Hank Ibia steps down as Kauai High’s baseball coach

  • Dennis Fujimoto/The Garden Island file

    In this April 17 photo, Kauai High School senior Ricky Rego gets dirty to the amusement of his team and fans during the senior night celebration that followed a KIF varsity baseball game against Waimea High School at Vidinha Stadium. Pictured above and center of Rego is Kauai head coach Hank Ibia.

LIHUE — After he spent nearly 20 years leading the Red Raiders, Hank Ibia has stepped down as the head coach of the Kauai High School varsity baseball team.

Ibia, 59, had been the Red Raiders head coach since 2001 minus a two-year absence.

During his 17 years at the helm, Ibia won 13 Kauai Interscholastic Federation baseball championships and three Hawaii High School Athletic Association Division II state championships. The most recent state title Ibia won was in 2017.

Ibia, a 1978 Kapaa High School alumnus and former student-athlete for the University of Hawaii at Hilo, actually planned to retire after the 2018 season.

“Last year, when we lost, we lost four games straight at the end. I haven’t done that ever since I’ve been coaching,” Ibia said. “We could’ve pulled the championship out of that four games, but we did not. So, I said, ‘You know what? It’s time I go already.’”

Ibia, however, returned for one more year because this year’s Division II state tournament was hosted on Kauai.

He didn’t get his chance to go for one more state championship on his home-island, though, after Kauai went 4-6-1 this past KIF season and finished last.

“It was pretty disappointing, but it’s the game,” Ibia said. “Baseball or any other sport, try not to get greedy.”

Kauai High School athletic director Kelii Morgado said conversations have begun, but he has yet to find a new baseball coach.

“They usually get started with offseason workouts usually sometime in the middle of the fall season. I guess ideally, (we’ll have someone) in the summer before fall gets going,” Morgado said. “But we’re not in a rush. We need to find the right person with the right staff.”

Morgado added the school was lucky to have him and he will be missed.

“We started coaching together as JV football assistant coaches. It was clear that he was just passionate about sports,” Morgado said. “Very excitable guy. Obviously, one of the most veteran coaches I had in the department. Loves the game of baseball. Very loyal to his coaches and players, and always wants to give the best product out there for the program that he can. He takes a lot of pride in representing Kauai High School and the island of Kauai, especially on the state level. Very well-known across the state of Hawaii as a great baseball coach.”

When reflecting on his near two decades leading the Red Raiders program, Ibia said his fondest memories were helping his players prepare for life after high school

“Just working with these kids and developing them to be men and good people in the community,” he said. “Teaching life skills every day. The baseball part, I can do the thing on the field, and it’s shown already. But just being with them all the time, teaching them to be good people when they leave us, to respect and appreciate people, I think I’ll miss that.”

Ibia added he’ll undoubtedly miss the competitive nature of being a high school varsity head coach.

“I told my wife that I’m going to miss this. I’m going to miss being a coach and competing against that other guy no matter who they are. If it’s Punahou, Kamehameha, Mid-Pac, to see if I can outsmart them,” he said. “I think the biggest thing I’m going to miss is just trying to prepare a team to play somebody else and see how good you are.”

Ibia will still be around the game. These days, he helps out with his grandson who plays for a Mustangs youth baseball team (8 to 10-year-olds).

The former Red Raider added maybe in the future he’d consider returning to coaching high school if a position opened up, but for now he’s sure he will stay retired.

“I can say that right now it’s a possibility, but that’s going to be a tough one. I’m getting older, too. It’s going to be about my health as I get older,” Ibia said. “Two, three years from now, I might surprise you. But for right now, I’m done, and I want to keep it that way.”

He lastly wanted to thank everyone who have helped him along the way during his 17 years coaching the Red Raiders — the school’s current and past administration, athletic directors, trainers, his assistant coaches and their wives, and his wife and family.

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Nick Celario, sports writer, can be reached at 245-0437 or ncelario@thegardenisland.com.

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