Coaching search in anticipation of possible Shoji retirement

Though no retirement announcement has yet occurred, the University of Hawaii has placed an ad on its public job listings for a new head coach for the UH women’s volleyball team. While Dave Shoji still owns that title, the new position is listed as both “full time” and “permanent,” making it seem as if UH is, at the very least, gauging whatever high-level interest may be out there.

Despite the apparent job opening, an official source within the UH athletic department said Tuesday that “a posting does not guarantee a hiring.” So while it has been speculated in the past few days that Shoji’s retirement is imminent, there may still be some room for interpretation. It may be an opportunity to assess the landscape and have everyone voice input once candidates become known.

However, the same official said that it is fair to say the department would only have posted the search if the need for a new head coach were highly probable. The listing has just a one-week timetable, concluding on Monday.

Other than that, the athletic department isn’t voicing much in the way of specifics, and understandably so. Shoji is the university’s most revered coach and has become an icon in his home state and his profession. The school would almost certainly want Shoji to stay on as coach for however long he wants to, or is able to. But there is obviously a growing sentiment that they should be on the lookout for a replacement.

Any hiring would come directly from the Athletic Director David Matlin with assistance from a search committee, according to the same official.

This all comes on the heels of Kaleo Baxter being elevated to the position of assistant coach on Jan. 23. Baxter had been the director of operations before Shoji named him assistant just a couple weeks ago. He and Associate Head Coach Jeff Hall would likely get some consideration in a job search if either were interested in the position. Hall has been overseeing the program since Shoji took a leave of absence on Dec. 12 when he announced his prostate cancer diagnosis.

Nobody would be able to replace Coach Shoji. He’s too prominent a figure and he’s had too much success for anyone to fill those shoes, if he decides to exit the arena. If there is a new coach, it will be interesting to see whether the athletic department opts to bring in another established name — of which almost none compare to Shoji’s name recognition — or if they elect to usher in a new era with a young coach as a long-term solution.

Wahine volleyball might be Hawaii’s most popular sport. As its steward for so many years, Coach Shoji is an institution who may very well have coached his final match. We don’t know yet if that’s the case, but UH is taking the necessary steps in the event that it is.

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David Simon can be reached at dsimon@thegardenisland.com.

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