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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Tuesday, February 23, 2010

A winning crusade is must nowadays


By Ferd Lewis

Everytime somebody connected with athletics says some personnel change isn't about winning and losing a sign flashes to the mind like neon.

Prominently placed in the office of a football coach several years back, a sign said wryly: "It is never about winning and losing unless you don't win."

So when Saint Louis School yesterday acknowledged that athletic director Ulima Afoa was being replaced and said, "... the reason (for the change) has nothing to do with his performance or wins and losses ..." well, you had to wonder.

"Nothing?" Not even a tiny contributory factor?

Because if the Crusaders were still winning titles, as they once did like clockwork, it is hard to imagine there would be tinkering.

If there was ever a school that knew about the winning, especially in football, it was the one up on Kalaepohaku. The Crusaders wrote the record book here with 17 state or Prep Bowl titles in 20 years.

Its success was such that, as one envious college recruiter put it, parents lined up to get their college scholarship-seeking sons into Saint Louis.

That's getting to be ancient history. The Crusaders haven't won a state title since 2002. In the meantime, ILH rivals Punahou and Kamehameha have won the last two.

Never mind that 90 percent of the schools in the state would take the Crusaders' finishes nothing worse than 7-4 since '02 and bronze 'em.

Cal Lee spiked the level of expectation. When he was hired, a published announcement was deemed worthy of three paragraphs. When he left in 2001, after 20 seasons 238 victories, 24 losses and 4 ties later it was the talk of the town.

Three coaches (one of them twice) have dared to step into Lee's Shaq-sized shoes. Only one, Delbert Tengan, produced a state title (2002). Tengan also got them to two other title games but that wasn't enough for everybody.

Enter Afoa, a Saint Louis grad, respected former college assistant coach and ex-prep head coach. He came home less than two years ago and, now, he's out. The football coach he hired, ex-Crusader quarterback John Hao, might be, too, when all the dust settles.

School President Walter Kirimitsu told The Advertiser's Wes Nakama, "Ulima is a good guy; he is a gentleman. He is my friend and the reason (for the change) has nothing to do with his performance or wins or losses. This is just about the management and administration wanting to go in a different direction."

Afoa is, indeed, a class act. But in the absence of a more thorough explanation, we are left to wonder if titles were still being won whether there would be such haste to remove him.