There are a lot of things to like about University of Hawaii football coach June Jones -- tops among them the grace with which he has accepted both victory and defeat.
Jones shows Hawaii
how to lose and
win with class
After leaving the prestige and big money of the NFL to try to bring the college he once played for back to respectability, Jones must have been beside himself as he watched his team get stomped by USC in the season's opening game, 62-7.
Everything that possibly could have gone wrong did. His team fumbled the ball, botched the simplest plays and seemed to be spectators as Trojan runners sped past them.
Certainly Jones didn't expect to beat powerful USC, but he hoped to show progress from the disastrous 0-12 season last year under Fred vonAppen.
As disappointed as he must have been, Jones didn't make excuses or berate his players. He kept the focus on the big picture: The UH football program didn't fall apart in one game and wouldn't be rebuilt in one game.
It must have stung Jones the way USC coach Paul Hackett, an old friend of vonAppen's, pointlessly ran up the score. Jones responded by scheduling more games against USC. He may not win those either, but here's betting there won't be any more 55-point losses.
People tend to reap what they sow and Jones soon got to show grace in victory as his team thrilled long-suffering fans with three straight wins. First came the end to the nationally embarrassing 19-game losing streak -- sweet even though it was against a Division II opponent. Then another step forward with a win against a Division I team. Finally, a long-overdue conference win against a WAC team on the road.
Again, the most telling sign of what kind of a man Jones is came at the end of the game. UH was up 20-0 against SMU on the road and had the ball on SMU's goal line with enough time to run a final play or two for another touchdown.
For sure, UH players and fans have seen few enough of those in recent years and were hungry for another. SMU is one of the teams likely to bolt the WAC and it would have been sweet to shove the ball down the Mustangs' throats one last time.
But unlike USC's Hackett, Jones didn't run up the score. He had his quarterback drop to his knee and let time expire. His message to his players and fans was clear: This won't be the last touchdown or the last win. Let's act like we're used to it and show some class.
And let's hope Hawaii's community leaders will take note of the lesson Jones is providing on how to build a winning program with grace.
I'm tired of seeing bumper stickers that say, "Don't blame me, I voted for Lingle." I do blame them. Their cynical expectation of failure is a self-fulfilling prophecy.
I'm equally tired of hearing about petty retribution by officials in the Cayetano administration against Linda Lingle's supporters. It denies us the opportunity to heal and to tap all of our community resources to make our state better.
They should all take a page from the June Jones playbook: Put the past behind you, enlist everybody's best talents in moving the whole team forward and play with class. If you act like you expect to do well, you will.
David Shapiro is managing editor of the Star-Bulletin.
He can be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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