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Changing Hawaii

By Diane Yukihiro Chang

Saturday, February 24, 2001

best wishes

What happens when the most popular person in Hawaii gets into a hood-crunching automobile accident and is taken in critical condition to the Queen's Medical Center? The people in this newsroom and the entire state found out Thursday when word spread with the speed and distance of a Tim Chang pass that June Jones, University of Hawaii football coach, had crashed his Lincoln Town Car into a pillar on the H-1 freeway about 10:30 a.m.

As soon as Star-Bulletin sports editor Cindy Luis got word, her staffers joined city desk personnel in hitting the sidewalks and the telephones. They began contacting NFL teams that Jones had played for, his fellow Western Athletic Conference coaches, and some of the many athletes who had learned from him, both in the past and presently, for reaction to the tragedy.

Star-Bulletin reporters and layout editors who were either on vacation or not yet on duty called to see if their services were needed, dropping everything to come in and help. Meanwhile, telephone inquiries were pouring in from mainland media outlets and concerned UH fans, wanting to know the medical status of the man who, almost three years ago, did the unthinkable.

Jones gave up a multimillion-dollar professional coaching career to come "home" and lead his winless alma mater. When he made that eyebrow-crooking decision, and managed to turn an 0-12 team in 1998 into a 9-4 co-WAC champion and bowl winner in 1999, his legend was born.

Plus, Jones is a genuinely nice guy who cares about the people of this state. If anyone actually questions that premise, take a look at his schedule and the number of speeches and appearances he makes, even during the season.

When an unconfirmed (and thankfully untrue) report came in that Jones had passed away at Queen's, tears were shed in the newsroom without shame. Hey, journalists are human, too! Although past deadline, our final edition's lead story was about the man who everyone is continuing to root for as he reaps much-needed recuperation at Queen's.

Diane Yukihiro Chang's column runs Monday and Friday.
She can be reached by phone at 525-8607, via e-mail at, or by fax at 523-7863.

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