Jimmy Yagi, beloved former UH-Hilo basketball coach, dies at 88

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Former University of Hawai‘i at Hilo basketball coach Jimmy Yagi passed away on June 14, 2023. He remains the winningest men’s basketball head coach in UH-Hilo history. (Photo courtesy: University of Hawai‘i at Hilo)

James Toshio Yagi, former basketball head coach at the University of Hawai‘i at Hilo who put Division II on the map, passed away Wednesday morning. He was 88.

Yagi, known as the “Father of Small College Basketball in Hawai‘i,” remains the winningest men’s basketball head coach in UH-Hilo history with 252 wins over 12 seasons. Yagi coached the very first Vulcan team to compete at the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics level in 1976-77.

He took the Vulcans to the national tournament three times, putting UH-Hilo basketball on the map.


“Coach Yagi is a beloved and iconic figure in the State of Hawai’i as a legendary coach, educator and mentor,” Hawai’i Hilo director of athletics Patrick Guillen said. “He is a legend in the coaching profession and a giant of a human being. His passing is a tremendous loss for our community, but we know he leaves a legacy that will live on through all the lives he has touched.”

For six decades, Yagi led camps across the islands, even as recently as the past few years, in what is now called the Jimmy Yagi Basketball Camp.

Yagi was inducted into the inaugural UH Hilo Athletics Hall of Fame and is also a member of the Big Island Sports Hall of Fame.


“Coach Yagi has been an inspirational figure for myself and so many of us here on the Big Island,” said current Vulcan men’s basketball head coach Kaniela Aiona. “He touched so many lives. His impact on this community will never be forgotten.”

A lifelong Hilo resident, Yagi leaves behind wife Jeanne and sons Brady and Kirby. His cause of death has not yet been released.

Memorial services will be announced at a later time.

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