UCLA APA board members are joined by honorees Dr. Keith Terasaki and UCLA men’s basketball coach Mick Cronin.

By GWEN MURANAKA, Rafu Senior Editor

“When you sit in John Wooden’s chair it’s about doing it the way he would have done it,” said Mick Cronin, head coach of the UCLA men’s basketball team at the UCLA Asian Pacific American gala on Oct. 19.

Cronin and Keith Terasaki were honored at the dinner, held at the Luskin Center, as the organization celebrated its 35th anniversary.

Cronin received the APA UCLA Award for Excellence. During his three seasons coaching the Bruins, Cronin has led the team to a 68-30 overall record and the team’s first appearance in the Final Four since 2008. UCLA is currently ranked in the Top 10, but the coach emphasized that it was about more than wins and losses at UCLA.

“It’s the person first, way before the player. The team first way before the individual. In my job I literally feel like I’m defending (Wooden’s) legacy on a daily basis by teaching accountability and character over win-at-all-costs,” Cronin said.

Judge Ernie Hiroshige, Mick Cronin and Harvey Kitani.

Cronin acknowledged his friend, Harvey Kitani, famed high school basketball coach, currently at the helm of Rolling Hills Preparatory. The two became friends in the late ’90s when Kitani was coaching at Fairfax High and Cronin was a young assistant coach at University of Cinncinati recruiting for the team.

During his 35 years at Fairfax, Kitani led the Lions to three Los Angeles City Section Division I titles, four overall city championships and state crowns in 2004 and 2007. In January, Kitani notched his 900th career win with Rolling Hills and the team has moved up from Division 5AA to Division 1.

“Harvey is a special man. People don’t realize how long Harvey has been coaching,” Cronin said, speaking to The Rafu. “He’s the dean of Los Angeles high coaches, period. Nobody has had more of an impact on the Los Angeles high basketball scene than Harvey and the thing about him is he doesn’t make it about him.”

Scholarship recipients (from left) Francine Winata, Gerrlyn Gacao and Dome Lupac.

Kitani, in his seventh year at Rolling Hills, was clearly proud of his friend and the kids he has coached throughout his career.

“Our best kid from last year went to Stanford and maybe one day there will be one good enough to come here,” Kitani said.

“Mick’s a real good person. I’m happy for him I’m really happy for his success. And you know, he’s who he is. He is himself.”

Many of the attendees stood in line to take photos with Cronin, who has reinvigorated UCLA basketball. He joked that his late mother would be laughing to know that so many wanted his photo. Speaking to The Rafu, the coach said he’s a big fan of sushi, citing Asanebo in Studio City and Okumura Restaurant in Encino as among his favorites.

Coach Cronin chats with Terasaki Budokan Director Ryan Lee (left) and Scott Ito, Little Tokyo Service Center project director.

“Being here tonight at the APA gala reminds you of how many great people there are at UCLA, from Keith to the judge and all the alumni. It’s great to be past COVID, because events like these and community people being connected are what makes society a better place,” he said.

Proceeds from the UCLA APA Gala raise money for scholarships. Gerrlyn Gacao, Dome Lupac and Ngoc Nguyen were acknowledged for their excellence in community service. Francine Winata received the Sho Iino Accounting Scholarship.

Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Ernie Hiroshige, founding president of APA Alumni, was given a special award. He explained to the gathering that the origin of the APA UCLA Alumni was the late Don Nakanishi’s fight for tenure.

Grabbing a quick selfie with Coach during the gala are Steve Yokomizo (obscured) and his wife, Candice.

“Thank you to the APA UCLA Board for so generously giving me this wonderful and totally unexpected honor. It was my pleasure to participate in growth of APA UCLA over the years and to serve UCLA and APAUCLA,” Hiroshige said.

In 1987, Hiroshige, Dr. Tritia Toyota and John Kobara, then the CEO of the UCLA Alumni Association, realized that the association suffered from an inability to attract or include alumni from diverse backgrounds. During that time the Black Alumni Association, Latino Alumni Association and the APA Alumni Association were formed.

Keith Terasaki and Kenney Mah

Terasaki was honored as the 2022 APA Alumnus of the Year. Through his work as a radiologist and as a philanthropist, he has supported UCLA and the greater society, including Little Tokyo and the Japanese American community.

He acknowledged the opportunities UCLA gave his father, the late Paul Terasaki, noting that Jackie Robinson was admitted to the university at around the same time. Paul Terasaki was a leader in the field of organ transplantation.

“My father said none of this work would have been possible without UCLA giving him a start when he really needed it and eventually hiring him,” Keith Terasaki said.

“When my father retired, he donated to the Life Sciences, and established faculty chairs in the school of medicine, so receiving this award means a lot to me and my family. Another reason I am proud to receive this award is that, as you can see from the audience here, there are many Asian UCLA alumni. Approximately one third of all UCLA graduates are Asian, which is something to be proud of.

Judge Ernie Hiroshige is honored by Sharlene Lee and Sherwin Goo.

“We’re not some fractional minority but a vital part of the university. Collectively we should step up and help contribute to society and become leaders in the city.”

To that end he explained the ongoing work of the Terasaki Research Institute, which employs 50 researchers, including advances in tests for cancer and developing cultured meat, or growing meat in the lab.

“Trying to scale our operation now. If we are able to grow a lot of this cultured meat and get people around the world to eat it instead of regular meat, that will help our environment, as there will be less need for agriculture land, less water use, less methane production, less pesticide use and less slaughtering of cows,” Terasaki said. “In addition, it will be more healthy, less grease and fat.”

Coach Cronin with his team in a timeout during an exhibition game at Pauley Pavilion on Nov. 2. He has led the Bruins since 2019, including a Final Four appearance in 2021. (Associated Press)

Photos by GWEN MURANAKA/Rafu Shimpo (except where noted)

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