa.
Players say his name and Wahine Volleyball have become synonymous as far as back as they can remember. They are grateful to have been a part of a sisterhood that was led by someone who commanded so much respect.
“In retrospect, I am so grateful for that learned ability to work hard, to fight, to just be really focused, to really be zeroed in on a goal and take it for five years of your life,” said former player Raeceen Woolford.
Some of his greatest players have also become coaches and even athletic directors. They tell me their experience with Shoji has been invaluable.
“Playing for someone who was that great of a coach and then becoming a coach, he just showed so much knowledge of the game and that’s something you hope to learn as a coach,” said former player Dietre Collins-Parker.
“He has made a tremendous impact on, I guess my style of coaching and who better to learn from than Dave Shoji,” said former player Tita Ahuna.
Current players are just proud to be a part of his legacy.
“It’s a huge honor to say that we were coached by Dave, one of the most successful coaches in the history of the sport. We’re going to miss him. He was a great coach, a great man,” said Kalei Greeley.
Replacing him was no easy task.
“You’re right. It’s not an easy thing to do and that’s part of the reason two years ago, I really thought about, ‘Did I really want to apply for this job?’ because it’s a tough call to make,” said UH athletic director Dave Matlin.
Shoji’s replacement is former assistant coach and Wahine star Robyn Ah Mow-Santos.
It’s still not clear when the transition will happen, because Ah Mow-Santos is still tying up some loose ends on her current job.