CRAIG T. KOJIMA / CKOJIMA@STARBULLETIN.COM
Defensive guru Greg McMackin coached the Warriors for just one season, but he left a lasting impression with the fans.
McMackin is now free to have fun again
GREG McMackin left on the highest of high notes. He was here for just one season, that 1999 miracle turnaround run. And then he was gone. And so he looms as the greatest defensive coach Hawaii has ever had, in our collective memory. That was the impression we were left with, and none who has come since could match it. Not even Jerry Glanville, who performed a minor miracle of his own (remember 69-3?).
Jerry Seinfeld: Showmanship, George. When you hit that high note, you say goodnight and walk off.
George Costanza: I can't just leave.
Jerry: That's the way they do it in Vegas.
George: You never played Vegas.
Jerry: I hear things.
We may not even know in how many ways Glanville reinvigorated this program -- and yet, now that he's gone, well, I mean, Glanville was good, but ...
McMackin rode off into the sunset like a cowboy at the end of the show after having cleaned up the town. Like Michael Jordan hitting the shot to win the title, then walking away. That's how we remember him. In UH lore, McMackin is that beloved.
But of course, Jordan came back.
So here comes the question -- here comes his own turn for a comparison against the McMackin legend. Can he live up to the ghost of himself?
He laughs his great laugh. "Now you've got me nervous," he says.
HE'D NEVER WANTED to leave. They bought a house! This was it! But when you win, well, these things come up.
"It was just financially, the situation -- June even told me I had to go," McMackin says. It was an offer he couldn't refuse. Highest-paid assistant in the country, he says. You know how they treat football in Texas, he says. A dream job kind of job.
So why, after four years, did he leave Texas Tech?
"Well, the pros pay a lot, too," he says.
He laughs again. He's embarrassed to admit that. But he needed to think about that, at the time, and now he's got money in the bank.
"Now I can do what I want and be with who I want," he says. "And I want to be with June, and my wife and I love Hawaii, so now we can do what we want to do. And that's what I wanted to do in the first place."
THAT'S THE THING, you see. This was a two-way street all along. All this time we've remembered McMackin as the greatest defensive coach ever, because of that one shining season. And all this time he'd been thinking the same thing about us. Every place that he went to, every job that he took just paled in comparison to Hawaii in 1999.
"My year in Hawaii, I've told June and everybody, was the most magical year of my career," he says. "And it was the greatest coaching feeling that I've ever had."
You can only hope the return matches the legend, for the fans, and for the man who is happy to be home.