Shoji spoils fans, becomes all-time winningest coach

When an event occurs over and over again, it becomes the norm. We don’t see it as special. We don’t see it as remarkable. We see it as the status quo. We see it as regular.

On its own, what occurred Friday night at the Stan Sheriff Center was the status quo. The Rainbow Wahine women’s volleyball team notched another victory. That’s what we’ve come to expect, far more often than not. But, as any fan of the Wahine knows, Friday was no ordinary night. It was not just another victory.

For head coach Dave Shoji, Friday night was THE victory. It’s the one the school had been prepping for and the team’s fans had been anxious to arrive. It was win number 1,107 in an illustrious career that now includes “all-time winningest coach” among its achievements.

It’s hard to even put into perspective what 1,107 wins actually means. I can’t imagine doing anything of significance that many times. And, quite frankly, very few coaches can either.

Sure, Connie Mack is the all-time winningest manager in Major League Baseball with 3,731 victories,  but the baseball season is about five times as long as a typical volleyball season. All those victories were not of the same dominant stature that Shoji has displayed either, considering Mack ended with a winning percentage below .500.

It feels oxymoronic to say it, but Shoji’s 1,107 victories can actually be considered efficient. He has just 185 career defeats along with one tie, giving him an 85.7 win percentage.

85.7 percent! Since 1975!

Now in his 39th season, Shoji has led the Wahine to four national championships and consistent top-10 finishes. He has made UH women’s volleyball an institution, rather than a niche sport.

Though NCAA volleyball coaches don’t get the same type of national recognition that football or basketball coaches might, Shoji has become the face of women’s college volleyball. Since the retirement of UCLA coach Andy Banachowski in 2010, Shoji has taken on that role and gone on to supplant Banachowski in the record books.

After the match, Shoji credited Banachowski as someone who contributed to his staying in the game for as long as he has. Along with his natural love of the sport, Shoji said that while it wasn’t a record he would think about regularly, having that number out there in the distance did provide some additional motivation to keep plugging away.

Now, Shoji will continue moving forward and setting the standard for other coaches, one they may some day see as the carrot to move them through their own journeys. Where that figure settles will be up to Shoji.

What will be up to his players is just how far this current group of Rainbow Wahine manages to go in the 2013 season. The opening weekend provided the full spectrum of its potential. After a victory over No. 1 ranked Texas, the Wahine were beaten by unranked San Diego.

It’s fitting that Shoji’s first game after setting the record was a Saturday night matchup with UCLA, a nod to Banachowski. 1,106 is no more. 1,107 will also soon be just another number en route to a final destination.

Coach Shoji has spoiled UH supporters with a euphoric status quo. It’s necessary to stop once in a while and remember that sometimes the status quo is anything but normal.

Congratulations, Coach!

• ‘My Thoughts Exactly’ appears Sundays, Wednesdays and Fridays in The Garden Island. Email David Simon your comments or questions to dsimon@thegardenisland.com. Follow David on Twitter @SimonTGI

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