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New OCC AD faces tests

Tamanaha, a former basketball assistant and counseling supervisor, takes over in school's 'difficult time.'

September 22, 2010|By Barry Faulkner, barry.faulkner@latimes.com
(Scott Smeltzer…)

Steve Tamanaha spends hours most every Sunday paddling through ocean currents on an outrigger canoe. Just entering his third month as the latest Orange Coast College athletic director, he may be drifting into even more challenging seas.

"It's a very difficult time for athletics," said Tamanaha, who began July 16 as the replacement for Barbara Bond, who retired at the end of the 2009-10 school year.

State budget cuts and a continuing recession have already pared programs at the community college level. A 40% cut in counseling programs at OCC last spring, in fact, helped lead Tamanaha, a director of several counseling programs at the school since 2006, to his newest assignment.

In many ways, Tamanaha, a former high school athlete who has coached basketball at OCC, Golden West, Saddleback and Grossmont community colleges, is right where he wants to be.

"Because of the restructuring, there were several assignments that were offered to me," Tamanaha said. "But this is the one I wanted. I jumped at the chance and I was excited to do it."

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Tamanaha, 57, said OCC has held a place in his heart since he earned his associate arts degree there in the early 1970s. A former football and tennis player at Bolsa Grande High, he did not compete in athletics as a collegian. But he has always believed that the athletic culture is developmentally beneficial.

"I've always been involved in athletics and always enjoyed it," Tamanaha, an Irvine resident who was born in Hawaii, said. "It's a great opportunity to work with coaches, who are the hardest working people around with the hours they spend on their programs. And, I get to be around and work with young people who are very motivated, not only to win games, but also to compete and improve themselves both physically and mentally."

Tamanaha said his primary role is to support his coaches, but he believes his counseling background may also help him create greater awareness among the student-athletes about the resources available to help them succeed beyond the competitive arena.

Tamanaha met with every fall sports team and spoke about many issues, such as eligibility and decorum. He also stressed the availability of tutoring, financial aid and other support systems. He encouraged athletes to ask their coaches about getting help, or even stop by his office, located between the gym and the locker rooms.

"The No. 1 part of my decision making process is 'How will this affect the student-athlete?' " Tamanaha said.

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