High hoops for Rainbow Wahine
By Ferd Lewis
Ordinarily an 8-10 record would be nothing to write home about.
Unless, of course, your "home" is the University of Hawai'i and you are the women's basketball team, for which very little has been ordinary these past 12 tumultuous months.
Then, all things considered, the Rainbow Wahine's start actually marks a promising beginning for new head coach Dana Takahara-Dias and her staff.
With their win over Utah State Monday night, the Rainbow Wahine are 8-10 overall and 2-3 in the Western Athletic Conference. Compare that with the same point last year when they were but 3-15 and 0-5.
Then toss in the wholesale coaching staff change, a circuitous hiring process that didn't net Takahara until May 28, 2009, the 11th-hour throwing together of a road-heavy schedule and the results to date are better than UH had reason to expect.
To this juncture, UH has already matched last year's win total in an 8-23 (4-12 WAC) season with 11 games remaining. The Wahine have done it, basically, with one senior in the lineup, their top returnee (Megan Tinnin) out for the year with family issues, their leading scorer (Shawna Kuehu) out for the season with a knee injury and playing the strongest non-conference schedule of any WAC team.
To be sure there have been some ugly losses — 98-52 at UCLA and 83-42 at Fresno State jump to mind — in which they were way in over their heads in talent, experience and depth. But in games in which the talent level has been comparable, the Rainbow Wahine have been competitive. Often surprisingly so. In the six games decided by 10 points or less or that reached overtime, UH is 6-1.
That says something about Takahara's ability to coach since the Xs and Os were open to question when she was hired despite no significant Division I experience. It says even more about an ability to motivate players, no easy task for all they have been through. Yet, UH has stayed in most games and bounced back admirably from some painful losses. Witness rebounding from an 83-39 loss to No. 6 Florida State to win two in a row.
But the tale of Takahara's tenure at UH will be told in the next few recruiting classes. If the Rainbow Wahine are to be competitive, much less return to the days of being perennially 20-game winners, they'll need an infusion of talent.
To this point, though, there is a reason for optimism about Rainbow Wahine hoops for the first time in years.