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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Jones also had year to remember

By Ferd Lewis
Advertiser Columnist

June Jones

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In the parade of records set and accountants are still busy adding them up as we speak in the University of Hawai'i's Sheraton Hawai'i Bowl victory over Arizona State, one in particular got some short shrift.

While the marks of Colt Brennan, Jason Rivers, et al received due notice, one set by Warriors head coach June Jones got little more than passing mention, you might say.

That would be the school record for victories by a head coach against an all-collegiate schedule. Jones, who had tied Dick Tomey's mark with the win over Purdue last month, got No. 64 in a big and altogether fitting way against the Sun Devils. For few victories in his 64-40 tenure have underlined just what the signature offense has meant to UH the way this one did.

On one hand, Brennan's laser-like one on his right arm, there was the NCAA single-season touchdown record that fell in the hail of five second-half TDs. On another there was the ability to come roaring back and put away a Pac-10 opponent for the team's 11th victory in a 14-game season. Both remarkable and hallmarks of the offense Jones has installed.

Maybe it was because Jones had been on the verge of passing Tomey for some time, the countdown having begun in early November, that Sunday's moment didn't get much attention. Or, perhaps, the build-up that had gone to the NCAA TD record formerly held by David Klingler that Brennan busted overshadowed everything.

But Jones' contributions did not escape Brennan's notice even in the hoopla over the NCAA mark and questions about the quarterback's UH future. "Coach Jones and his offense gave me a wonderful opportunity to do these things," Brennan told reporters.

Truth be told, this was one of Jones' better coaching jobs in an eight-year stay, coming off the 5-7 finish of 2005 that was one of his low points. Second, perhaps, only to the NCAA record-turnaround season of 1999. Something that wasn't lost on Western Athletic Conference coaching brethren when they voted for coach of the year earlier.

Indeed, in a year in which Chris Peterson led Boise State to the conference's first Bowl Championship Series appearance with an unbeaten team, Jones got the coach of the year nod from fellow coaches. In a season in which Tomey took the San Jose State program from rags to riches, Jones got the award in one of the WAC's most contested seasons.

It wasn't just the X's and O's, either, although if you glimpsed the Hawai'i Bowl sidelines a few times Sunday there was Jones scribbling routes and gesturing like an inventor possessed in coaching receivers and Brennan.

Rather it was the infrastructure. It was in recognizing before the 2005 campaign and in the course of it that things had to change. That more of a commitment had to be made to defense. That, blessed by the return of Nate Ilaoa, that UH had to make use of his rare abilities and run the ball more. It was in a dozen details. Most of all, not being resistant to change.

How many coaches in college, especially those who so wed themselves to an offense, stubbornly refuse to be flexible in their ways? How many disdain even the most minimal adaptation and change? Two, former Rice coach Ken Hatfield, and now ex-Air Force Academy coach Fisher DeBerry, immediately come to mind.

In an all-around record-making season for the Warriors, their coach's contributions haven't gone unnoticed.

Reach Ferd Lewis at flewis@honoluluadvertiser.com or 525-8044.