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Shoji still has program cooking

By Cindy Luis

LAST UPDATED: 1:45 a.m. HST, Aug 24, 2012

Cooking is cathartic.

It is relaxing. It is fun.

It can be as creative or formulaic as one desires.

It is very much like coaching volleyball.

Even having all the right ingredients doesn't always add up to the perfect dish. The combinations might be off, one spice missing — tweaking means trouble.

What is most impressive in the culinary court career of Dave Shoji is the measured success. For more than 37 years, he has consistently performed under the bright lights of Kitchen Manoa, with the Rainbow Wahine becoming one of the standards of women's volleyball.

Hawaii's love of volleyball has been the secret ingredient, with an unmatched fan base that has had the program leading the country in attendance annually since the Stan Sheriff Center opened in 1994. The Wahine have never disappointed the discerning palates of some of the sport's most educated fans, many of whom have no problem letting officials know that a certain played ball came out much too sticky.

The humble Shoji does not consider himself a top chef, relating more to the home cooks who are vying for the title of TV's teledrama "Master Chef."

"I don't have culinary expertise. I consider myself a cook, not a chef," says Shoji, who is No. 1 in victories among active Division I coaches (1,076-181). "I cook things I like to eat: pasta, steak, stir-fry ... comfort food.

"My stir-fry is more of a chop suey. I throw everything in from the refrigerator. You've got to be creative."

And so it has been since taking over Hawaii's one-year-old program in 1975.

No money, no scholarships, no conference … no problem.

Even as an independent, the Wahine were a force from the beginning, finishing second nationally in their collegiate debut in 1974 under Alan Kang.

The game has changed under Shoji's 37-year watch, with the international additives of the libero and rally scoring. But it remains the sport Shoji fell in love with while a student at UC Santa Barbara.

"It changes, but it still goes back to the basics of passing, hitting, blocking, " said Shoji, an All-America setter for the Gauchos. "It's all about getting the right people in the right spot.

"The systems don't change. You run (an offense) either fast or slow. We want to play fast (to beat the block) because we are a little undersized. It's still pretty simple."

Simple but complex. And always willing to adapt to new techniques.

Shoji returned from his first trip to the Olympics re-energized and ready for 2012. The 65-year-old was in awe of the U.S. women, many of whom he coached against during their collegiate careers.

"They make the tough plays look easy," Shoji said. "You can't teach it, but I want to make (our) players aware they have got to start making those kinds of plays."

The Wahine's recipe of success has to be tweaked this season. Gone is the comfort of having three-time All-American Kanani Danielson. But the talent level is more even.

"Things will be a little different this year," Shoji said. "In the past, the team has been pretty well set. That's not the case this year.

"In the past we didn't have a lot of pieces we could move around. This team is different with its depth and versatility."

It never gets stale.

"Every year is a little different," Shoji said. "It's just the nature of college athletics, with the lineup always changing. It's not like the pros, where you can have a player for six years or more.

"It keeps you on your toes, makes you continually evaluate what you want to do, how you want to tweak things, who you want on the court. Sometimes it's easy. Sometimes it isn't."

Therein lies the challenge. One to which Shoji has risen since 1975.

Whether one says "Aileh Kizeen" or "Allez Cuisine" (from TV's "Iron Chef") it means one thing:

"Let's cook."

By total number of wins

1. *Dave Shoji (Hawaii) 1,076 (37)
2. Russ Rose (Penn State) 1,068 (33)
3. Kathy Gregory (S. Barbara) 866 (37)
4. Mick Haley (USC) 806 (28)
5. John Dunning (Stanford) 748 (27)

* Shoji is the second-winningest Division I coach all-time, 30 wins behind former UCLA coach Andy Banachowski.


By percentage

1. Russ Rose (Penn State) .860
2. Dave Shoji (Hawaii) .856
3. Mary Wise (Florida) .843
4. John Cook (Nebraska) .830
5. John Dunning (Stanford) .825



1975 16 2 AIAW 2nd
1976 14 5 AIAW 3rd
1977 22 5 AIAW 2nd
1978 28 10 AIAW 3rd
1979 36 5 AIAW champion
1980 34 10 AIAW 3rd
1981 37 2 NCAA regional final
1982 33 1 NCAA champion
1983 34 2 NCAA champion
1984 33 11 NCAA 1st round
1985 28 13 NCAA regional semis
1986 31 7 NCAA regional final
1987 37 2 NCAA champion
1988 33 3 NCAA runnerup
1989 28 3 NCAA regional final
1990 28 6 NCAA regional semis
1991 26 5 NCAA regional final
1992 15 12 No postseason
1993 19 11 NCAA regional final
1994 25 5 NCAA regional semis
1995 31 1 NCAA regional final
1996 35 3 NCAA runnerup
1997 25 8 NCAA first round
1998 32 3 NCAA regional final
1999 29 2 NCAA regional semis
2000 31 2 NCAA semifinals
2001 29 6 NCAA regional semis
2002 34 2 NCAA semifinals
2003 36 2 NCAA semifinals
2004 30 1 NCAA regional semis
2005 27 7 NCAA regional semis
2006 29 6 NCAA regional final
2007 27 6 NCAA second round
2008 31 4 NCAA regional final
2009 32 3 NCAA semifinals
2010 29 3 NCAA second round
2011 31 2 NCAA regional semis

Totals: 1,076 wins, 181 losses
1978 included one pool-play tie

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