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Sea Warrior athletics expands on solid foundation

by Chuck Cordill, staff writer

During the summer, the reigns of power quietly changed hands in the HPU Athletics Department. Longtime Athletic Director and Head Basketball Coach Anthony “Tony” Sellitto passed the baton to his protégé of some three decades, Russell Dung. While Dung is decidedly more low-key than his mentor, he seems poised to move the Sea Warrior Athletic program to the next level.

“During his tenure, Tony built the foundation for our athletics programs,” said Dung. “Yes, the position of AD is new to me, but because we’ve worked together for so long, the transition was easy. I don‘t have any radical changes in mind, but we‘re poised to grow along with the University. HPU is a progressive institution, and I want our teams to reflect that growth with a continued winning tradition.”

In his 14 years as head of the Sea Warrior’s athletic programs, Sellitto was instrumental in transforming a small private institution into a major contender in the arena of collegiate sports. When he announced his retirement last year, it was clear that his successor would have some pretty big shoes to fill.

But Dung seems to have solved that predicament with an elementary solution. Big Shoes? More feet.

“I’m really fortunate that I have a staff that can build on that foundation, move our teams and school into the next level,” Dung said. “They’ve all been involved with the program for many years and we’re all on the same sheet of music.” Dung feels his staff is uniquely prepared to work with the University’s athletics teams and administration. All staff members are former student-athletes themselves, with two being HPU alumni.

Second-in-command is Senior Women’s Administrator and Head Volleyball Coach Reydan “Tita” Ahuna, a former prep and college volleyball standout. Ahuna, the University’s first SWA, has led the Lady Sea Warriors to a pair of NCAA Division II national championships in her seven years in green and blue. Ahuna acknowledges that chemistry is they key ingredient in the new administration.

“We all know what it takes to build an successful team, and we’re all working together to make it happen,” said Ahuna. “The atmosphere is great, especially because I’m right in the beginning of another volleyball season. We do a good job of balancing things out—everyone willing to lend a hand. Everyone understands their part of the big picture, but is also willing to pitch in on other duties.” Head Baseball Coach Alan Sato, a former HPU baseball pitching ace, is now the school’s assistant to the director. Sato feels that the former athletic experience among the staff is a definite plus.

“We’ve all been college athletes, and also administrators,” said Sato. “As former athletes, I feel we have a unique view, because we can see things from both the athlete’s point of view as well as the administrative side.”

Sato was upbeat about the transition from the Sellitto era to present. “Any type of major transition is difficult,” said Sato. “But when the leadership at the top is solid, it’s a lot easier.” Sports Information Director and NCAA Compliance Officer Jarnett “Shorty” Lono was a leading player for the HPU softball program before taking her current position. Lono feels her former days as an HPU student help her in her current responsibilities.

“As an alumni, it’s kind of neat to see things from this angle,” Lono said. “I’m able to help the University in other ways now, but I remember what it was like. I think that perspective helps me a lot.”

Dung himself was a prep basketball player under Sellitto at Maryknoll High School and also played collegiate ball. He became Sellitto’s assistant coach at the prep level in 1972, and joined him when the skipper took over the Sea Warrior program in 1988. As Sellitto’s assistant coach, Dung helped lead HPU to an overall record of 295 wins and 136 losses. The coaching duo led HPU to the NAIA national championship in 1993, the only collegiate national basketball crown ever won by a Hawai‘i team. “This isn’t a one-man-show,” said Dung.

“It’s really a team effort. We all put our heads together. I think each of us are dedicated to the University and want to collectively move upwards. Everything we do is based on the well being of our student athletes and the success of our school. We all understand the importance athletics plays in the prestige and spirit of the University.”

 

 

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