When Nick Rolovich left the University of Hawaii to become Washington State’s next football coach on Jan. 12, 2020, UH athletics director David Matlin met with the team shortly after and wanted the team’s input in selecting the program’s next leader.
As former defensive lineman Derek Thomas recalled during a state senate hearing last Friday, there “were a few requests, but the two main ones were we would like to have someone with ties to Hawaii, and we would like a coach who’s a personable person, someone you can talk to and get along with. David Matlin went and hired the complete opposite of what we asked him.”
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Thomas was alluding to, of course, former Hawaii coach Todd Graham, who resigned on Friday after going 11-11 in his two seasons at the helm. Nearly two years to the date following Rolovich’s departure, the Rainbow Warriors are back on square one. Linebackers coach Jacob Yoro is the interim coach for the time being.
With a depleted roster due to a mass exodus of transfers following the 2021 season, a makeshift stadium and a general lack of funding, the UH football team is in SOS mode and has problems that extended beyond Graham’s control.
Signing day on Feb. 2 is quickly approaching, and it would behoove UH to be precise and accurate with who it chooses to lead the program leading moving forward. Who would be up for the task while meeting the criteria Thomas laid out?
Below are a list of potential candidates for the UH head football coach vacancy. Although Rolovich is currently unemployed, his defiance towards receiving a COVID-19 vaccine does not make him a legitimate candidate. The same applies for former quarterbacks coach and passing coordinator Craig Stutzmann, who was hired by Dixie State on Friday.
Candidates are listed in alphabetical order of last name:
Robert Anae, Syracuse offensive coordinator
Anae, a Kahuku alum and former Hawaii graduate assistant, came close to landing the job in 2020, even flying to the islands to interview for the job in person back when he was Virginia’s offensive coordinator.
Keith Bhonapha, Boise State associate head coach
Bhonapha is a former Hawaii running back and also began his college coaching career at UH. He has steadily climbed the ranks, coaching running backs at Boise State and Washington before returning to Boise following the 2021 season.
Timmy Chang, Colorado State receivers coach
Chang was a record-breaking quarterback for UH in the early 2000s, signing with the Warriors over multiple offers from what was then known as the Pac-10 Conference. Since then, he’s accumulated a decade of college coaching experience, following Jay Norvell from Nevada to Colorado State last December.
Chad Kauha’aha’a, Ikaika Malloe and Brian Norwood, UCLA assistants
Kauha’aha’a, a Baldwin alum, is currently the defensive line coach at UCLA. Malloe, a Kamehameha alum and former UH assistant in 2008, is currently the outside linebackers coach for the Bruins. Both Kauha’aha’a and Malloe are known within college football circles as ace recruiters, especially when it comes to relating to players of Polynesian descent.
Norwood was a member of the storied 1981 Radford team that won the Hawaii state title following the sudden death of head coach John Velasco. Norwood’s robust coaching resume includes stops at Arizona, Navy, Texas Tech, Penn State, Baylor, Tulsa, Kansas State, and UCLA, where he’s currently the associate head coach, passing game coordinator and defensive backs coach.
Brian Smith, former Hawaii and Washington State offensive coordinator
Smith, who was also considered during the 2020 search, was an integral part of the Rolovich era as an assistant coach and played for UH from 1998 to 2001. After WSU decided to go in a different direction offensively following the 2021 season, Smith was a finalist for the Idaho State head coaching job but didn’t land the position. Idaho State’s decision could very well be UH’s gain, and soon.
Tony Tuioti, Oregon defensive line coach
Tuioti, who graduated from Hawaii in 2000, has vast experience as an assistant at UH, Nebraska, Cal, Michigan, and with the NFL’s Cleveland Browns.
Former Hawaii coach June Jones and former UH assistant Rich Miano
In Hawaii’s last three coaching searches in 2015, 2020 and already in 2022, Jones and Miano have always emerged as the crowd favorites. In 2022, the interest level for both in terms of applying for the job are currently unknown.
A wild card candidate is San Jose State head coach Brent Brennan, the cousin of the late Colt Brennan. Brent Brennan is known to have an affinity for Hawaii. As evidenced by the school’s baseball coaching search last summer, UH is not afraid to pluck a current head coach, as was the case with Rich Hill.