'Iolani loses its legend
By Wes Nakama
Advertiser Staff Writer
Friends, colleagues and former players across the state and beyond yesterday shared fond remembrances of Eddie Hamada, 'Iolani School's beloved and revered former football coach and athletic director who died Sunday morning of natural causes at his Hawai'i Kai home.
He was 81.
In 28 seasons as head coach and two more years as athletic director, Hamada instilled the "One Team" philosophy established by his legendary coach at 'Iolani, Father Kenneth A. Bray. Along the way, Hamada became a legend himself — not just for his mentorship and 156 victories but also for his engaging personality that endeared him to players, fellow coaches and athletic directors across Hawai'i.
By all accounts yesterday, Hamada had an undefeated lifetime record when it came to making friends and keeping them.
"It's a big loss not just for 'Iolani, the (Interscholastic League of Honolulu) and high school sports, but for the state in general," said Don "Spud" Botelho, the ILH's executive director. "Anybody who met him loved him and respected him, because of who he was and what he stood for. If everybody was like Eddie Hamada, this would be a perfect world."
FATHER BRAY DISCIPLE
During his playing days at 'Iolani, Hamada was a 5-foot-7, 145-pound center whom Bray developed into an ILH all-star in 1945.
After graduating in 1946, Hamada attended Emporia (Kansas) State College and earned a teaching degree, then returned to 'Iolani as a teacher and coach. He became head football coach in 1960 and athletic director in 1963, emphasizing the "One Team" principles of discipline, teamwork, humility and unselfishness.
"He had that special touch in treating everyone fairly, there were no star players," said Mayor Mufi Hannemann, who played football for Hamada in 1971. "He believed that everybody contributed to the total effort, and that we would rise to challenges together. Even a simple thing like not accepting a can of juice after the game, it was symbolic — if one person got juice, then everybody had to get juice."
The One Team concept produced positive results for Hamada's often undersized squads, as 'Iolani won ILH football championships in 1968, 1972 and 1980. The Raiders finished the 1980 season with a 7-7 tie against favored Wai'anae in the Prep Bowl, which was then regarded as the "mythical" state title game.
Hamada's 156 career victories ties him for fifth place all-time among Hawai'i high school coaches.
But his influence went far beyond the scoreboard. Several of his players later became varsity football head coaches, including Keith Morioka (Waipahu 1978 to 1984), Cass Ishitani (Leilehua 1995 to 2001), Todd Fujimori (Waipahu 1999 to 2001), Dean Nakagawa (Damien, 2002 to 2006) and 'Iolani's current coach, Wendell Look, who has been at the helm since 1991.
"Everything we do with the program is directly related to what Coach Hamada taught us," said Look, who has guided the Raiders to three straight Division II state championships. "I've tried to perpetuate his teachings and beliefs, because he's the one who built this into what it is."
Other former players — like Hannemann — became head coaches in other sports and/or business and community leaders.
Mark Mugiishi, who coached 'Iolani to a record seven boys basketball state titles in 20 seasons, credits much of his success to Hamada's mentorship.
"He's the one who hired me, and he was my mentor, he shaped the way I coached," said Mugiishi, who retired after last season with 463 career victories. "His influence was critical — he taught me how to get things done the right way, how to treat players, how to teach them ... 'Iolani always stood for 'One Team,' and Mr. Hamada clearly was a beacon for developing the One Team culture around the whole athletic program."
A FRIEND TO ALL
While instilling those values, Hamada led by example and spread the goodwill throughout the island and state.
After the 1970 football season, the ILH went through a dramatic split in which five public schools departed to join the O'ahu Interscholastic Association. For two years, the two leagues played separate schedules and competed only for their own championship.
But Botelho said Hamada was a calming force in helping create the Prep Bowl, which was first held in 1973 pitting the champs from the ILH and OIA. The game drew crowds of over 30,000 in 1978 and 1980 and was a popular attraction until the state tournament was initiated in 1999.
"Eddie was the guy who brought the (ILH and OIA) together for the Prep Bowl," said Botelho, who was Pac-Five's coach and Mid-Pacific's athletic director in the 1970s, '80s and '90s. "He was never too big for anybody's level, and he was respected by everybody — coaches, athletic directors, officials, custodians ..."
Hamada did other things behind the scenes to help not just 'Iolani, but other schools, private or public.
" 'Iolani had some equipment, so he would let us borrow their forklift to move things, or he'd come over to spread cinder on our baseball field," said OIA executive director Dwight Toyama, who was the AD at Kaimukí in the late 1980s and early 1990s. "He always had a kind manner and whenever we'd call him for help, he would come. I think he had a soft spot for the public schools, and we and the OIA had a real special relationship with Mr. Hamada."
After retiring as athletic director in 1992, Hamada continued to serve 'Iolani and the high school sports community.
He was boys basketball coordinator for the Hawai'i High School Athletic Association, sat on the voting board of the Hawai'i Interscholastic Athletic Directors Association and served on the selection committee for the Nissan (now HHSAA) Hall of Honor scholarship/awards program.
"Coach Hamada was arguably the most revered person in Hawai'i high school athletics," said HHSAA executive director Keith Amemiya. "It didn't matter whether you were from 'Iolani, another ILH school, an OIA school, or from a Neighbor Island school. He was loved and respected by all because he treated everyone he came across with aloha."
'EVERY PERSON IMPORTANT'
In recent years, Hamada suffered from dementia-like symptoms but remained upbeat and personable in rare public appearances.
Look said Hamada was hospitalized briefly in early December, but returned home and was surrounded by friends and family in his final days, according to Mugiishi.
"I'd like people to know that he was comfortable," said Mugiishi, who visited Hamada on Dec. 29. "He was smiling and still making sure everybody was happy. That's what he was about — he loved human beings and to him, every single person was important."
'Iolani headmaster Val Iwashita said Hamada was a living example of what the school tries to teach.
"He carried the spirit of 'Iolani all the time," Iwashita said. "He was friendly, very humble, always helping others. He was Mr. Aloha, everything we want our kids and our school to represent. He was a symbol, an icon of 'Iolani."
Richard Haru, a former assistant coach to Hamada from 1980 to 1982 who later became athletic director at Castle High, said Hamada's influence was lasting.
"He was just a wonderful individual ... he had an effect on all of us," Haru said. "Just being around him, we felt like if we could be just a little like Coach Hamada, we would become a better person."
Hannemann told The Advertiser that Hamada was one-of-a-kind.
"You always hope someone like him will live forever," Hannemann said. "He personified class and was larger than life ... he had a unique ability to relate to anyone and he was universally respected. He was an amazing individual.
"There will never be anyone like him."
Hamada is survived by wife, Cynthia; children Edward Jr. and Tani; step-children Ripper Bartholomew, Bonnie Bartholomew, Bruce Bartholomew and Timothy Bartholomew; grandchildren Buggy Hamada and Conner Hamada; and 10 step-grandchildren.
Services will be held at 'Iolani later this month.