Whits Tab Kushiyama as Assistant Women's BB Coach

News Release Date:
Thursday, July 26, 2012

WALLA WALLA, Wash. -- Casey Kushiyama, the new assistant women's basketball coach at Whitman College, is anything but a stranger to the byways of the Northwest Conference.

After graduating in 2005 from Linfield College, where he played on the men's basketball team, Kushiyama has been soaking up coaching experience at his alma mater and two other NWC schools, Whitworth and George Fox.

Casey Kushiyama

Kushiyama, a 29-year-old native of Honolulu, Hawaii, made the jump to Whitman earlier this month, filling a full-time assistant coaching position vacated recently by Jessica Cox.

Cox, who held the No. 2 job at Whitman for two seasons, left to become the head coach at Defiance College, an NCAA Division III school in Ohio.

Michelle Ferenz, now in her 12th season as head coach of the Whitman women's program, says "we are fortunate to have someone as talented and experienced as Casey join our staff. He comes to us with a wealth of coaching and recruiting experience in our conference.

"We were sorry to lose Jessica Cox, who did a tremendous job in her two years with us. She made a significant impact on our players and program.

"But we're thrilled to add Coach Kushiyama, who has already shown he is a talented young coach. I am certain he will be tremendous help to our team and our recruiting efforts."

Michelle Ferenz

For his part, Kushiyama says he is "really excited about this upcoming season and feels blessed to be able to coach at such a great school. I'm thankful to Michelle for giving me this opportunity and anxious to get the season underway."

After serving as a team captain during his senior year (2004-05) at Linfield, Kushiyama stayed on campus for three more seasons, working as as an assistant coach for the men's squad.

He spent the 2008-09 season as a men's assistant coach at Whitworth, but that summer's sudden departure of the longtime women's coach at Linfield prompted Kushiyama's return to his alma mater.

In his one season as the women's interim coach at Linfield, Kushiyama guided his Wildcats through a tough-luck campaign that ended with a 6-19 record (4-12 NWC). Linfield dropped five one-point decisions that winter. Two more losses came by two and three points.

Kushiyama
             Linfield photo

Had those narrow losses gone the other way, Linfield would have enjoyed a winning record one season after losing all but three of its games. "It was unbelievable to see how much that team improved," he says. "They definitely overachieved."

Kushiyama was one of three finalists in the summer of 2010 for the permanent position at Linfield, but the job went to an older, more experienced candidate.

Kushiyama, who majored in elementary education at Linfield, completed his master's degree (secondary education/health) through Arizona's Grand Canyon University in 2010. As part of his master's program he worked as a full-time student teacher at McMinnville (Ore.) High School from January through May of that year.

Kushiyama took his assistant coaching skills to George Fox for the 2011-12 season, helping the women's team piece together a superb season that fell one game short of an NCAA DIII national title.

Kushiyama cites a number of reasons for his jump this summer to Whitman. One is the chance to learn from Ferenz, who he considers to be one of the top head coaches in the conference.

"I believe Michelle does more with the players she has than any other coach in our conference," he says. "I'm hoping to learn from one of the best teachers in the conference. Her teams are always competitive and near the top of the conference."

He also likes the Whitman's chances of challenging for the NWC title this winter.

"I truly believe that we have the talent and pieces to win a championship," he says. "I've been part of championship teams in the past and I have the same feeling about this team's chances of winning as I had with those other teams.

"It will take a lot of focus and hard work, and a little bit of luck, but I think the potential is there to win an NWC title."

Whitman's assistant coaching job is also attractive, Kushiyama says, because it is one of the few such positions in the regional NCAA DIII ranks that pays a full-time salary.

"This is my first opportunity to focus all of my energy on coaching and recruiting," he says. "I've had to work my tail off to keep my coaching dreams alive. I've always worked one or two other jobs to make ends meet."

Kushiyama coaching sideline x's and o's
                                                             Linfield photo

During his third year of coaching, he notes, he worked about 70 hours a week at two other jobs, one of them full-time, in addition to the coaching he did at practices and at games.

"Now I can just focus on basketball," he says. "I feel extremely fortunate to be in this situation and to see my hard work begin to pay dividends."

Before enrolling at Linfield, Kushiyama starred in basketball at Honolulu's University High School, where he earned first-team all-league honors as a junior and senior, and was honorable mention all-state in his final season. He topped the state in 3-point shooting as a senior and was the second-leading scorer in his league.

He also played volleyball and baseball in high school. One of his childhood friends is Brandon League, who now pitches for the Seattle Mariners.

As a 5-foot-8 senior point guard at Linfield, Kushiyama led the team in assists and steals, and set a single-game Wildcat record with seven steals against George Fox.

Kushiyama missed his sophomore season while studying abroad at Japan's Kyoto Gakuen University.

He also hit no fewer than three buzzer-beating shots during his senior season. He tossed one of those daggers into the hearts of Whitman fans in January of 2005 when his running bank shot from the top of the key lifted Linfield to a double-overtime victory in Sherwood Center.

Kushiyama is married to Lisa Brocard Kushiyama, who recently gave birth to the couple's first child, son Kai. She was an an all-conference volleyball player at Linfield, helping the Wildcats to NWC titles in her final two seasons. She also competed in the triple jump and long jump for the Linfield track team.

Lisa Kushiyama, who works in the banking field, hopes to serve as a part-time assistant volleyball coach at Whitman this fall. New head coach Matt Helm is in his first few months on the job.

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CONTACT: Dave Holden
Sports Information Director
Whitman College, Walla Walla, Wash.
509 527-5902; holden@whitman.edu

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