Kevin Wong ’90 and Scott Wong ’97

Olympian, all-American, coach, community advocate or sports executive. Whatever they go by, the alumni featured here have taken very different paths to fulfill their dreams.

Whether it was overcoming physical obstacles to pursue a love of competition or finding success first as players then leveraging that talent into successful careers or doing whatever it took to land a dream job, the things these alumni have in common are a passion for sports and the determination to succeed.

By Christine Thomas Greenwell

They live an ocean apart now – younger brother Scott ’97 in Malibu, head coaching Pepperdine University’s women’s volleyball; older brother Kevin ’90, anchored in Honolulu, running volleyball clinics when not traveling as a commentator. But even growing up together in Pearl City, where their parents laid a foundation of education and sports, and Punahou instilled expectations of excellence, a six-year age gap meant their paths to remarkable volleyball success developed very differently.

When Kevin entered Punahou in seventh grade, he was too overwhelmed to try out for basketball among hundreds of kids who all looked bigger and all knew each other. “I cut myself from the team,” he says, and then watched practice every afternoon from the mound (where Wo International Center is today), waiting for his father to pick him up. “It’s still a big regret,” says Kevin. “But I learned you have to take some swings, even if you miss.”

He made the team the next season, and only by accident did volleyball enter the picture. Coach Chris McLachlin ’64, Kevin’s dad’s Punahou classmate, pulled Kevin out of freshman book day into volleyball tryouts. Everyone else sported the right gear and Kevin wore Sperry topsiders and an Izod collared shirt. “I was a fish out of water,” says Kevin, who made the team and by junior year clinched the 13th spot on the 13-member varsity squad.

It wasn’t easy sitting at “the end of the bench,” never starting a game and generally being what Kevin calls a “late bloomer.” But he believed in his long-term potential, and though it took years of dedication and perseverance before paying off, volleyball began to distinctly shape Kevin’s life.

When Scott entered Punahou in ninth grade, volleyball’s presence had long been cemented in his family. Scott had played volleyball with friends for years, coached by their dads while also competing for Outrigger Canoe Club. He had watched Kevin walk on at University of California, Los Angeles to become a three-time All-American, win two NCAA championships and then launch an eventual 15-year professional beach volleyball career. Scott was excited rather than daunted by Kevin’s success. “I could see it and say, ‘Hey, I can do better than he did!’” says Scott. “It made it easier to envision the path.”

Ultimately, Scott was driven by a desire for mastery rather than sibling rivalry. “I loved it and it drove me to want more and more of winning and getting better,” he says. He earned steady success as a Punahou all-state player in volleyball and basketball, and then as a three-time All-American at volleyball powerhouse Pepperdine, where he holds the record for career digs.

Scott also played professional beach volleyball for seven years while earning a master’s in education at Loyola Marymount University. “I can’t sit still,” says Scott, who soon realized coaching, rather than teaching, best combined his interests. In 2005, he assisted Pepperdine’s Hall of Fame men’s coach Marv Dunphy for four seasons, and in 2010, he became the assistant to famed University of Hawai‘i wahine coach Dave Shoji.

Twenty years after Kevin left Punahou, he briefly crossed paths with Scott again back home. Kevin launched Spike and Serve volleyball clinics for Hawai‘i youths and adults, and transitioned from a 2000 Olympics spot into announcing for Pac-12 Network and NBC television broadcasts. (He also announces Punahou games.) Scott spearheaded the University of Hawai‘i women’s sand program and started a family. He intended to stay in Hawai‘i until Pepperdine called in 2014 and offered then 36-year-old Scott a head coaching position.

“My life couldn’t be planned for, but it was prepared for,” says Kevin, who still uses breathing and visualization strategies learned in former teacher and coach Mike Pavich’s sports mental preparation class. “Scott was the opposite – he was always ready to go.”

Both brothers say their parents’ support coupled with Punahou’s excellence and opportunities most shaped their expectations of themselves and their futures. “I had to set myself up for high-level performance,” says Scott, “in sports, in class and just as a person.”

And in turn, the brothers’ mutual, often surprising, successes have shaped the sport they love and learned at home. “Life always makes sense in reverse,” says Kevin.

Freelance writer and former Academy English teacher ChristineThomas Greenwell is married to Kevin Greenwell ’89 and mother of Finn ’29.

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