The answer to UH’s coach search may already be on campus
The best person to be interim head coach for the University of Hawaii is Greg McMackin.
In fact, if you want to skip that interim part, that might be best for all concerned. This is a man who has coached college football far and wide, been a part of championship programs, has the backing of his fellow assistants and brings a wealth of stability to a program desperately in need of it.
His résumé is a strong reminder of what he has accomplished, not only in college, but in the NFL as well. It was his defensive schemes and mind-set that garnered instant respect from the players, the most important -- if forgotten -- part of this equation.
Jones has already extended an offer to McMackin to join him at SMU, but the crusty old coordinator has said often the last six months that he's glad to be back in Hawaii and would stay here as long as Jones or the good folks of the islands wanted him.
The two most successful seasons Hawaii had under Jones' watch occurred when McMackin was the defensive coordinator. He was part of the miracle turnaround of 1999 and a key component in Hawaii going from the 90s in total defense last year to the 30s this season.
That kind of mathematical turnaround was mentioned by the Georgia coaching staff during the Sugar Bowl press conferences on more than one occasion. Even the offensive players for the Bulldogs noted the improvement Hawaii made with a different coach, scheme and attitude. The "believe" part of the winning formula Hawaii devised this dream season was strongly adhered to by McMackin and the defense.
As good as the offense was under the guidance of Jones and Colt Brennan, McMackin and Michael Lafaele answered the bell defensively when the game was on the line, too. Often, it was the defense getting the ball back to the offense in a timely fashion that resulted in those comeback wins.
There has been some talk of having Dick Tomey come back and save the day, but Hawaii doesn't need to look to its past to get back to the future. This idea of old Hawaii helping new Hawaii is just not a good one on so many levels. First and foremost, you're asking a man to ditch a program that gave him a chance to coach again. You would have to be unprincipled to make such a move, something Tomey is not.
If McMackin can hold down the fort during recruiting, make sure an offensive philosophy similar to Jones' stays in place with the assistants remaining behind, you have a smooth transition that could be a short-term solution on one level and a long-term possibility if things go well at that level.
Remember, this is the players' team first and foremost. Without the players, there is no team capable of handling next year's schedule. If there's a mass exodus because an entirely new coaching staff is brought in, you run the risk of having what happened when Fred vonAppen came aboard to run the show. Chaos.
McMackin is well-versed in the ways of Hawaii. He has players willing to run through a wall for him. There are plenty of good guys left, no matter how many turn pro, and the quieting effect it would have over the next few weeks of recruiting would be refreshing. Don't wait. Don't get in a committee and have five different people say five different things when the answer is right down the hall.
Sports Editor Paul Arnett
has been covering sports for the Star-Bulletin since 1990. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org