Kauai High School boys basketball coach Ipo Yoshioka has a long-standing history with the sports of basketball and baseball.
He became inundated in the culture of sports as a batboy for his father, long-time baseball coach Jitsuo Yoshioka, then went on to his first coaching experience as an assistant basketball coach at Hawaii Loa, and for the last 17 seasons, he constructed a successful boys Red Raiders’ basketball program.
The Kauai basketball program has one of the top-tier teams in the KIF and off-island, placing fifth in the Hawaii High School Athletic Association Division II basketball state tournament the previous two seasons.
Yoshioka, by his own admission, is shy about his athletic accomplishments, and as a coach and educator has always emphasized developing great basketball players and young men to become productive members of society.
In an interview with The Garden Island, Yoshioka discusses his coaching philosophies, and what drives him to be one of the most successful coaches at the high school level on Kauai.
Where did you first start your basketball career?
I first started working as an assistant in Oahu. I was going to college at the same time as playing, and a friend of mine asked me to help him coach on my off days. Because we were still in college, it was a nice feeling to come out and share basketball knowledge with the kids. At Hawaii Loa, we were pioneers. In the four years, we did well in the NAIA, and it was fun to see.
What are some of your favorite memories associated with basketball when you were coaching and playing at the NAIA-level?
I remember getting to step on the court with the No. 1 team in the nation, the Georgetown Bulldogs in 1984. They had players like Patrick Ewing and Micheal Jackson, who was one of the top point guards in the country. They had several top players on that team.
What drew you to become a coach on Kauai?
I always thought I would come back and coach in Kauai. I wanted to give back, but it took several years when the opportunity to coach Kauai came. For a while I came in and helped on the staff and it was a fun thing. The next thing I know, I became the head coach.
You’ve coached at Kauai for 17 seasons. What do you like most about coaching there?
This is my 17th season. I was here as an assistant coach and helped several teams. It’s been a blessing. My dad was a baseball coach, and he had a very successful coaching career. It was fun being around him as a batboy. My dad was all about baseball, and he loved baseball with a passion. I didn’t take an interest in baseball. I love the game, but it was something that I didn’t always enjoy. I didn’t want to go out there every day and play baseball. Basketball is just more up-tempo, but I learned a lot of baseball through his friends, his colleagues and players. Just watching him as a coach, what he did and how he approached things, there are a lot of things that he instilled in me. One was trying to stay calm. He was a calm coach that didn’t say much, he just demanded a lot from his players.
What about coaching do you enjoy the most?
Just watching the kids get excited about learning the sport. You don’t want to let them down. The kids are great. That is the biggest thing is the kids, the school itself and the community. I enjoyed coming home and giving back to the community and alumni in Kauai, and it’s a bit more special.
You’re were an alumni of Kauai High. What is the unique part about coaching at your old high school?
A big part of this is pride. You become a Red Raider mand you are always going to be a Red Raider. I think the biggest thing is the kids are willing to work. The second most significant thing is getting the parents’ support and the third is the community support.
It’s always a joy to have the coaches, the kids and the community on the same page. We have all been working towards the same goals for the last 15 years, and it’s fun to watch. We don’t have to be perfect, we have to strive to get better, and that is the fun thing to watch.”
What did you learn from your father about coaching?
“You go back to when you were six years old and remember these coaches have to strive to get better, and that is a fun thing to watch. It’s always been positive, and the most significant thing to instill now in our kids is positive reinforcement. It’s fun to watch when it works, and it’s a joy to help drive and push them to succeed. My dad taught me commitment. If you are going to do something, you have to do it right, hard and fast, and stay committed. He committed himself to the sport of baseball.
My dad was all about sports, and my mom was all about fishing and hunting. They were both competitors in two different phases of life. Now our kids play games, fish and hunt, and it’s exciting to see them make the best of it.
What do you enjoy the most about being a coach at Kauai?
The biggest goal is watching these kids make something of their lives and getting an education. It’s nice when they go to a trade school. We have the phrase, ‘someday become my boss.’
They like to shoot their goals high. A lot of kids don’t want to leave and you can’t blame them that they don’t want to go. We do live in Paradise. I hope they can make something of themselves, and create something for themselves. It’s nice to see every year former students accomplish something.”
What is your approach towards getting your students to achieve their goals?
What you do today is to make something happen to get it right. We tell them basketball is just a fuel to get what they want accomplished, and we hope it instills in them the effort and discipline.
Step one is getting their grades up. We hope to start to see them go from a C to a B, and from a B to an A by the time the season ends.
We encourage them to push for their goals every day in practice, and every session in education. Just for us as coaches, they are great kids and have great ideas on how to get certain places. When the kids use that in their own life that is the fun part.”
What do you learn from the kids when coaching?
The coaches are always learning from the kids, and the kids are always learning from the coaches. It’s a fantastic feeling to do a two-way street. You are still learning from the kids. It brings a certain tingle to our eyes and the kids learn from us coaches also.
What is your biggest goal on the court this season?
We finished fifth last year and fifth the year before. The most significant goal we have is to win the KIF. The KIF is no easy walk. You can’t dream about winning the state until you finish the KIF, and that is a game-by-game process. The other fun part of the job is working with the community and having the community cheer their teams on. It is pretty wild for these kids, and it’s pretty fun.