Who were the most notable Hawaii sports figures of the decade?

Hawaii baseball alumnus Kolten Wong and UH athletic director David Matlin, who posed at Wong's jersey retirement in 2017, are two of the top 10 Hawaii sports figures of the decade, according to Dave Reardon. / Star-Advertiser file photo by Cindy Ellen Russell

Ten years ago, I wrote that Michelle Wie was the most notable sports figure with Hawaii ties of the just-completed decade. The list for the years 2010-2019 is quite a bit different — and Wie, who was a PGA pro in her prime years, only makes this one as an honorable mention.

10. Gerald Oda spent the entire decade — and many years prior — teaching youngsters the right way to play baseball and handle themselves on and off the field. He was recognized for it in 2018, when he led a team from Honolulu to Hawaii’s third Little League World Series championship and only one of the ’10s.

9. John John Florence won back-to-back WSL titles in 2016 and 2017. Also in 2016, he proved his superiority on Waimea Bay’s monster waves, winning “The Eddie,” the Quiksilver Big Wave Invitational in Memory of Eddie Aikau. It was the first time in seven years the waves had been deemed big enough to hold the event. He also just qualified for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.

8. Former ‘Iolani basketball star Bobby Webster was working as an NBA executive with the league office in 2011 when he helped negotiate the league’s collective bargaining agreement. In 2013 he joined the Toronto Raptors front office, and in 2019 he was their general manager when they won the league championship.

7. In his first at-bat of the 2019 season, Kolten Wong of the St. Louis Cardinals hit a two-run homer. At the end of the year, he was awarded the Gold Glove, emblematic of best defender at his position, second base, in the National League. At the start of the decade, the Kamehameha-Hawaii alumnus was a sophomore at the University of Hawaii, and he led the Rainbows to WAC championships in 2010 and 2011, and was named a consensus All-American. After the Cardinals drafted him in the first round, Wong ascended to the major league team as a late call-up in 2013, and won a Rookie of the Month award in 2014. Early in the 2019 season, Wong passed Glenn Braggs in most games played for a UH alumnus. His batting average in postseason play (eight series, four years) is just .205, but Wong had a hit in his only World Series at-bat in 2013.

6. Tua Tagovailoa came off the bench in the second half as a freshman in 2017 to lead Alabama to victory in the College Football Playoff championship over Georgia. The last two seasons he appeared to be on his way to winning or being a strong contender for the Heisman Trophy, but late-season injuries did him in both times. Tagovailoa quarterbacked Saint Louis School to a state championship in 2016.

5. Max Holloway of Waianae started his professional MMA career in 2010, and won his first four fights. In 2016, he won the UFC interim flyweight title, unified it and successfully defended it three times before losing it earlier this month. He has lost two of his last three bouts, one of which was an attempt to win the lightweight title.


4. Since being named athletic director at the University of Hawaii on March 25, 2015, Dave Matlin has hired new head coaches in the school’s three most prominent programs: football (Nick Rolovich), men’s basketball (Eran Ganot) and women’s volleyball (Robyn Ah Mow). Under those new coaches, football has won two bowl games in the past four years, basketball won an NCAA Tournament game for the first time in school history, and this month volleyball got back to the Sweet 16 of the NCAA tournament for the first time since 2015.

3. Marcus Mariota won the Heisman Trophy in 2014 in a landslide with 88 percent of the first-place votes, and was the second pick of the 2015 NFL Draft, by the Tennessee Titans, where he started from his rookie year until recently. He began the decade leading Saint Louis School to a state football championship in his only season as the Crusaders’ starting quarterback.

Hawaii head coach Nick Rolovich got doused with sports drink after winning the 2019 SoFi Hawaii Bowl against Brigham Young on Dec. 24. / Photo by Jamm Aquino, Star-Advertiser

2. Nick Rolovich started the decade as the offensive coordinator of the last University of Hawaii football team to win a share of a conference championship, a squad that won 10 games. He ended it as a 10-game winner again, this time as the Mountain West Conference’s Coach of the Year after leading the Warriors to the league’s championship game for the first time. In four seasons as a first-time head coach his record is 28-27 — including 18-11 the past two seasons, the first winning ones for UH since that 2010 season when Rolovich was the OC for head coach Greg McMackin.


1. Carissa Moore hasn’t hit 30 years of age, and is already a Hall of Famer in her sport — the sport of surfing, which was invented in Hawaii. In 2010, she was rookie of the year on what was then called the ASP and is now the World Surf League (WSL). The next year, 2011, at age 18, she became the youngest surfer, male or female, to win a world title. She went on to win three more world championships, in 2013, ’15 and ’19. Moore has a chance to start the next decade with an Olympic gold medal in Tokyo.

Honorable Mentions: Keith Amemiya, Bobbie Awa, Laura Beeman, Alexandria Buchanan, Christopher Chun, Chevan Cordeiro, DeForest Buckner, Eran Ganot, Phil Handy, Brandon League, Cal Lee, Kelly Majam, Cole McDonald, Rich Miano, McKenzie Milton, Vinny Passas, Dave Shoji, Chris Tatum, Manti Te’o, Shane Victorino, Brian Viloria, Charlie Wade, Michelle Wie, Bobby Wood, Steven Wright, Rod York.

COMMENTS

  1. Harvey December 31, 2019 12:08 pm

    Not only has Kurt Suzuki had a solid MLB career, he has a World Series ring as the starting C for the Washington Nationals. And you couldn’t even list him as an honorable mention?

    Way to go.


  2. Dave Reardon December 31, 2019 12:32 pm

    Yes, you are correct … an obvious oversight … I’m going to add Kurt.


  3. H-Man December 31, 2019 11:21 pm

    Manti Te’o


  4. Dave Reardon January 1, 2020 9:38 am

    Manti was a tough one to leave off the top ten. There’s no doubt he paved the way for many others. If the list were 11 and not 10 I think I’d have him on it.


  5. H-Man January 1, 2020 2:12 pm

    Maybe not top 10, but a player on your honorable mention list, Kelly (Majam) Elms, is one that I really like. But Jessica Iwata needs mentioning along with Kelly. Actually the 2010 softball team because they took out Alabama on their way to the college World Series.


  6. Leon January 6, 2020 4:51 am

    Don Robbs who announced Rainbow baseball for 40 years. Should have been mentioned.


  7. asahi January 6, 2020 7:28 pm

    Dave…Melia MacFarland?


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