Wednesday, July 01, 2015

Alika Smith resigns as Kalaheo head coach

Alika Smith’s era at Kalaheo has come to an end.

Smith, who guided the Mustangs to two Division I state titles and a D-II state championship in four seasons, has stepped down as the boys basketball head coach.

Smith cited philosophical differences with administration at the school. In a document sent to Smith three weeks ago, principal Susan Hummel and athletic director Mark Brilhante sent a list of bullet-point agreements with stipulations regarding positive coaching methods for Smith and his staff.

Smith rebuffed the list and resigned. He declined to comment on his status twice in the past month, but he spoke on Monday.

The problem, he believes, is rooted in the complaints from parents of Kalaheo players during the season. Hummel’s demand that he change his approach didn’t sit well.

“As demanding as I am with these kids, I’m going to be fired in the first week as soon as one parent complains. I’m not going to do that,” Smith said. “I’m not going to look over my shoulder. The biggest compliment is when (former players and parents) come to you and say, ‘Thank you’ for what you do.’ ”
There were, apparently, complaints about favoritism. Smith had a son and a nephew on the team that won the 2015 state title.

“My son played a great first quarter in the championship game, and then another player came on and I rolled with him,” Smith said. “I’m favoring my son? He gets it from me the most. If that’s the route they want to go, that’s fine, but I’m not going to be a part of it. In the classroom and on the court, if they lose focus I hold these kids accountable.”

Hummel said their differences have to do with personality and management styles. She said she never specified that the problem stemmed from complaints by parents.

“He is stepping down because he didn’t want to renew as head coach. It has to do with moving forward with Positive Coaching Alliance standards,” Hummel said on Monday.

“I respect him very much and I have to respect his decision. At this point, Mark and I are moving on and trying to plan for the coming school year,” she said. “He’s not communicating really well with us. We’re wishing he would communicate more so we could decide on things. As administrators and as a high school these are core values we have to embrace, to put the student-athletes above everything else,” said Hummel, who is entering her eighth year as school principal.

“He is a really good coach in terms of results. I get that and he knows that. The players, I really believe every one of them, they appreciate him for (helping them) become better players on the coaching side. But it comes down to a program that is not just about winning. It has to be about developing skills and a positive basketball program for our high school students. Yeah, they learn to handle the ball and play the game of basketball. But it’s about character development and communicating with people.”
Smith was perhaps not certain about his future as Kalaheo’s coach as long as a month ago.

“I know he thought it through because he kept asking for more time. I said, of course, mull it over and talk to who you need to talk to. I offered him the opportunity for clarification, to come and talk to me,” Hummel said.

Smith’s journey as a coach has been as dramatic as it has been successful. After serving as an assistant coach at the University of Hawaii, where he had been a standout guard, he coached Punahou to a 24-4 mark in the 2009-10 season before leaving after just one season.

He returned to his high school alma mater, where he had played for his father, legendary coach Pete Smith.

Alika Smith guided the Mustangs to the 2012 Division II state championship with a 57-42 win over McKinley in the final.

In ’13, the Mustangs reached the pinnacle, edging Maryknoll 60-54 in overtime in the D-I state championship game.

Last February, Kalaheo returned to the state final and outlasted ‘Iolani 53-45 for the D-I state crown.
Twice, Smith was voted All-State coach of the year by coaches and media.

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