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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Tuesday, April 7, 2009

'Iolani basketball coach retires

By Wes Nakama
Advertiser Staff Writer

Hawaii news photo - The Honolulu Advertiser

Mark "Doc" Mugiishi

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Hawaii news photo - The Honolulu Advertiser
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What started as an unlikely hiring in 1989 turned into the most successful high school boys basketball coaching career in Hawai'i history ending yesterday some 463 victories, a record seven state championships and 10 Interscholastic League of Honolulu titles later.

Mark "Doc" Mugiishi, who never played high school ball but guided 'Iolani through the past 20 eventful seasons, officially announced his retirement yesterday.

Mugiishi, 49, is a practicing surgeon at Central Medical Clinic, medical director of Cellular Bioengineering Inc., assistant professor of surgery at the University of Hawai'i's John A. Burns School of Medicine, director of surgical medicine at Kuakini Medical Center and associate medical director at HMSA.

He also sits on 'Iolani's Board of Governors.

"With the amount of things going on, something had to go," Mugiishi said. "I love (coaching) so much, it was hard to let it go. But it was getting to the point where it was not fair if I couldn't put in the time that's required. All these years I've been telling the kids that if you want to be good at something, you gotta have commitment and you have to make sacrifices. I can't look them in the eye and tell them that if I couldn't do it myself."

Mugiishi, a 1977 'Iolani graduate, didn't even participate in youth basketball as a kid.

"I played intramurals in college (at Northwestern)," Mugiishi said, "and we had a league in Med School."

Mugiishi spent his college summers working in the youth program at 'Aiea Recreation Center, where he began coaching basketball. During a six-month break from his residency in 1982-83, Mugiishi taught eighth-grade science at 'Iolani and was asked to help coach the Raiders' fledgling intermediate girls team.

He later assisted Cal Hashimoto and Bernie Ching in the 'Iolani varsity girls program, which won state championships in 1987 and 1989, and the Raiders' JV boys program. Then one day while walking on campus in 1989, Mugiishi was approached by The Rev. David Coon, who was 'Iolani's headmaster at the time.

"He said, 'Can you come into my office?' " Mugiishi said. "Then he said, 'I'd like you to be our new boys basketball coach.' "

Assisted by Hashimoto and Ching, Mugiishi guided the Raiders to a 20-8 overall record that first season, taking second place in the ILH and reaching the state semifinals. In 1994, 'Iolani went 27-1 and won ILH and state championships. Two years later, the Raiders began a string of 14 consecutive state tournament appearances, and another state title followed in 1998.

In 2001, led by ILH Player of the Year Derrick Low, a freshman, 'Iolani won the first of six straight league crowns and in 2002, the Raiders captured the first of a record five consecutive state championships. From 2001 to 2005, 'Iolani won 104 straight games against Hawai'i opponents.

Stu Vetter, the Montrose Christian (Rockville, Md.) coach who has brought many nationally ranked teams here for the 'Iolani Prep Classic since 1985, said Mugiishi has made a widespread impact on Hawai'i basketball.

"I've seen Hawai'i teams improve since we first came, and I think that improvement has been led by 'Iolani and Doc," said Vetter, whose No. 7-ranked Mustangs needed a 3-point shot at the overtime buzzer to beat the Raiders, 42-41, in 2003. " 'Iolani has had some outstanding teams that have competed at the highest level, and that has inspired a lot of young Hawai'i basketball players."

Mugiishi said he learned the game by attending camps and clinics and also by picking the brains of Mainland coaches who brought elite teams to the 'Iolani Prep Classic. As the years went by, it was Mainland coaches who started picking Mugiishi's brain.

But ultimately, Mugiishi said much of 'Iolani's success came from a strong team concept.

"It's not just about the X's and O's," Mugiishi said. "Just as important is getting all the kids to buy in, to all do the same X's and O's."

Reach Wes Nakama at wnakama@honoluluadvertiser.com.