Kahuku picks 'unifying' coach
By Wes Nakama
Advertiser Staff Writer
By Wes Nakama
KAHUKU — Reggie Torres' cell phone voice mail greets callers with a happy "Alo-ha!" and invites you to leave a message for "Reggie the Hawaiian!"
Ultimately, Torres' warm, easy-going personality and ability to get along with others proved to be a key factor in his officially being named head football coach at powerhouse Kahuku High School yesterday. Torres, 41, was chosen by a six-person committee over 18 other candidates, including former Red Raiders coach Doug Semones and former co-defensive coordinator Byron Beatty — two of the higher-profile applicants.
"We think Reggie would do the best job of unifying the school community," said Kahuku principal Lisa DeLong, who was on the committee. "That was one of the main reasons he was selected."
Torres had been the Red Raiders' JV head coach for the past 15 seasons, and also is the head coach for boys and girls wrestling and judo. His wrestling and judo teams have won several state championships, and his JV football teams have been annual contenders in the O'ahu Interscholastic Association.
But at Kahuku, varsity football has a passionate following that would rival many college programs, and with it comes the challenge of satisfying the masses. The unrelenting community pressure was at least one factor in Siuaki Livai deciding to resign as head coach March 27 after 10 seasons and guiding the Red Raiders to four of the past six state championships.
"It's tough shoes to fill," Torres said Thursday night. "This community is used to winning, and the first thing they want is more championships. I know there's pressure, but for me it's all about the kids, and I'll do anything for them. I know there's a lot of kids that want to play football here, so this is a way where I can reach more of them and help prepare them for life."
Beatty, who played linebacker for Brigham Young University and helped Kahuku win three state championships as co-defensive coordinator and special teams coach, said other candidates had stronger football resumes than Torres'.
"He does a good job with the JV, I'll give him that," Beatty said. "But varsity is a different animal, it's a 365-days-a-year job. There's a lot to do with (college) recruiting, sending out film and networking with the college coaches. Experience-wise, there were other applicants that brought more to the table."
But Beatty said of the nine questions he was asked in the interview, only two were directly related to football knowledge.
"There were not a lot of X's and O's, that's for sure," Beatty said. "They asked about a practice schedule, and about my football philosophy. There were a lot of other questions about treating players equally, budget (issues), management style."
Torres acknowledged he plans to increase his football IQ by attending clinics and doing research.
"The varsity competition is a lot better (than JV), and football is always evolving," Torres said. "You have to always be updating your knowledge."
Two of Livai's assistants, defensive backs coach Sean Makaiau and associate head coach Garth Spurrier, said they probably would join Torres' staff if asked. They said some players or parents reacted negatively to Torres' hiring but others were happy with the choice.
"Some players talked about transferring, but I'm encouraging everybody to stay," said Spurrier, who also is an assistant athletic director. "I tell them, 'You shouldn't leave just because of one person.' That can develop into a habit — when they go to college, will they transfer from school to school just because they don't like their coach? I tell them, 'You're a Red Raider, and you should be a Red Raider no matter who the coach is.' "
Makaiau said Torres' personality is one of his strong points that could serve him well.
"Reggie's a good guy, he's likeable," Makaiau said. "He has a lot of supporters."
Reach Wes Nakama at firstname.lastname@example.org.