‘You’re talking about potential greatness’: A closer look at the 2010-11 Hawai’i football coaching staff

Sports

Nick Rolovich (center) on the UH Assistant Coaching Staff in 2010

For the University of Hawaii football program, the new decade is off to an uncertain start.

On Jan. 13, the school announced head coach Nick Rolovich’s departure to Washington State. Athletics director David Matlin posted the job shortly after, which is required to be up for at least five business days.

As UH looks to finalize its coaching search within the next few days, the search itself stems from Rolovich’s steady ascension through the coaching ranks. Rolovich was on the UH coaching staff in 2010, his first full season as an offensive coordinator. The defensive coordinator on that staff? Dave Aranda, who was named the head coach at Baylor on Thursday, the same day Rolovich was formally introduced at Wazzu.

Rolovich and Aranda are just two among the handful of notable names on the 2010 team, which was led by Greg McMackin.

On the field, the 2010 Warriors team went 10-4 overall 7-1 in WAC play, splitting the conference title with Boise State and Nevada. Names such as defensive ends/assistant head coach Cal Lee, associate head coach Rich Miano, receivers coach Mouse Davis, linebackers coach Tony Tuioti and running backs coach Brian Smith were also on the staff. In retrospect, it was embarrassment of riches to have so many prominent football minds and personalities in the same war room.

Ten years later, Miano acknowledged how special it was to be a part of the staff.

“It was impressive. I mean, Cal Lee was there as well and he’s the greatest coach in Hawaii high school history,” Miano said. “So when you look at Rolovich now at Washington State and Dave Aranda, Mouse Davis, it was just an incredible staff to be around.”

Rolovich was one of the last pieces of the 2010 staff to still be with the university in 2019 before he left for Wazzu. Once Smith joining his initial WSU staff becomes official, there will be nobody left from the 2010 staff still in Manoa for now.

McMackin, Miano, Lee, Rolovich, Aranda, Davis, Tuioti and Smith were also on the 2011 staff when the team went 6-7, leading to McMackin’s forced resignation. When Norm Chow was hired to take over the program, only Tuioti was retained for the 2012 season. But as time would tell, the above names established themselves even further in coaching circles.

  • Rolovich became Nevada’s offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach from 2012 to 2015. He then became the head coach at UH after Chow’s firing in 2015, going 28-27 in his four-year tenure. Ultimately, leading Rainbow Warriors to a 10-5 season in 2019 restored hope among the UH faithful. A thrilling 38-34 Hawaii Bowl victory over BYU catapulted his career head coaching record above .500 and was likely another factor in him landing the WSU job. His $3 million salary for the next five years at WSU is a 500 percent raise from what he made as UH’s head coach. In 2019, his base pay was approximately $600,000.
  • Aranda was Utah State’s defensive coordinator in 2012, then took the same position at Wisconsin from 2013 to 2015. He was the defensive coordinator at LSU from 2016 to 2019, where he won a national championship with the Tigers in his final season. Before the 2018 season, he signed a contract that made him the highest-paid assistant coach in college football, earning $2.5 million annually. Baylor is a private university and it has not yet disclosed what his salary as head coach will be.
  • Miano was the head coach at Kaiser from 2012 to 2013, leading the Cougars to an HHSAA Division II state title in 2013. He remains ubiquitous locally, serving as the Polynesian Bowl’s director of football operations. He’s also a UH football analyst for Spectrum Sports, among other local football endeavors such as GPA and Hawaii Speed and Quickness.
  • Lee reignited the Saint Louis dynasty when he took back over the school he built into a power in 2014. The Crusaders have won four straight HHSAA state titles dating back to 2016. Lee remains the winningest head coach in Hawaii high school history with a career mark of 296-41-5.
  • Davis has not coached since his UH days, but he is still known to this day as the ‘father of the run and shoot offense,’ the same scheme Rolovich said he would bring to Pullman in his introductory press conference.
  • Tuioti left UH in 2013 to become an assistant with the Cleveland Browns from 2014 to 2015, where he was the Browns’ assistant defensive line and quality control coach. In 2016, he served as Michigan’s director of player personnel. He spent the 2017 and 2018 seasons at Cal, where he was the outside linebackers coach in 2017 and defensive line coach on 2018. Since the 2019 season, he’s been the defensive line coach at Nebraska. He was also known for his recruiting prowess at each of his collegiate stops.  
  • Smith coached the offensive line at California Lutheran in 2012 and was Occidental College’s offensive coordinator from 2013 to 2015. He was part of Rolovich’s staff from 2016 to 2019 as offensive coordinator and is expected to join him in Pullman.

Miano saw greatness in Aranda and Rolovich back in 2010. He didn’t know it at the time, but a decade later, it’s no surprise to him that both became Power 5 head coaches.

“You knew that Dave Aranda, he spent more time at his craft. The amount of studying he does in terms of the X’s and O’s and calling other coaches and watching film. He was a genius and I don’t use that word loosely,” Miano said. “But he actually spent the time, became one of the best defensive coordinators in the country at that time, we were so fortunate.

“And then you have Rolovich who was an offensive mind and so those coordinators, you could tell they would eventually be head coaches and head coaches in Power 5 conferences because they were that talented.”

As for what the future holds for his past cohorts, Miano sees sustained success. Both are among the younger head coaches in college football. Rolovich is 40 years old, while Aranda is 43.

“When you look back and you look ahead and see what these guys’ future is, Nick Rolovich is a very young head coach, Dave Aranda’s still relatively young, so you start talking about those guys and what their professions would be like in terms of their careers,” Miano said. “You’re talking about potential greatness.”

As Matlin and the rest of the powers that be choose who leads the program into 2020 and beyond, one can assume the hope is to choose someone who doesn’t make the school dwell on who and what it once had.

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