A water polo season that began as one of the University of Hawaii’s most promising ended with an early loss in the conference tournament and no NCAA championship appearance. Now there is no coach.
UH is advertising for a Rainbow Wahine water polo coach — the deadline was Monday — after deciding not to renew Michel Roy’s contract. Roy, animated and outspoken, had taken the Wahine to the final four three times since coming here from the Canadian national program in 2003. Four of his players on this year’s 18-9 team could be in next year’s Olympics.
The 2011 team had a rare win over UCLA, earned a program-best third seed in the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation tournament and was within 2 seconds of upsetting third-ranked USC in its home-opener in March. But last month UH was upset by San Jose State in the first round of its conference tournament and fell to sixth in the final national ranking. Roy’s contract was not renewed soon after.
"I believed it was time to make a change," UH athletics director Jim Donovan said. "Obviously it wasn’t about W’s and L’s. It was other issues."
Roy was "shocked" by the decision. He and his family are in the process of moving home to Quebec, where he will work for a local club and continue his work at the National Team Training Center in Ottawa, Ontario.
"We made UH an international powerhouse," Roy said. "We had a lineup of great athletes that wanted to come after the next Olympics. We brought in an Olympic gold medalist (Iefke Van Belkum and Meike De Nooy) to UH. We have been in the top three to five best teams in the USA for the last seven years straight. We started to develop kids from the islands to bring to UH. Our clinic was getting more popular every year. We have placed many local girls into different colleges with our help. …It was a great season. I am very proud of my athletes and the program what was developed in the last nine seasons."
Roy has been affiliated with the British Columbia Water Polo Association since 1986. His international influence helped Hawaii draw players from all over the world, especially Canada, the Netherlands and New Zealand. This year’s final roster of 14 had nine international players, five from California and none from Hawaii, where water polo is popular and has had several male players go on to the Olympics.
Donovan would not elaborate on the issues that convinced UH not to renew Roy’s contract. He did say the qualities UH is looking for in a new coach go far beyond wins and losses, focusing on the way players and coaches represent the state and work within the athletic department.
"They have to live up to our mission statement, which is to teach these young women to be successful in life and all the skills necessary for that," Donovan said. "That includes improving their education and how to be part of a bigger team — the athletic department team — and how to represent the state of Hawaii in and out of the pool. Coaches have to do the same thing and they understand that. They should be a source of pride for our state. It’s not only wins and losses, but how they conduct themselves."
Roy says he is trying to move on without regret, but it is difficult.
"I just wish the administration saw the work that was done over the years with UH women’s water polo," he said. "It has been great. The girls that have come and gone from here loved it and loved their time at UH. What else can you ask for? Maybe winning an NCAA, but that would have come.
"My wife (Linda) and I have made some great friends here in Hawaii and I would like to thank them for their support and help. We will miss them dearly."