Rainbow Wahine basketball: Coach Laura Beeman a teacher at heart

Nov. 18—Now in her 11th season leading the Rainbow Wahine, Beeman enters UH's home opener with a 162-135 record in Hawaii, with five postseason appearances and two Big West regular-season and tournament championships.

Fundamentally, Laura Beeman is a teacher.

Sure, she's held the title of University of Hawaii women's basketball coach for over a decade in a career spanning some 30 years. But Beeman's approach in guiding the program remains rooted in two master's degrees in education.

"Everything I've ever done is about teaching. My approach to coaching is teaching, " Beeman said. "We're educators in not only basketball, but other areas of life that are hugely important to these kids."

Now in her 11th season leading the Rainbow Wahine, Beeman enters UH's home opener with a 162-135 record in Hawaii, with five postseason appearances and two Big West regular-season and tournament championships.

The Wahine paired the conference titles for the first time in program history last season. Beeman was named the Big West Coach of the Year and agreed to a two-year contract extension through the 2025-26 season.

But the payoff extends beyond records, accolades and net-draped trophies.

"Yes, we're here because we want to win, " Beeman acknowledged. "But for the players, you absolutely want to co-mingle the lessons that you learn on the basketball court that they can push into life and relationships, because that is the true success of your program."

To that end, Beeman has fostered a culture of service within the program grounded in fulfilling "a responsibility to pay it forward " that has fueled her journey in coaching.

Having graduated from Cal State San Bernardino with a business degree and the school's assist records, Beeman remembers "being in a position where I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life."

She was asked if she wanted to get her first master's degree while serving as a graduate assistant at University of the Redlands in 1992. That led to the head coaching job at Mt. San Antonio College, where she put together a record of 390-110 while winning 10 conference titles and four state California Community College state championships from 1994 to 2010.

But as she progressed through the profession—with stints as an assistant with the WNBA's Los Angeles Sparks and at USC—the rush of victory began to fade compared to the thrill of helping players navigate through a formative stage in life.

"Early on, it was more about winning, no doubt about it, because I was kind of young and immature and my ego was driving me, " she said. "But as I grew up I recognized I could really have an impact on kids' lives in a positive way."

Now in a position to provide direction, she has prioritized giving her players opportunities to influence the youth in the community.

The Rainbow Wahine took the lead in launching the state's first Youth Impact Program this summer, running a nine-day camp focused on "STEM-based academics, leadership skills and athletics " for 100 girls ages 10-14.

That UH established the YIP program amid the celebration of the 50th anniversary of the passage of Title IX was far from coincidental, according to Beeman.

Upon arriving in Hawaii, Beeman made it a point to educate herself on the pioneering work of Congresswoman Patsy Mink and Donnis Thompson, UH's first women's athletic director, in creating opportunities for women.

"Now coming into a season where we're picked No. 1 (in the Big West ) and a season where we're celebrating Title IX, you stop and say, 'Wow, if it wasn't for Patsy Mink, where would I be ?' " Beeman said.

After reflecting on the past in a celebratory offseason, Beeman opened the new season with an appreciation of the work that came before while leading the Rainbow Wahine toward a title defense and the lessons that will carry them through the next five months ... and beyond.

"I do call this home. I do know I'm a part of something much bigger than myself, " Beeman said.

"The moment I walked in here, there were people who were saying, 'We will help you, we will help guide you.' I have never felt anything but aloha from the community. ... Sure, there are things I continue to push for and want. I wouldn't change the aloha I have received and my family has received for anything. Because that's something that has kept me here for the last 11 years."