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Wahine hoops’ best addition might be assistant coach

By Ferd Lewis

LAST UPDATED: 2:05 a.m. HST, Nov 10, 2011

The University of Hawaii Rainbow Wahine basketball team brought in eight recruits for this season, but what figures to be the biggest addition will spend it on the bench.

That would be Gavin Petersen, the new associate head coach.

Dana Takahara-Dias begins her third season as the Rainbow Wahine head coach Friday when the regular season tips off against Hawaii-Hilo. Four freshmen and four transfers join the roster and with them come the hopes for the team’s first winning season in five years despite a challenging nonconference schedule.

One of the issues that has held UH back has been the steady revolving door for assistant coaches. Da Houl came on board when Takahara-Dias got the job, but she has been the exception to the rule on a staff that has seen the other assistant position turn over four times now in three years and five in four years.

Consistency that isn’t, and it hasn’t been difficult to see the impact it has all had on the Rainbow Wahine’s struggling bottom line, on the court and in recruiting.

Which is why the arrival of Petersen, who is tasked with coordinating the offense and heading up recruiting, looms so large now. Actually it is more of a return since Petersen, a University High graduate, started his coaching career at UH, where he spent two seasons, 2002-04.

Petersen’s work in subsequent stops at Idaho State, which had three postseason appearances, and Idaho, which managed a breakthrough first postseason showing in 25 years, over the past seven years made for an impressive resume. Strong enough, in fact, to have earned him a place among the finalists for the job that eventually went to Takahara-Dias in 2009.

Takahara-Dias’ willingness to put Petersen on the bench next to her suggests she is secure enough in her position or recognizes a significant need to be filled. Maybe some of both. “I want what’s best for the program,” said Takahara-Dias, who holds considerable equity in it as a former UH player and assistant coach.

She is also honest enough to recognize the areas where she doesn’t have strengths and take on somebody who can balance them out, a checking of the ego in favor of progress that not every coach who has held that position in Manoa has been willing to undertake.

The expectation is that Petersen’s familiarity with competition in the Western Athletic Conference and recruiting in the West should pay dividends for both the Rainbow Wahine’s last spin around the WAC and their entry into the Big West for 2012-13.

More immediate is the hope that the offense he is overseeing will make some strides from past years. The Rainbow Wahine have not ranked better than 221st (among 333 NCAADivision I schools) in the nation in scoring the past three years, with a 60.5 points a game average their best.

So far, “I think he’s been doing a stellar job and it is good to have the benefit of his hard work and experience,” Takahara-Dias said.

Just what you would hope from a No. 1 recruit.

Reach Ferd Lewis at or 529-4820.

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