By Lance Tominaga, ESPN Honolulu Web Editor.
One reported reason for Todd Graham’s tumultuous two-year stint as University of Hawaii football head coach was his alleged lack of embracing or even understanding the local culture. For that reason, it is highly likely that the new head coach will be someone with close ties to our Islands and the Rainbow Warrior program. Here are some head coaching candidates who fit the description:
BRIAN NORWOOD: The 56-year-old Radford alum has more than 30 years of coaching experience, including stints at Arizona (under Dick Tomey), Navy, Texas Tech, Penn State, Baylor, Tulsa and Kansas State. He is currently the assistant head coach, defensive backs coach and defensive passing game coordinator at UCLA. Norwood was a standout defensive back for Hawaii in the 1980s and in 2015 was a finalist for the school’s head coaching job, which went to Nick Rolovich.
BRIAN SMITH: Smith was an offensive lineman for UH (1998-2001) who served as the program’s associate head coach and offensive coordinator during Nick Rolovich’s four seasons at the helm of the program. He served in a similar capacity at Washington State as part of Rolovich’s staff in Pullman. Smith has more than 15 years of coaching experience, and his return would likely signal the reinstallation of the run-and-shoot offense.
COREY BATOON: Currently the defensive coordinator at South Alabama, Batoon was nominated for the 2021 Broyles Award, which is given to college football’s top assistant coach. He is an Island son with 30 years of coaching experience, including two seasons as Hawaii’s defensive coordinator (2018-19). As the safeties coach for Liberty in 2020, he helped the Flames rank No. 10 nationally in passing yards allowed per game.
CRAIG STUTZMANN: The former Saint Louis School and UH receiving standout is a firm disciple of the run-and-shoot offense, and has paid his dues as an assistant coach at the high school and collegiate levels. Stutzmann followed Rolovich to Washington State and served as co-offensive coordinator and QBs coach. He was recently hired to direct the offense at Utah Tech. One possible sticking point is Hawaii’s state mandate for employees to get vaccinated for COVID. The Cougars dismissed Stutzmann and four other coaches (including Rolovich) for refusing to get the vaccine.
JUNE JONES: As evidenced by his interview earlier today with KHON2, Jones is definitely interested in returning to helm the program he led to national prominence in 2007, when he coached the Rainbow Warriors to an undefeated regular season and a berth in the Sugar Bowl. Jones remains Hawaii’s most successful head coach in the modern era (76 wins and six bowl appearances). His entertaining run-and-shoot offense is highly popular with the UH fan base. Jones will turn 69 next month, but that probably shouldn’t be held against him. (Alabama’s Nick Saban is 70 and still going strong.) The real question is, can lightning really strike twice? Interesting Note: In 2011, while still the head coach at SMU, Jones was about to land the head coaching job at Arizona State. ASU pulled out of the negotiations at the last minute, however, due to objections from the program’s boosters. Instead, the school hired…Todd Graham.
RICH MIANO: Although he hasn’t served on the UH coaching staff since 2011, he has certainly kept up with the program. Miano is a longtime analyst for Rainbow Warrior football broadcasts, and there’s no doubting his love and passion for both Hawaii and UH football. His only experience as a head coach was serving two seasons leading his alma mater, Kaiser High School. He did lead the Cougars to the D2 State championship.
TIMMY CHANG: Might the prodigal son come home? Chang is one of the greatest QBs in UH history – perhaps second only to Colt Brennan – and finished his career as the NCAA’s all-time leader in passing yardage. Now 40, Chang embarked on his coaching career in 2012 as a graduate assistant under June Jones at SMU. From there, Chang served short stints as the offensive coordinator at Jackson State and Emory & Henry before joining Jay Norvell’s staff at Nevada in 2017. He was the receivers coach and tight ends coach for the Wolf Pack until the end of the 2021 season, when he left with Norvell to become the receivers coach at Colorado State. Chang’s lack of experience as a coordinator at the FBS level might be a concern, but he has to be considered a viable and intriguing possibility.