Thoughts And Jots From The Road
Wednesday - February 25, 2009
Musings from the Left Coast of the Mainland, or I left my heart (and wallet) in San Francisco - and other meandering thoughts from the land across the big blue water:
* I’ve spent a considerable amount of time in California this month. Here, the No. 1 topic is the economy - just as it is in Hawaii. But what happens economically in the (not so) Golden State will have a huge impact throughout our Islands, even in the world of sports. Sports tourism in Hawaii has been a big business locally for years, with golf, football, basketball, cycling, running, swimming, surfing and other sports dependent on Californians spending big bucks in our economy. This is one athletic supporter who is hoping that important lifeline doesn’t dry up.
* Much has been written in California blogs and on California message boards about the recent National Letter of Intent signings of Punahou all-state football stars Manti Te’o and Robby Toma (the state’s defensive and offensive players of the year this past season), both of whom are headed to Notre Dame to play for the Fighting Irish. While USC seemed magnanimous (even though obviously disappointed) about not getting Te’o to sign with the Trojans, conspiracy theorists jumped on how UCLA handled Toma’s abrupt change of heart from the Bruins to the Irish. From my vantage point, the bloggers should lay off. Toma and Te’o, and the dozens of other local kids who signed letters of intent to play on the Mainland or stay in Hawaii, deserve our praise for making tough decisions and following their hearts. I, for one, can’t wait to see both young men in their shiny new golden helmets on national TV.
* Southern California is where Punahou just found its new athletic director. Jeaney Garcia of the prestigious Brentwood Schools (in the upscale section of Los Angeles) will be taking over the monstrously huge Buffanblu athletic department- so big, in fact, that it features more than 1,100 athletes playing on 114 teams in 27 different sports. But Garcia definitely appears up to the task. She’s a former athlete and coach, and her upbeat, positive style has drawn praise throughout the California private school community. She’ll be a welcome addition to the hardworking club of high school athletic directors around our state.
* I’m going to miss outgoing Punahou athletic director Tom Holden, who is retiring at the end of this school year. It was Holden who helped guide the Buffanblu to the No. 1-ranked high school athletic program in the nation by Sports Illustrated last year. But Holden is hardly the type of guy to take credit - he’s incredibly humble and would immediately point in the direction of his coaches, student-athletes, families and fans. I’ll always remember him as the man who was there early in the morning and then late at night, doing whatever was necessary to make sure his teams were ready to go. If you could put a face on what it means to be “24/7,” you would certainly start with Tom Holden. Sincerely, he’s one of the nicest people I’ve ever met in the Islands - and he deserves the very best wishes on whatever’s next in his very busy life.
“You know me, I won’t be able to sit in one spot for too long,” he says. “I’m looking forward to going back to South Bend to see Manti and Robby play. I’ve already got Oct. 3 marked on my schedule - that’s when Kimo (Makaula, another outstanding Buffanblu recruit) is in town with Washington. Then, two weeks later, USC comes to town. In between, I’ll try to catch Ohio State. I can’t wait.”
Good luck, Tom!
* While in California, I’ve had a chance to see the L.A Lakers in person. Ironically, as big of a Laker fan as I am, I’ve only been able to be at their games in recent years when they’ve played exhibitions in Honolulu. So this is a real treat for someone who truly believes that, from the days of Jerry West to Kobe Bryant, no franchise in any sport is more exciting!
* Finally, speaking of exciting, this is an incredible time of year to be a basketball fan. In the PacWest, BYU-Hawaii clinched the men’s conference title on its West Coast swing last week, and Grand Canyon earned the women’s title after a spirited run against tough challengers HPU and Dixie State. And while March Madness will be the talk of the Mainland, the madness starts in late February for high school fans in Hawaii. This week, Feb. 24-27 at high school sites and at the Blaisdell Arena, marks the HHSAA girls basketball state tournament, and then next week, March 4-7, the Blaisdell also will be the site of HHSAA boys basketball state tourney. The next weekend after that, BYU-Hawaii is expected to host the NCAA II men’s basketball West Regionals in Laie, so the roundball never stops.
See you at the games - wherever they happen to be!
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