San Jose State coach Dick Tomey, right, gave Hawaii coach June Jones his first job as an assistant -- coaching the UH quarterbacks in 1983. CLICK FOR LARGE
Tomey's Hawaii ties
Dick Tomey brings his Spartan approach to face his friend's wide-open style
SAN JOSE STATE fell on the final play to Boise State last Saturday, "a gut-wrenching loss" in the words of Spartans coach Dick Tomey. Also, it was strangely reminiscent for Hawaii football fans whose memory banks include Members Only jackets, "Let's Go Fishing," and -- especially -- Tomey's favorite trick play, the muddle huddle.
In his nine seasons at UH from 1977 through 1986, Tomey's Rainbows won 17 times more than they lost, and Tomey remains the winningest head coach in University of Hawaii history with 63.
On Saturday, he leads the resurgent Spartans (6-3, 3-2 WAC) into Aloha Stadium against the team now called the Warriors.
COURTESY OF ARIZONA
Dick Tomey, above, whose San Jose State team plays Hawaii at Aloha Stadium on Saturday, was previously the head coach at UH, top, and Arizona, center.
UH (8-2, 6-1) will try to break the single-season mark of seven consecutive wins set and matched by Tomey's 1981 and 1984 squads. And June Jones -- who now has 61 victories on the Hawaii sideline -- will try to close in on his former boss' personal school record.
Tomey's tenure was an exciting time for Hawaii football, but it was also bittersweet.
"We were clearly the second-best team in the conference," he said in a phone interview yesterday, recalling the frustrating losses to BYU and the consistent winning against the rest of the WAC.
Tomey built his teams around stout defense and special teams and (usually) conservative offense. This led to many close games. Of the 46 losses, seven were by three points or less and 18 by seven or less. UH also tied three times with Tomey as coach (Arizona had four ties in his 14 years there).
He also had a reputation for getting the
most effort possible out of players.
"He's a very good coach when it comes to dealing with people," said UH assistant coach George Lumpkin, who was also on Tomey's staff. "He understands people and how to motivate them, encourage them."
They were usually good, solid teams, but they never quite got over the hump to win a WAC championship. The theme played out again at Arizona, as the Wildcats never did get to the Rose Bowl under Tomey.
At least they played in some bowls.
Although seven of his 10 Hawaii teams finished with more wins than losses, UH never got to a bowl game under Tomey. And this was despite the fact that the Aloha Bowl was established in 1982.
"It wasn't the same system then. We would've gone to about five bowls if the system was like it is now," Tomey said. "The Aloha Bowl was not set up (like the Hawaii Bowl) at all. A lot of our teams were good enough. But they took the teams with the biggest reputations. It was very frustrating. Even if we had the better team, we couldn't get in. There was a real bias against Hawaii."
Tomey left Hawaii for Arizona and finished there after the 2000 season as the winningest coach in that school's history, too. After two years in the KFVE broadcast booth, Tomey was an assistant with the 49ers and then Texas. He took over the floundering San Jose State program last year. After a bumpy 3-8 season, Tomey, now 68, has the Spartans headed in the right direction.
SB FILE / 2001
TOMEY'S TRACK RECORD
Dick Tomey is the winningest football coach at both Hawaii and Arizona
||San Jose State
"It's incredible how far we've come in a year and a half," he said. "The crowd was unbelievable the other day, and we went toe-to-toe with the perennial champs. But we've still got a long way to go."
Tomey said he's had to adjust his coaching somewhat in the 30 years since he became UH head coach.
"(College football) has changed in that the offenses are more spread out, people are capable of scoring more points. Offenses are more explosive because the quarterbacks and receivers are better. There's more variety on offense and defense," Tomey said. "But what wins games hasn't changed. Turnovers, the kicking game, stepping up in critical situations and the fourth quarter. That hasn't changed a bit."
That's something he and his longtime friend, Jones, agree on. Their methods of succeeding in those areas? It's like comparing apples and oranges, to quote Tomey's line in a local insurance commercial from the 1980s.
"He probably doesn't learn anything from me, but I learn from him," Tomey said. "I'm not a real X's and O's guy. I'm more into the people end. June's as good a tactical coach with X's and O's as there is. I just know I'm not in June's league (in tactics)."
Jones is especially concerned about Tomey in one area.
"Am I worried about a trick play? No," Jones answered. "I'm worried that he'll come in here with four or five of 'em."
Jones' wide-open passing game leads the nation in points and yards. Tomey's reputation is that he prefers to control the ball by running it and play a field-position game. But he said yesterday that is somewhat of a myth, and the numbers at San Jose State this season back up his assertion.
The Spartans average 197.9 yards per game on the ground, but also 183.0 by air.
"We're not very conservative this year. We've thrown for 300 yards, we've rushed for 300 yards. We try to be balanced," Tomey said. "Maybe at Hawaii we ran more. At Arizona we tried to be balanced. You're trying to win. It doesn't matter how. You play to the strength of your team. We had some superb defensive teams at Hawaii."
SB FILE / 2001
Dick Tomey worked with Jim Leahey in 2001 and 2002.
THE TOMEY FILE
Tomey, a graduate of DePauw University, was born June 20, 1938 in Bloomington, Ind. He was an assistant coach at Miami (Ohio), Northern Illinois, Davidson, Kansas and UCLA before becoming UH head coach. He also served as an assistant coach for the San Francisco 49ers in 2003 and at the University of Texas in 2004. In 2001 and 2002 he was color analyst for KFVE telecasts of Hawaii games.
Tomey and Jones met in the late 1970s, when Jones was still a player in the NFL. Fellow Falcons' quarterback Steve Bartkowski and Jones would come to Hawaii to visit Jones' friend Artie Wilson.
"He'd come work out and play golf. He's kicked my butt so many times, it all runs together," Tomey said.
Tomey hired Jones as Hawaii quarterbacks coach in 1983.
"When I was done playing he gave me my first college job and I'm certainly thankful for that," Jones said. "He and I have become good friends and he moved back to Hawaii when he wasn't coaching and I got to spend a lot more time with him and (Tomey's wife) Nancy. I'm sure he's looking forward to coming home."
This is Tomey's second Hawaii homecoming at Aloha Stadium. His Arizona team beat UH 27-6 for Hawaii's first loss in its 0-12 season of 1998. In a sense, he helped Jones -- who took over at Manoa in 1999 -- get a job at Hawaii a second time.
"That was the real emotional one," Tomey said of the 1998 game. "There was a gathering of 50 players with coach (Duane) Akina and several of the rest of us (including Bob Wagner, also a former UH head coach).
"This is more business as usual."
Maybe to some degree. But Hawaii fans who remember Dick Tomey will never get completely used to him on the opposite sideline.