CRAIG T. KOJIMA / CKOJIMA@STARBULLETIN.COM
Rich Miano, Cal Lee and George Lumpkin are among the coaches staying as Greg McMackin takes over the UH program.
With jobs secured, Warriors staff focuses on recruiting
With the Hawaii football program's future in question, Rich Miano struggled to come up with answers for recruits still deciding whether the Warriors might fit into their college plans.
"It's been tough the last week or two saying, 'We think this guy's going to be the head coach,' or 'We think we're going to be here,' " the nine-year UH assistant said. "There's some uncertainty out there and that's being used against us."
After yesterday's announcement of Greg McMackin's hiring as head coach, Miano and the rest of the staff can approach those prospects with greater conviction.
"Now is the time to really get out there and say, 'Hey we have a head coach, here's the direction we're going in,' " Miano said.
"We can turn that around and we need to start getting on the phones ASAP."
The push for an expedient resolution to the search for June Jones' successor was spurred largely by the fast-approaching signing period that begins Feb. 6.
With the contact period starting this week and player visits coming up, McMackin and the staff don't have much time to bask in the warm feelings of yesterday's news conference.
The Warriors must replace seven starters on offense and three-fourths of the starting secondary. While returnees will make their bids to step into those roles, the coaches will also be looking to this year's recruiting class to bolster several positions.
McMackin said he's targeted running back, receiver and cornerback as areas to address immediately while also looking at the program's needs beyond the upcoming season.
"Our younger classes, our freshman and sophomore classes, are really light, so we really have to get on recruiting for the future," McMackin said.
While McMackin declined to officially name his staff while the hiring process is ongoing, Miano, Cal Lee, Ron Lee and George Lumpkin are expected to be retained as assistants and have kept recruits in the loop on the situation. Former Warrior players Nick Rolovich and Brian Smith are poised to join the staff as quarterback and offensive line coaches.
Defensive line coach Jeff Reinebold, a top-notch recruiter, is joining offensive coaches Dennis McKnight, Dan Morrison and Wes Suan as assistants leaving UH to join Jones at SMU.
"It comes down to you have to take care of your family," Reinebold said. "I know for three years I lived my dream. How many people get to say that?"
McMackin noted that the Warriors already had a quarterback prospect (Jacob Bower) commit to Tulsa, while other recruits who were interested in UH might instead follow Jones to SMU. But he indicated the coaches won't rush in their evaluations of recruits.
"We want to bring in good kids, so we're not just going to scramble and get anybody that's out there," McMackin said. "We're going to get to know their families, we're going to home-visit them, get to know their character."
McMackin said strengthening ties with the local recruiting base will be a priority. He's also looking to maintain the program's connection with American Samoa and said he and Miano will take a trip there.
"When we're done getting this recruiting class, in the spring I need to get into every high school in the state of Hawaii," McMackin said. "I want to get to know the coaches. We are going to keep the good players in Hawaii, that's going to be our main focus."
Of course, there's the matter of extending the program's reach on the mainland.
"We haven't been off the island recruiting in three years. They've done it by telephone," McMackin said. "We've got to get to know the parents and let them know who's going to be coaching their kids and who will take care of them."
With McMackin installed atop the program's hierarchy, he and the staff have more to sell to recruits compared to a week ago in the wake of Jones' departure.
"We have a phenomenal, tough schedule next year, but kids get excited about playing great football teams," Miano said in reference to a slate that opens Aug. 30 at Florida and includes Oregon State, Washington State and Cincinnati, as well as conference road games at Boise State and Fresno State.
"We have facilities improvements, we've got the state behind us. Nine years ago we didn't have any of that. We have all the momentum; now we need to build upon the momentum."
The Star-Bulletin's Dave Reardon contributed to this report.