Kalani Simpson


By Kalani Simpson

Saturday, October 13, 2001

Mt. Rushmore of UH
coaches present tonight

THERE'S a great picture waiting to happen tonight. A snapshot, I can see it now. Price. Tomey. Wagner. Jones.

In my mind I see them smiling. Dignified and regal. Ex-presidents.

A great picture.

But will it be?

Bob Wagner limps home, a bittersweet tale chronicled by our Dave Reardon in yesterday's newspaper.

His appearance at Aloha Stadium tonight won't be comfortable, won't be easy -- not for him, not for anyone. It'll be hard. Forced and awkward. Here's hoping, for a moment anyway, his smile will be warm and real and free.

There's Price on the right -- the man with the golden tones, the man whose stint as UH coach was merely a pit stop on the way to real stardom. Larry Price is more multimedia figure than ex-coach now. And he's great at it. Simply great.

Dick Tomey is looking down from the press box and still yearning, embers still burning. He has a foot in each world now. He wants to be a TV commentator. He wants to be a coach. For now, he works, he waits, he hopes, pausing to see what happens next. He might go back to the sideline, but time is running out. He might get called up to ESPN. He might have no next move, not yet. For now, he's home. Where he belongs.

And then there's June Jones.

In my imagination they're smiling. Warm in their return. Feeling good about the moment. Friendly, jovial. But this is no reunion for Jones. Not a flood of fond memories. He's still here. He's still under the gun. He hasn't had his sins washed away, his losses forgiven. He can't relax, not for a second. He still has to win. He has to win now. He has to win tonight.

SOMEHOW THE IDEA got started, the notion began, that before Jones there was nothing. (Close. Before him there was 0-12.) Yes, after Fred vonAppen's disastrous tenure, everything Jones touched turned to gold in that first 9-4 season. All that came the three years earlier had been so bad that people were in the mood to forget.

And so everything that Jones did was the biggest, greatest, grandest that UH had ever seen. Nothing before had even come close.

But that's not true, and the picture proves it.

Tomey is probably Hawaii's best coach in the "modern" era, Wagner (11 wins, national ranking, crushing BYU) took the program to its greatest heights. Even Price, the radio man, the TV star, has more career victories in his three years than Jones (tonight, with a win, the coach would tie "da coach").

He saved the program. He didn't found it.

No, in this picture Jones doesn't carry the label of candidate or saint.

Here, the genius tag fades away. Next to these men, the ex-presidents, Jones can simply be the successor. Only a football coach, trying hard to win every game.

The others in the picture will tell you. That's hard. That's enough.

Kalani Simpson's column runs Sundays, Tuesdays and Fridays.
He can be reached at

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