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Best. Project. Ever.

By Lance Tominaga.

In my thirty-plus years as a writer, I’ve been blessed with many opportunities. I’ve written for magazines, book publishers and websites. I’ve done travel writing, business reporting and restaurant reviews. I’ve interviewed sports Hall of Famers, Presidential candidates and international fashion designers. But if you were to ask me what my favorite writing assignment has been, I would tell you it was collaborating on a book with the great Dick Tomey.

Dick Tomey was a hero of mine. I grew up watching the Tomey Era of University of Hawaii football, which started in 1977 and came to a close after the 1986 season. Those were the golden years of Rainbow Warrior football. True, we often tend to romanticize our childhood memories, but going to Aloha Stadium and watching Hawaii play the likes of USC, Nebraska, West Virginia and Wisconsin represented a big part of my formative years. It played a role in my becoming a sports fan.

So imagine the thrill I felt when Watermark Publishing gave me the opportunity to actually work with Coach Tomey on a book about his ten seasons as the UH head football coach. Is life great or what?

We started in the spring of 2017. Coach and I would meet at least twice a week for our interview sessions. We’d usually meet after work at the Executive Centre lobby, just outside the Hukilau restaurant. I’d turn on my trusty recorder and let Coach Tomey do his thing. Every meeting was like hopping into a time machine and reliving some of the greatest moments in UH football history – not to mention recalling great players like Gary Allen, Falaniko Noga, Blane Gaison, Rich Miano and Jesse Sapolu.

The best thing of all? Coach was exactly how I imagined he would be: engaging, reflective, passionate and eager to share his love for Hawaii. “This book is really about the Hawaii fans,” he would remind me. “The success we had…what we accomplished…it was because of the fans. They made it happen.”

It wasn’t always easy. My writer’s instincts wanted to include every juicy story I collected, while Coach was adamant about shielding his players and coaching staff from anything that he thought might put them in a negative light. In the end, we compromised, and both of us were pleased with the final product.

The release of “Rise of the Rainbow Warriors: Ten Unforgettable Years of University of Hawaii Football,” as it turned out, was just the first part of our adventure together. The book signings that followed were even more rewarding, with former players coming out to support Coach Tomey and sharing old war stories about their time as Rainbow Warriors. Just as importantly, the signings were opportunities for Coach to meet the Hawaii fans who, as he said, “made it happen.” He relished that. He made it a point to talk to every person who came to see him. He’d even ask questions like, “What was your favorite memory?” or “Who was your favorite player?” The line to see him would snake around the book store aisles, but Coach never rushed anyone. It was his chance to say, “Thank you.”

Coach Tomey died in May of last year. In a way, his passing made our book project even more worthwhile. His years in Hawaii were very important and dear to him, and I’m glad he got to chronicle them for the past, present and future generations of Rainbow Warrior fans. The book, I hope, will help preserve the legacy of Dick Tomey.

Below are some photos from Coach Tomey’s book signing events in the fall of 2017.

Former Rainbow Warrior Sam Moku dropped by to say hello to his old coach during one of our interview sessions.

“Rise of the Rainbow Warriors” hit the store shelves in the fall of 2017.

Then-UH head football coach Nick Rolovich shares a moment with Coach Tomey at the official book launch party at SKY Waikiki.

Two of the greatest offensive linemen in UH history: Joe Onosai (left) and Jesse Sapolu.

Former UH head coach Bob Wagner was a part of the festivities.

This poster featuring four of Coach Tomey’s former UH standouts – (L-R) Gary Allen, Jesse Sapolu, Dana McLemore and Mark Tuinei – was a popular conversation piece at the book launch. The photo was taken after a 49ers-Cowboys  game.

Also attending the SKY event were former UH offensive lineman Brian Derby (left) and safety Rich Miano.

Then-Kauai Mayor Bernard Carvalho (right) with aio CEO Duane Kurisu. Carvalho was an All-WAC offensive lineman for Coach Tomey.

Former Rainbow Warrior Dancer Tiffany Johnson holds up a copy of “Rise of the Rainbow Warriors.” Her father, Marco Johnson, played for both Coach Tomey and Coach Wagner.

L-R: Former Rainbow Warriors Tom Tuinei, Richard Higa and Michael Beazley attended a book signing event at the Hukilau Honolulu.

During every book signing, Coach Tomey took time to “talk story” and thank each person who took the time to see him. For many longtime fans, it was an opportunity to meet their favorite UH coach and share their memories of the Tomey Era.

Fans of all ages came out to see Coach Tomey.

Coach Tomey thoroughly enjoyed catching up with his former player

Blane Gaison (left) remains one of my favorite UH players of all time. Here, I’m between Gaison and Ruby Tuesday owner Rick Nakashima, who is a tremendous UH supporter.

Coach Tomey at a book signing event at Barnes & Noble at Ala Moana Center.

Getting to meet some of my UH sports heroes was one of the best parts of being part of this book project.

Coach Tomey and his ghostwriter at Barnes & Noble.

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