Ulloa Takes Reigns of KS-Hawai’i Boys Hoops Program
It has been seven years since the Big Island Interscholastic Federation has had a chance to compete for a state championship in boys basketball.
That was the year that Kamehameha-Hawai’i fell by three points to Punahou in the Hawaiian Airlines/Hawai’i High School Athletic Association Division I Boys Basketball State Championship game, held at the Neal Blaisdell Center.
Vincent Ulloa joined Kamehameha-Hawai’i that season as an assistant under then-head coach Nelson Wong. Over seven years after that championship loss, Wong, who now oversees the entire Warriors’ basketball program, called on Ulloa again, this time to take over as the head coach of the school’s varsity program.
“He’s kind of a mentor of mine,” Ulloa said. “I’m a little older than him, but I admire what he did. I got my start at Kamehameha-Hawai’i as his assistant…I had been coaching for a long time at that point, but I had never coached under someone or with someone that just did it the way he did it. It kinda rejuvenated my desire to keep coaching.”
Wong stepped down after the state championship loss to focus on his growing family, and Dominic Pacheco, then the junior varsity head coach, was elevated up to lead the varsity program. Ulloa was given the assignment of leading the junior varsity program while staying on as an assistant under Pacheco.
Last season, the Warriors finished as the runner-up to Konawaena in the Big Island Interscholastic Federation Division I basketball championship. Finishing in the top two in the league allowed the Warriors to return to the New City Nissan/Hawai’i High School Athletic Association Division I State Basketball Championships after a year absence. Kamehameha-Hawai’i was knocked out of championship contention in the first round by Campbell.
The opportunity to return to a head coaching role at the varsity level is a welcome challenge for Ulloa, whose only head coaching sting came at Waianae, what he called a “football school,” from 2000-2005. Most of those years, he coached both the boys and girls programs, back when the two seasons were split into the winter and spring, respectively.
Familiarity with the current squad will be an asset to Ulloa. Last year’s squad mixed talented youth with a small blend of experience, bringing promise for the next few seasons.
“I do know all of the players. I haven’t coached all of the players on this team,” said Ulloa. “Several of the seniors are four-year varsity players. That’s what we’re working on right now, just building that relationship with those players.”
Work on improving those coach-player relationships has already begun. Ulloa is currently coaching many of those players in an NJB tournament on Oahu. During the upcoming season, he will take the team back to Oahu to compete in a high school tournament organized by St. Francis High School. Pacheco initially agreed to play in the tournament, and Ulloa wanted to honor that commitment when he took over.
As for his on-court philosophies, much of what Kamehameha-Hawai’i does will likely stay the same.
“Philosophically, I’m a little more conservative than Dominic…I don’t like to gamble as much in the open court. I like to play real solid,” Ulloa explained. He envisions a solid half-court man-to-man defense as the backbone of his team, while on offense, he projects balance with an emphasis on taking care of the basketball.
Pacheco led the KS-Hawai’i varsity program for seven years. He did not elaborate on his reason for leaving the program, saying that he plans to concentrate on his eighth-grade daughter, who also plays basketball.