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by Kalamalama staff

 

Legendary local basketball coach Tony Sellitto has been named head coach of the HPU Sea Warriors men’s basketball program. The appointment is in effect in March, HPU President Chatt G. Wright announced, and marks the return of Sellitto to the roots of his collegiate coaching career.
Sellitto became HPU’s athletics director and head coach of the men’s basketball team in 1988 after a stellar prep-level coaching career at Maryknoll High School. In 23 years at Maryknoll, he guided the boys’ team to three consecutive Boys’ A titles and the school’s first and only boys’ high school state championship in 1984.

“ When HPU was looking for a head basketball coach, Tony was already an icon in the high school basketball community in Hawai‘i,” said Wright. “He was a tough and demanding coach, which I liked, but his reputation of being a caring and considerate man made me appreciate his overall qualifications even more. It was not a hard decision to offer Coach Sellitto the HPU position in 1988. I was extremely pleased when he accepted it then, and equally happy that he’s agreed to return,” Wright added

Sellitto is also excited about returning to HPU. “When I retired in 2002,” he said, “I never thought about returning to coaching at any level.”

Sellitto stayed close to the local basketball scene because, he said, “Basketball is in my blood. I always loved working with young people and helping them succeed as athletes and in life,” he added.
“ The opportunity to return to HPU and work again for President Wright and among the great staff, faculty, and student body at HPU, is something I value greatly.”

Although the transition from high school to college coaching is difficult for many, Sellitto was an instant success. HPU was a member of the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) when Sellitto became the fifth head coach of the Sea Warriors. In only his second year, he led HPU to the NAIA National Championship Tournament, a feat he would achieve six more times.
During his 14-year tenure at HPU, including the last four seasons as part of the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Division II, Sellitto had 12 winning seasons and compiled an overall record of 298-136 (.684).

From 1992 to 1997, the Sea Warrior basketball team was consistently ranked in the Top Ten of the NAIA. The hallmark of Sellitto’s coaching career came in 1993 when his Sea Warrior team won the NAIA national championship. Sellitto was selected as the 1992-93 NAIA National Coach of the Year.

To this date, HPU remains the only collegiate basketball program in the state of Hawai‘i to have won a national championship.

Sellitto battled health problems during the final few years he coached at HPU and retired in 2002. But, he never stopped positively influencing people’s lives. Known affectionately as “Tony the Tiger” and “Tulsa Tony” (honoring his string of appearances at the National Championships in Tulsa, Oklahoma), Sellitto has mentored many local basketball coaches in Hawai‘i, as well as hundreds of students athletes who continue to seek his guidance, on and off the court.

According to Rick Stepien, vice president for Admnistration, Sellitto is fully recovered from the health issues that caused what many believed was a premature retirement.

“ Sellitto returns to HPU confident that he can return the Sea Warriors to national prominence,” said Stepien.

 

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