My friends on social media are mostly Hawaii locals who are slightly below 40 years of age and are typical sports fans. I was curious about where the University of Hawaii’s men’s volleyball team, who have won two national championships and have been runners-up for the past three years, rank among the most loved teams in the history of island sports.
When I asked my friends, the basketball team from 50 years ago, known as the Fabulous Five, was often mentioned. They captivated the hearts and imagination of Hawaii’s basketball fans, and even now, fans still hold them in high regard. Interestingly, even though the team never came close to winning a national championship in 1971, they won the NIT and made it to the quarterfinals. Bob Nash, John Pennebacker, Al Davis, Jerome “Hook” Freeman, and Dwight Holliday (Red Rocha coach) comprised the team.
In contrast, the hoop team didn’t fare as well, but in the two years they played together, they went 47-8 and averaged 91.7 points per game in their second year. Abe Villanueva, who was attending Maili Primary School during their playtime, recalls the time her teacher came into the classroom after lunch to announce the team’s win.
Many people attribute their love for the Fabulous Five to the mystical attraction of the era when media coverage was not as oversaturated as it is today. Back then, mobile phones were not yet invented, and there were no cameras in them. Darryl Matsuo, who was a UH student, regards the UH football team led by Heisman Trophy finalist Colt Brennan as one of his favorite teams. He also mentioned the Fabulous Five as one of his top teams.
The UH women’s volleyball program has won four national championships, twice as many as the men’s program. The women’s team won back-to-back domestic titles in 1982 and 1983. Although Stan Sheriff, who the arena was named after, deserves a lot of credit for building the facility, some people, like Dana Sugimoto, believe that UH needs a bigger on-campus facility to accommodate the volleyball team. He also remembers the women’s volleyball team of 1979, who had several significant players and played in front of a wild “capacity” crowd in a sweatbox called the Krum Jim.
Russell Shimooka, a retired sportscaster, believes that Chaminade’s basketball team should not be remembered for just one win in 1982, wherein they beat the No.1 team, Virginia and Ralph Sampson. Shimooka also thinks that people should remember the UH men’s volleyball team, who draws 10,000 fans to their regular games in spite of being largely overlooked.
UH baseball was also very strong in the late ’70s and ’80s and was named one of the three “players of the century” in college baseball. Even though Bowe missed out on his 20-1 pitching record, which set Derrick Tatsuno’s NCAA record in 1979, Les Murakami’s team won the 1980 College World Series.
Meanwhile, wrestlers from Hawaii like Fuji-san and Tanaka-sensei garnered a lot of love and respect, particularly after winning the NWA Hawaii tag team titles in Hawaii. They were followed by Mr. Fuji and Curtis Iaukea. On the other hand, the UH football team did not make it to most people’s lists, and despite being undefeated, the team never made it to the Pro Bowl field.
In conclusion, people have various opinions about their most loved teams, but what is certain is the love and respect that these athletes still receive even after so many years have passed.