10. June Jones

Head Football Coach, University of Hawaii

October, 2002

In sports, as the old saying goes, there is no better deodorant than winning. If there is any truth to that adage, University of Hawaii head football coach smells mighty sweet nowadays, especially after last year’s 72-45 demolition of hated Brigham Young University. The 2001 season (9-3) was a replay of sorts of 1999’s 9-4 campaign, one of the greatest turnarounds in college football history. (UH was 0 – 12 in 1998). But, more importantly, after a disastrous 3-9 in 2000, the winning season revived the legend of June Jones.

No UH coach before or since has been as venerated as Jones. Before any pass was thrown, the coach was treated like a conquering hero, meeting with the governor and power brokers and lionized by the local press. But then again, no other coach had given up a job in the NFL to come to Manoa. Also, arguably no one has brought so much national recognition so quickly to Hawaii, a place with notorious (and undeserved) self-esteem problems.

“Football is very big in Hawaii. The biggest,” says Jeff Portnoy, attorney and sports fan. “There are no other large universities. No pro sports teams to speak of. (My apologies to arena football.) So he was already in a very high-profile position. Then you add the circumstances of coming to UH and that incredible turnaround season.”

But does all this popularity and goodwill in the community actually translate into power? Yes. What Jones wants, Jones gets, including increased budgets, new training facilities, new playing surfaces on practice fields as well as Aloha Stadium. He also got a new logo and uniforms for his team along with a more marketable nickname—the Warriors. Recently, he asked for and got charter flights for away games. And then there is the ongoing renegotiation of a contract that hasn’t fully been disclosed to the public. The one notable failure was the legislature’s rejection of a proposal to have Aloha Stadium fall under the authority of the university. However, the season is still young.

“I think there is a certain sadness to the fact that a football coach would be considered one of the most powerful people in town,” Portnoy says. “Should he be? Absolutely not. Does he want to be? Probably not. I think it is a reflection of the lack of leadership in our community because when push comes to shove, he’s just a football coach.”

— David K. Choo

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David K. Choo