When you look at HPU’s present/former head coach Tony Sellitto, you’d be astonished to know that he’s taken HPU to its only NAIAtitle, survived a stroke, is 70 years old and is returning to work after several years in retirement.
And Sellitto is ready to get back to the game. “We just had a good club,” he says, speaking about his past experience at HPU. “Always won, and a lot of terrific players.”
After a stroke and lengthy convalescence, Sellitto’s doctor told him he’s made almost a full recovery, though he says he has some long-term memory loss. “I can still remember playing golf in my back yard as a little kid,” he says. “But too many details, I can’t remember.” Other than that, he says, he feels fine, and it shows on his daily walks around Ala Moana park.
Sellitto made his way to the Islands after a stint in the U.S. Army. “They asked me when I got out of the Army, ‘Do you want to go to espionage school or do you want to go to Hawaii?’ And I chose to come here.” He says he was looking for a change and fell for the aloha spirit.
Sellitto, who coached at Maryknoll for 23 years and won a state title there, holds education and the college experience as key to his success as a coach and teacher. “I went to Colorado College,” he says, noting its prestige and difficulty in admissions. “And it was the greatest thing that ever happened to me, and I thought that was the kind of experience I wanted to give my players.”
Sellitto coached HPU for 12 seasons before his stroke took him away from the game. He credits the school’s president for bringing him back to his passion. “I would not come back if it weren’t for Chatt Wright,” he says. “(He’s) always treated me very, very well, and aside from being my boss he was always my friend. And that doesn’t happen a lot in this business, which is why I came back.”
With two wins shy of a career total of 300, Sellitto is gearing up to bring players from big college teams on the Mainland who don’t get a chance to play, while also paying special attention to local ballplayers. “Because the local kids are tough as nails,” he says, “we had four guys on our national championship team, and they all contributed to that win.”
In terms of what people can expect next season, Sellitto does-n’t know. “I just want to get a few great players - not good ones, great ones,” he says, “because you can’t win without talent. Otherwise you’re just polishing dirt.”
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