Charlie Wade finds his way back to UH volleyball
Pressed to find a last-minute staff replacement, Head Coach Dave Shoji told Wade upfront that he preferred to hire a female assistant and would probably look for a female coach to replace Wade when the season ended. Wade ended up spending 11 years on Shoji’s staff, the last 9 as the program’s associate head coach.
When Wade left Hawaiʻi to take the University of the Pacific women’s head coaching job in 2006, he didn’t plan on staying away from Hawai’i forever.
He knew that he needed head-coaching experience to be a qualified candidate for the UH top spot one day, but he never expected that opening would come in just three short years, when UH men’s volleyball Coach Mike Wilton resigned after 17 years at the helm.
Named the new Warrior volleyball coach in May, Wade was still spinning from the seemingly perfect karma that brought him home to Hawaiʻi and the prime spot on the UH sidelines.
“I’m absolutely blessed,” he said with a huge smile during a summer interview. “I just can’t believe it. That’s the part where it’s surreal. Did we really just pull that off?”
The UH men’s volleyball program has put its faith in a coach who is intimately familiar with its unique community and fans. Wade witnessed the rock-star popularity of UH men’s volleyball in the mid-1990s and early-2000s. He watched the Stan Sheriff Center teeming with capacity crowds.
More important, he saw the program’s potential, and he is confident that he can put together the right mix to get it back on the national stage after three straight losing seasons.
“We may not be rolling people out in laundry carts” to protect them from the crush of adoring fans, Wade says, “but there’s a level below that that I think everyone would feel really good about, in terms of the success of the team and the attendance and support of the fans and the community. It will still be a lot of fun for people to be a part of.”
Wade will coach college men for the first time after 14 seasons in women’s volleyball. He selected an experienced assistant in Dan Fisher, a standout player and former men’s coach at Pacific.
His learning curve will be steep, but the highly successful Shoji predicts Wade’s work ethic and competitive spirit will contribute to a relatively smooth transition.
“The game itself is way different,” Shoji explains, “but Wade has watched men’s volleyball. He knows what men do. It’s not something he won’t be able to do. He’ll pick it up very fast. It won’t take him long to become familiar with the men’s game.”
A primary challenge will be to keep in-state talent at home. Last season, six players from Hawaiʻi made Mountain Pacific Sports Federation all-conference teams. None played for UH.
“The lifeblood is recruiting,” says Wade, who attracted local talent to the UH women’s program. “There have always been a number of good local players, and Hawaiʻi can’t have all of them. You look at the number of players who are all-league, all-American-caliber throughout the MPSF and throughout the country, that’s the part that we have to change. We need those players on Hawaiʻi’s team.”
Wade once told a local newspaper sportswriter that being head coach of the UH women’s volleyball program would be “the ultimate job.”
Basking in the afterglow of inheriting a men’s program with a history of top-15 and national respect, he edits himself:
“UH is Hawaiʻi’s team. There’s so much support from so many people throughout the state. So for me, the gender doesn’t matter. I look at it like, ‘You’re the head coach of a University of Hawaiʻi volleyball team.’ I’m at the place I want to be. I would take gender off the title and just say that being a head volleyball coach at the University of Hawaiʻi is ‘the ultimate job.’”