McMackin psyched about sophomore year


POSTED: Wednesday, February 25, 2009

If Greg McMackin were to become a jaded, bummed out old man, it would've happened by now.

When I talked with him yesterday, it was clear the Hawaii football coach has long ago put the disappointing season-ending losses to Cincinnati and Notre Dame behind him. Not the way a career assistant wants to end his first season as a Division I head coach. But, as McMackin likes to say, this ain't his first luau.

He's pumped up again, like he was last year when he first took the job. His plans for the spring bubble out with the same enthusiasm—scrimmage on Maui, a special day for high school juniors, another coaches clinic.

Spring practice doesn't start until the end of next month. It's February, and he and Ron Lee are already scratching out plays on napkins.

“;I'm sitting down to lunch with my offensive coordinator,”; McMackin said. “;We went through a bunch of cut-ups today. We see a lot of fun things we can do.”;

There isn't going to be any fun next fall if the offensive line doesn't improve. Last year, it allowed the most sacks in a single season in NCAA history. So McMackin went out and got an experienced offensive line coach in Gordon Shaw.

Special teams were shaky. So McMackin pulls off a major coup in getting Chris Tormey—a former head coach—to fill that spot.

As last season wore on, Lee took more and more heat for play calling. Some suggested McMackin was vetoing many of his calls, but there was never evidence of it, and the two remain loyal old friends.

Too many fans expected UH to not miss a beat—despite losing Colt Brennan, all four starting receivers and its most experienced offensive lineman, Hercules Satele, from the Sugar Bowl team. This fall will be the real test, for the offensive players and the coaches.

“;Things happened. How do you say it? There were phases that broke down. We're working to improve that. There are a lot of things we need to get better at,”; McMackin says.

A year ago, he was viewed as a savior, a familiar, hopeful face in a time of crisis. He began bailing immediately, re-selling a rebuilding program to recruits, fans and media at such a wild pace I thought the guy was going to wear himself out before the season even started.

A few days before spring practice, I asked him when he would get to take a breather.

“;I don't have time,”; he answered. “;This is what I've been working toward my whole career.”;

During last year's 7-7 campaign, the microscope burned a bit at times and he bristled at questions about things like clock management. But for the most part McMackin focused on the positive feedback.

He's full of resilience, my favorite trait in people.

“;I've coached for a lot of years, but I know you have to keep learning every year,”; he says. “;I learned it's important to really work for completion and perfection.

“;Last year's team, they were great the way they worked through adversity, and the way they had trust in each other. They were 1-3 at one time and because everyone believed in each other, the team went to a bowl game.”;

And now that we're a couple of months removed from it all, it's easier to see that, yes, indeed, UH went to a bowl game—despite the sacks, the personal fouls and the other mistakes by players and coaches that Warriors fans have to hope were just growing pains.

We'll learn if they were or not in the fall.