Sports Watch

By Bill Kwon

Thursday, June 13, 1996

Vasconcellos was
someone no one forgot

WHETHER you were one of his football players or a student in his physical education class, you never forgot Edmund "Ticky" Vasconcellos, who last Friday at age 81.

It took me years before I could call him Ticky. It was "Mr. Vasconcellos," when I attended Roosevelt High School and, later, "coach," when I first started with the Star-Bulletin. By then Ticky had mellowed. Boy, had he mellow.

In his hey-day in the late 1940s and 1950s, Vasconcellos was one of the most exacting and orneriest individuals you could ever have had as a football coach.

Screw-up an assignment in practice and you'd get a slap in the head or a kick in the butt. The intimidation worked. Roosevelt won three straight ILH football championships in a row - unheard of in the old eight-team city league.

More important, that desire for perfection rubbed off on many of his players, who have gone on to become high school principals, coaches, attorneys and successful businessmen.

"He sure gave me a bad time," said Holbrook, now retired and living in Coeur d'Alene, Idaho. "But I have a great deal of respect for him. He got the most out of his players, which I don't think he could have had without being that way."

"Ticky always had high expectations. He expected a lot from his players and, because of that, his teams achieved that," said Al Rowan, retired Punahou track coach.

A lot has been mentioned about Ticky's phenomenal success in football at Roosevelt, Kaimuki and Kauai high schools. But he was also a remarkable track coach, ending Punahou's long domination in track and field in the 1950s by incorporating a required test-and-measurement workout at Roosevelt.

Every youngster in PE class was timed in the 100 and 440.

I still remember the time a slim haole guy, who didn't look at all like an athlete, was asked to run the sprint. The guy, Rufus Shuff, went on to become the ILH sprint champion as Roosevelt won won four track titles.

Ticky got the speed-burners for his football team that way, notably Milton Kam and Mike Kelly, members of the three-peat football champions.

"As long as we have a good track team, we will have a good football team," Vasconcellos said.

Ticky had an affinity for track because he was a 25-foot broad jumper (as it was then called) at San Jose State. He later competed for the San Francisco Olympic Club.

He was also a pretty good tennis player, according to Hermine Dreier Vasconcellos, his wife of 54 years. They met at Kamehameha but got serious at San Jose State.

"He couldn't play for the team because of track. But they called him when they missed a player," she said.

Since his retirement, golf was his passion. He once had a 1-handicap at the Mid-Pacific Country Club. His love of golf went back to his younger days when he caddied at the Maui Country Club.

TICKY and his brothers - including Hank Vasconcellos who died four months ago - all grew up on a sugar cane plantation in Paia. They all had to do chores and that's how Ticky got his nickname.

His daily chore was to feed the chickens and he'd call out, "Tick, tick, tick," at feeding time. His brothers teased him about it by going, "Tick, tick, tick," and the nickname stuck.

A taskmaster with a gruff exterior, he loved his football boys and never took his job home with him, according to Hermine.

"At home he would forget about football," she said. "Except at Thanksgiving dinner. It would depend on how he did at the game."

In those days, the ILH played a traditional Thanksgiving Day doubleheader at the old Honolulu Stadium. Roosevelt - with its "boom-series" of running plays - was always one of the holiday attractions with Ticky as coach.

Needless to say, his Rough Riders ran the "boom series" - a wishbone prototype - to perfection in those days. They had to. Ticky wouldn't have stood for it otherwise.

Bill Kwon has been writing
about sports for the Star-Bulletin since 1959.

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