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Give Takahara-Dias props for not being afraid to learn

By Dave Reardon

POSTED:
LAST UPDATED: 10:01 a.m. HST, Jan 05, 2011



Some of you will find what follows here interesting because it plays right into your reasoning why Dana Takahara-Dias shouldn't have been picked to be the University of Hawaii women's basketball head coach. I think it says a lot about why she was a good choice.

Before she got the job prior to last season, her experience as a college head coach was the same as 99.9 percent of the people reading this.

Zero.

We won't know for sure if the former UH player and highly successful Moanalua High School coach was a good hire despite that until another season beyond this one. By then there will have been enough time for her to repair a damaged program and put her own stamp on it and a winning record will be expected.

Takahara-Dias admits she still has things to learn about doing the best job possible. She even admits it publicly, and recently talked about an unusual step that speaks to that. The way I see it, it took a lot of guts.

How many coaches do you know with the combination of chutzpah and humility to ask to watch a potential opponent's practice a couple of days before their possible game?

That's what Takahara-Dias did when No. 14 North Carolina was here for the Rainbow Wahine Showdown in late November.

And the response of Hall of Fame coach Sylvia Hatchell? Sure, come on down, y'all ... or words to that effect.

"It would've been a little uncomfortable if we knew for sure we would be playing them," said the Wahine coach, whose team was in the opposite bracket of UNC.

TAKAHARA-DIAS and assistants Da Houl and Sherice Ajifu attended an entire 2-hour North Carolina practice.

"Sylvia was very gracious. She invited me to North Carolina. They have a lot of hospitality, like us. Just a different accent," Takahara-Dias said. "It gives us a barometer to know what we have to do to become a cream-of-the-crop program. People pay her for what we learned. We learned a lot."

Not enough, however, to give North Carolina much competition -- at least yet. The teams did end up playing each other, in the championship game of the tournament and it was another clinic, this one with a scoreboard. It read 91-57 at the buzzer, in favor of the visitors in powder blue.

So go ahead and rip away, Takahara-Dias detractors. Call it a sign of weakness to bow to another program and acknowledge it is at a level you aspire to approach with yours. But if you do that, call Fresno State's Pat Hill a wimp, too, for attending UH football spring practices -- as well as any number of other college football coaches who do exchange tours of each other's camps.

Good leaders project strength, correct. But one form of it is a willingness to keep learning.

"I wouldn't be doing my job if I didn't," Takahara-Dias said.

THE RAINBOW WAHINE head into tomorrow's WAC opener against New Mexico State at 6-7. It's the same record as last year at this time. Has this team made progress? Is there reason for optimism?

Yes, and largely because of a freshman forward who has put up some huge numbers. Her name is Kamilah "Mia" Jackson, and her 31-point, 25-rebound performance in a victory last week over Cal State Bakersfield brought back memories of Judy Mosley ... the best frontcourt player in the Wahine program's history.

"She's steady and quiet, very unassuming and before you know it, she's got another double-double," Takahara-Dias said. "And she knows how to win. (UH's latest recruits) know how to win and they did it frequently (in high school)."

Jackson said she chose Hawaii because of "a good coaching staff and the players were welcoming and loving."

It's clearly a group possessing plenty of aloha. Guard Courtney Gaddis will be honored by the mayor Friday for donating bone marrow  to a child in need last fall. The entire team will participate in bingo night at a retirement home tonight.

Charity goes on hold tomorrow at 5, though. And who knows? Maybe something Takahara-Dias and her staff picked up at North Carolina's practice will make the difference against New Mexico State, which beat Hawaii twice last year.

Reach Star-Advertiser sports columnist Dave Reardon at dreardon@staradvertiser.com, his "Quick Reads" blog at staradvertiser.com and twitter.com/davereardon.

Correction: Courtney Gladdis will be honored by the mayor for donating bone marrow to a child in need. An earlier version of this story incorrectly said she donated a kidney.






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