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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Thursday, April 19, 2001

Intensity masks Wilton's happiness

 •  Transcript of live chat with Mike Wilton

By Stephen Tsai
Advertiser Staff Writer

Sometimes there is truth to an urban legend, such as:

• University of Hawai'i men's volleyball coach Mike Wilton, who is said to to run on WST — the very precise Wilton Standard Time — was once late to pick up outside hitter Costas Theocharidis from the airport.

"I was kind of disappointed," said Theocharidis, who was aware of Wilton's reputation for punctuality. "I waited for an hour and a half."

"I don't remember that," Wilton protested. "I'm trying to remember and . . . there may have been other circumstances, like his plane came in early. I try to be prompt. If something is supposed to start at 2 o'clock, I believe you should be there at 1:55."

• Wilton, despite speculation to the contrary, loves his job and Hawai'i even more, and has no plans to leave.

"I've got three grandchildren," said Wilton, in his ninth season as UH head coach. "I like what we're doing (at UH). I like that volleyball is important in this community. Most of all, Hawai'i is a beautiful place. It's treasure, I think, is its people. It's a physically beautiful state, but its people and the diversity of its people are really special."

But Wilton has heard the rumors — that he is at the top of the list to succeed Brigham Young coach Carl McGown when he eventually retires, that he is ready to move on, that he isn't happy.

"I'm a pretty fun-loving guy," he insisted. "I know that during matches I have what they call a 'game face,' I guess. I know that's true. Inside, I'm feeling pretty happy, but I guess I get pretty scowly. Maybe I should work on that."

But the players insist that Wilton appears to be different this season. "He's as loose as I've ever seen him," middle blocker Brenton Davis said. "I definitely notice a lighter side to Coach Wilton this year. He's pretty easy-going."

Wilton said he remains enthusiastic about his job. At 4 each morning, when most of Hawai'i is either in bed or at 7-Eleven, Wilton is starting his day. He plays with his poi dog, a Christmas gift to himself last year, and then rides his mo-ped to UH, where he will run laps at Cooke Field. After showering, he will work in his office, then lift weights. After another shower, he works on scouting and preparation until the team's afternoon practice.

Wilton is an active participant during practice. "He's a guy who inspires confidence," Theocharidis said. "He's the soul of the team."

Wilton said he has had many coaches, including one who coached from a chair during the entire practice.

"We called it the throne," Wilton recalled. "We painted it gold for him. But he was a really good coach, and he taught me a lot about indoor volleyball."

Wilton also manages to relate well to his players, despite his straight-and-narrow image. He does not swear and has never seen an R-rated movie. He thought the movie, "Hannibal," was about the Carthaginian general who crossed the Alps.

"I've got kids who are their age," Wilton said of his players. "It's kind of like having more kids around. I like it. They keep me young. I really, really like it. That's one of the big missions of a coach, to help bridge the gap between childhood and young adulthood."

Still, after every practice, Wilton can be seen on his mo-ped, heading back home. He does not give out his home telephone number.

"I think a lot of times, people bring the job home with them," Wilton said. "It's time management. Coaching can be really time-consuming. I think I've done a pretty good job of watching that. I think somebody said the most important thing we'll do in our lifetime is within the walls of our homes. That's true. I believe that."