Saint Louis' Afoa out as AD
By Wes Nakama
Advertiser Staff Writer
Saint Louis School president Walter Kirimitsu confirmed yesterday morning that Ulima Afoa will be replaced as the Crusaders' athletic director, and said the school hopes to fill the position within the next month.
"We are going to make a change and hope to begin the (hiring) process as soon as possible," Kirimitsu told The Advertiser, adding that exact details of Afoa's exit are still being finalized. "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 and losses. Everybody has different leadership and management styles, and I respect that. This is just about the management and administration wanting to go in a different direction."
Kirimitsu said the status of all existing coaches, including football coach John Hao, will be determined by the new athletic director.
Afoa, a former standout football player at Saint Louis and San Diego State University and a longtime college and high school coach, had been the Crusaders' AD since June 2008.
Kirimitsu said Scott Gonsalves, a Saint Louis graduate and PE/religion teacher, will handle athletic director duties until the position is filled.
Rumors had been circulating for the past couple months about possible changes in command, especially after a football season in which the Crusaders lost all four games they played against Interscholastic League of Honolulu rivals Kamehameha and Punahou. Saint Louis dominated the Hawai'i high school football scene throughout the late 1980s and 1990s, but its most recent state title was in 2002.
However, Kirimitsu and new principal Pat Hamamoto — whose first day on the job was yesterday — said winning championships is not their top priority.
"It's a balance," said Hamamoto, who retired as Department of Education superintendent Dec. 31. "Even for students who are gifted and talented in athletics, we want them to have a strong background in education so they can really make a difference in the community throughout their lives."
Kirimitsu said the search and selection process for Afoa's replacement also will be a balancing act.
"We're hoping it can be done as soon as possible, because sports and athletics does not stop just because we're making a change, and we will need a leader in place," said Kirimitsu, adding the school is aiming for a timeline of about three or four weeks. "At the same time, we want to be fair with the process and make sure we don't miss any opportunity to select the right person."
In the meantime, Hamamoto reiterated her belief in athletics as a valuable part of student life.
"I think if we have strong academics, we also should have strong extracurricular activities to add to that," Hamamoto said. "We want to teach sportsmanship, and we want scholar-athletes."
O'ahu Interscholastic Association executive director Dwight Toyama said Hamamoto was known as a strong advocate of public school sports during her tenure in the DOE.
"She was very supportive of athletics, not just for the OIA but also for the whole state," Toyama said. "She always went to bat for us, and our experience with her was always positive. They (Saint Louis) got a really good person."