Former Toro Coach Joins List of Legendscsudhbulletin December 7, 2020 0 COMMENTS
In 2010, CSUDH honored head coach Dave Yanai by renaming the school’s gym “Dave Yanai Court.” Provided from CSUDH Sports Athletics Archives.
By Jonathan Ghattas, Staff Reporter
When building a successful sports program, finding stability and leadership at the head coach position is almost always the first step needed for a successful program to thrive.
For California State University Dominguez Hills, this stability was created 40 years ago when then school’s president Donald Gerth took a chance on a high school coach to lead the men’s basketball team.
In 1977, Dave Yanai was hired to lead the charge for the Toros men’s basketball program as he became the first ever Japanese-American basketball head coach at the collegiate level.
As head coach of the program from 1977 through his final season in 1996, Yanai guided CSUDH to their first California Collegiate Athletic Association postseason berth the same year the team joined the CCAA as a Division II team back in 1980.
Little did Yanai know that after 19 seasons with the university and piling up a CSUDH basketball record 288 career wins, along with two CCAA regular season titles, he would have one final piece of hardware to add to his lustrous collection.
In a virtual ceremony that included coaches from multiple division one men’s basketball programs in Southern California, Yanai was named the 2021 recipient of the John R. Wooden Legends of Coaching Award.
Being the first ever Division II coach to receive the John R. Wooden Legends of Coaching Award, coach Yanai joins a long list of coaching legends that have been awarded this prestigious accolade.
“There would have to be a long list of people I’d have to thank for this long journey,” Yanai said. “But my best assistant coach during all those years was my wife.”
Having been married over 54 years, Yanai understood the importance of not only teaching basketball to his players but also teaching them how to become better men.
“Teaching basketball was pure joy for me, but more importantly teaching them to be better human beings during my time there was the most important,” Yanai said.
This attitude of teaching and sharing knowledge is one that the great John Wooden passed onto Yanai.
Being kind to others and helping them through the coaching profession was simply second nature for the head coach.
“Every year was a successful life journey with those young men,” Yanai said.
For the head coach the opportunity to lead CSUDH for all those years helped cement a bond with himself and the community that will last a lifetime.
As for the future of the men’s basketball program at CSUDH, Yanai believes the team is in good hands with current head coach Steve Becker.
“The coach there now is a wonderful coach and the program is in great hands for years to come,” Yanai said.
Becker has been the Toros’ head coach since 2014 and has steadily improved the program since his takeover. Having reached the CCAA tournament for the last four straight years, the team will have to look to next season as this year’s campaign has been postponed due to the pandemic.
On the women’s side of the ball, the program has also provided the stability needed at the head coach position with current coach John Bonner entering a fifth season with the team.
With two CCAA tournament appearances in his first four seasons with the team, Bonner can only hope to match the nine tournament appearances that took place under head coach Van Girard.
Van Girard coached the women’s program from 1988 through 2012 and racked up 302 wins, including two of the four women’s basketball CCAA Championship titles.
But for coach Bonner, a focus on recruiting during this past off-season which included seven under-classmen will be the true measure of success for the program for the years to come.
As both basketball programs look to continue the success of their past teams, each one must wait to take the court again as the doors to the Torodome will remain closed until next season.
Coach Yanain spent over 19 seasons as the head coach of the CSUDH’s men’s program. Photo by CSUDH Sports Athletics Archives.
Past John R. Wooden Award Winners
If there was a Mount Rushmore of college basketball coaches, there would only be one face etched on that mountain: John Wooden’s.
The Wizard of Westwood coached the UCLA men’s basketball team to 10 NCAA championships in 12 seasons from 1963-1975, and is quite possibly one of the most revered coaches in sports history.
Adopted in 1999 by the John R. Wooden Committee, the John R. Wooden Legends of Coaching Award was created to recognize those who exemplify coach Wooden’s high standards of coaching success and personal achievement.
When considering a candidate, the committee not only looks at a coach’s success on the court, but as well as the coach’s character, graduating rate of the student-athletes under their watch, and coaching philosophy.
All of these characteristics can be found in former CSUDH head coach Dave Yanai.
As the first division II coach to receive this honor, Yanai joins a long list of Hall of Fame head coaches and quietly finds himself alongside some of the best to ever coach the game.
With a handful of awards already, being recognized in the same breath as one of his mentors is a fitting end to an illustrious career.
2020 – C. Vivian Stringer, Rutgers University
2019 – Lon Kruger, University of Oklahoma
2018 – Jay Wright, Villanova University
2017 – Muffet McGraw, University of Notre Dame
2016 – Tubby Smith, Texas Tech University
2015 – Steve Fisher, San Diego State University
2014 – Tara Vanderveer, Stanford University
2013 – Bill Self, University of Kansas
2012 – Geno Auriemma, University of Connecticut
2011 – Tom Izzo, Michigan State University
2010 – Billy Donovan, University of Florida
2009 – Rick Barnes, University of Texas
2008 – Pat Summitt, University of Tennessee
2007 – Gene Keady, Purdue University
2006 – Jim Boeheim, Syracuse University
2005 – Jim Calhoun, University of Connecticut
2004 – Mike Montgomery, Stanford University
2003 – Roy Williams, University of Kansas
2002 – Denny Crum, University of Louisville
2001 – Lute Olson, University of Arizona
2000 – Mike Kryzyzewski, Duke University
1999 – Dean Smith, University of North Carolina