Wong named Wahine associate coach Shoji's successor could be close by
By Ann Miller
Advertiser Staff Writer
There might not be enough Rainbow Wahine to field a full volleyball team for next week's exhibition against Arizona, but the staff is again complete with the hiring of Punahou graduate and former Pepperdine All-American Scott Wong yesterday.
"Growing up, you dream of what you see and we are pretty fortunate to be in the best environment in volleyball in the world," Wong said by phone from San Francisco yesterday, after he told his USF team goodbye. "I don't know if I dreamt of being a coach, but I'm sure excited about working with Dave (Shoji) and contributing to a great program. And hopefully making it better."
Wong, who replaces Mike Sealy as an associate coach, has a long history with Shoji. He graduated from Punahou with Shoji's daughter, Cobey, in 1997 and babysat sons Kawika and Erik. Wong also recruited the boys when he was an assistant for the Pepperdine men's team.
He was a volunteer assistant for Hawai'i in 2006, when he helped develop a block that averaged more than five stuffs a set in the postseason.
There were about 15 applicants for the job, from around the country, including some former head coaches.
"I wanted someone I was compatible with and someone I felt could work with our team and have a good rapport with it," Shoji said. "And they needed to have something to offer as far as expertise and trying to get our program to another level.
"Scott is a nice, likeable guy and he had a good rapport when he was here with us for a semester. He brings some different ideas. That's what I'm looking for. I'm sure he has some Marv Dunphy influence, which would be a good thing. He brings a lot of experience in technical and tactical areas."
Wong assisted Dunphy — who guided the U.S. men to an Olympic gold medal — for four years with the Pepperdine men's program. He was associate coach for the USF women last season. Last summer he was an assistant for the U.S. men's national A2 team and he also coached girls' club and high school teams in Southern California.
Wong played for the U.S. national team in the World League and won a gold medal at the World University Games in 2001. He was ranked as high as 16th individually and sixth as a team on the pro beach tour. Older brother, Kevin, played beach volleyball in the Olympics.
Wong was national Freshman of the Year in 1998 and earned first-team All-America honors his final two years at Pepperdine. He earned a degree in business administration in 2001 and a Master's in Education from Loyola Marymount in 2005.
Wong applied for the UH men's job last year, and for the LMU head women's coaching position, which was filled in January. He said he had no interest in others.
"My dream has always been to coach in Hawai'i, either the men's or women's side," he said. "Dave has his program fine-tuned. I hope there are a few different things I can add to the table. We will work all those things out. Recruiting and training the team and adding to the team culture are the three things I always think about."
Shoji hopes Wong can start within the week. The Rainbow Wahine play an exhibition against Arizona next Thursday. As of yesterday's practice, they have a setter (Dani Mafua), three hitters (Kanani Danielson, Corinne Cascioppo and transfer Chanteal Satele), one middle (Brittany Hewitt) and a bunch of defensive specialists available.
Middle Alexis Forsythe returned to workouts yesterday after missing three weeks with an illness. Redshirt freshman Kristiana Tuaniga, another middle, is being held out of spring workouts for now. If neither can play next week, Shoji plans on asking Arizona coach Dave Rubio if Hewitt can go all six front-row rotations.
Danielson, one of five former Hawai'i high school players asked to the national team's open tryout last month, has been invited to play for the USA Senior A2 team in May.
There were 174 student-athletes invited to the tryout, including Southern Utah libero Courtney Lelepali (Punahou), UC Irvine hitter Larissa Nordyke (Punahou), Western Nebraska Community College libero Kaleinani Kabalis (Moanalua) and Texas libero Sydney Yogi (Punahou).