Alan Kang: 1944-2014‘Unsung hero’ helped create Wahine volleyball
By Cindy Luis
Before the Hawaii women's volleyball program became one of the imposing towers on the sport's intercollegiate skyline, it needed to have a solid foundation. That cornerstone was laid by Alan Kang, who took a fledgling varsity program birthed in the same year as Title IX and established a tradition that flourishes today.
It was Kang, working in the intramural program at UH, who recruited players for the inaugural varsity team during the late spring of 1972. That the "Wahines," as they were called back then, won the 1973 A Division Championship, then the Open Division the next spring hinted at the greatness to come.
Kang, who led Hawaii to a 9-1 mark and a second-place finish at the 1974 AIAW national championship, died Aug. 4 in Detroit, where he was living with his son, Barry, for the past two months. He was 70.
The man who replaced Kang in 1975 was Dave Shoji, who learned of Kang's passing after Monday morning's practice. Now in his 40th season, Shoji remembered Kang as a friend, a former assistant and someone who was passionate about the sport.
"He was here before I was, and came back to help me, volunteering his time," Shoji said of Kang, the assistant on Shoji's first national championship team in 1979. "It's sad to hear."
UH associate athletic director Marilyn Moniz-Kaho'ohanohano was recruited by Kang prior to her 1972 graduation from Kaimuki High. The Bulldogs had won the OIA championship and several players became the core of the first program that summer.
"He probably got paid peanuts," said Moniz-Kaho‘ohanohano, UH's first female four-year varsity letter-winner. "He was very dedicated and disciplined, cared a lot about his players. That first team had the best players in Hawaii at the time.
"I truly appreciate all he did. We were treading new ground back then, traveling for the (USVBA) nationals. We never felt there was nothing we couldn't do. That's where it all started."
The legacy continues beyond the Rainbow Wahine program. Kang's late wife, Ann, played for Hawaii and went on to become the girls volleyball coach at ‘Iolani, winning the school's first title in that sport in 2001. "Iolani's nationally recognized preseason tournament has been renamed the Ann Kang Invitational.
Twins Barry and Marci, 2006 ‘Iolani graduates, knew what their parents had done but "that wasn't what was important to them," said Barry, doctor of emergency medicine at Detroit Receiving Hospital. "They both wanted us to pursue our dreams."
Ann Goldenson Kang died in 2003 after a long battle with Lou Gehrig's Disease.
Marci Kang, a former all-region soccer player at Occidental, is finishing her doctorate in chemistry at Rice.
"I worked very closely with Alan in the beginning of the Rainbow Wahine volleyball (program)," said Chris McLachlin, retired Punahou volleyball and basketball coach and current sportscaster for UH volleyball. "We trained the girls for the USVBA season and then he coached that first team.
"He had great volleyball knowledge. He wanted to be the best coach he could be. Clearly he is an unsung hero and hasn't been given enough credit for the birth of the program. His dream was to make it bigger and better every year. And that's what it has become."
Alan Hong Ik Kang was born in Honolulu on March 23, 1944. He graduated from Mid-Pacific Institute and attended Oregon State before finishing his degree at Hawaii. He worked in several fields, including as an insurance salesman.
Kang is survived by brother, Felix; sister, Becky; and niece, Leila.
A memorial service will be held at ‘Iolani's St. Alban's Chapel on Aug. 24 at 1 p.m. Other arrangements are pending.
[caption id="attachment_58502" align="aligncenter" width="390"] Alan Kang: Recruited players from intramurals to help form the inaugural varsity team (CRAIG T. KOJIMA / 1999)[/caption]
Our deepest condolences to the family and friends of the deceased