Making JA coaching connections

CSU, Fullerton Women’s Basketball Head Coach Jeff Harada. courtesy of Cal State Fullerton Athletics

In 2012, California State University, Fullerton Women’s Basketball Head Coach Jeff Harada met Kristin Iwanaga and Kerri Nakamoto, two Santa Clara University Women’s Basketball assistant coaches, at an Asian Coaches Association meeting at the Women’s National Collegiate Athletic Association’s Final Four.

They see “each other out recruiting at tournaments and games and would talk and stay in touch,” Harada wrote in an e-mail to the Nichi Bei Weekly. He added they have mutual “coaching friends.”

After Fullerton’s overtime 76-72 loss to Santa Clara Nov. 11, Harada mentioned how “competitive” it is when he gets to coach against Iwanaga and Nakamoto. He added, “every game we’re not playing Santa Clara, I’m wishing good things for them.”

“It’s just exciting to see other Asian, Japanese faces coaching at this level, and I’m excited for their success, as I’m sure they’re excited for ours,” Harada said.

Harada said he, Iwanaga and Nakamoto, can help inspire other Japanese American and Asian American coaches to pursue an opportunity to coach at the Division I level by “willing to humble (themselves) and start at the bottom.”

“Nothing was given, you really got to work your way up if you want to do it,” he added. “I would encourage other Japanese American aspiring coaches that you can’t expect to just slide into a spot right away. You gotta put your time in and do the work, earn your way, and when you get an opportunity, take the most of it.”

Harada is in his sixth season as the head coach of the Titans. Last season, he took the Titans to their fourth straight Big West Tournament appearance.

Harada, who was born and raised in Honolulu, is a Gosei on his father’s side and a Yonsei on his mother’s side.

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