By BILL O’REAR
Tribune-Herald sports editor
Hilo High School has named Charles “Chuck” Vallero as its varsity boys basketball head coach.
Vallero, a highly regarded San Diego prep coach for more than 20 years, recently moved to the Big Island and was selected for the Vikings’ job over five other candidates. He takes over the program from Jason Mandaquit, who coached the team for three seasons.
“When I decided to open the position and accept applicants, I was hoping to attract someone with proven basketball expertise and high school head coaching experience,” said Hilo High athletic director Sondra Lundvick, who chaired the selection committee that interviewed the candidates.
“After going through the interview process, our five-person hiring committee was unanimously impressed with Coach Vallero. He is a veteran coach that is going to benefit our students, our program and our community. We are excited that Coach Vallero is going to join and continue the rich Viking basketball tradition at Hilo High School.”
Vallero, 63, has an extensive coaching background in basketball, baseball and golf, having been a teacher and coach at Hilltop High School in Chula Vista, Calif. He graduated from San Diego State University in 1979, majoring in physical education with a minor in mathematics/business. In 1991, he received his masters in education from Azusa Pacific University.
“I’m really excited about the Hilo High basketball job,” Vallero said. “Hilo High has a lot of potential and I’m looking forward to working with the kids and the community.”
Vallero’s Hilltop teams were perennial league contenders and captured four straight championships during an impressive title run when the team won 43 consecutive league games.
“We didn’t always have a lot of size, but we would run and press to beat the big guys up and down the court,” Vallero said. “I’ll have to evaluate the talent we have coming back at Hilo High, but I want to run and press — it’s exciting for the kids to play, it’s exciting for the fans to watch, and it’s exciting to coach.”
Over the years, his Hilltop teams traveled to various locations to play in preseason tournaments, including Hawaii, Alaska and even China. Hilltop played in the Hilo High Holiday Prep Classic four times and “always finished with at least a 2-1 record.” The San Diego school also played in preseason tournaments on Maui and Oahu.
“Traveling is a great experience for the kids,” he said. “If we can work it out, I would like to take Hilo High to a big tournament in San Diego in late December. There are a lot of good teams there and a lot of college scouts. It would be good to see the Hilo High kids get that kind of exposure.”
Vallero was born in Honolulu and still has relatives around the state, including two brothers on Oahu.
“My grandfather was born and raised on the Big Island,” he said. “I was born in Honolulu. My mom is full Hawaiian and met my dad at Pearl Harbor. We lived there for about a year and then my dad was transferred to Arizona. I grew up in Arizona and played football, basketball and baseball in high school.”
Vallero retired from teaching and coaching at Hilltop last year and moved to the Big Island in November. He and his wife have a home in Honomu.
Vallero began his coaching career in 1978 as a junior varsity baseball coach at San Diego State, then moved on to become the JV baseball coach at Mission Bay High School (1980-81) and Mar Vista High School (1986-90). He started coaching basketball in 1990 at Mar Vista and spent two years as the varsity basketball coach.
He took over the Hilltop varsity basketball program in 1992 and coached that sport through the 2011 season. He was also the school’s varsity golf coach from 2009-11.
“In our basketball program, we’ll work hard to develop the players,” Vallero said. “We believe in teaching fundamentals, getting everyone to play hard, and to play as team.”
Vallero is putting his staff together and will meet with the returning Viking players this week to discuss plans for the offseason and heading into next year.
Vallero and his wife, Yvonne, have two sons, David, 26, and Eric, 24. Both sons played basketball for their father at Hilltop.