Different styles, yet lot of wins
Twenty-three years ago as the University of Hawai'i's head football coach, Dick Tomey gave a job on his staff to a young, aspiring coach with no college experience.
You might have heard of him recently: June Jones. Such are the vicissitudes of their profession that Saturday night at Aloha Stadium, Jones will be trying to take a big step toward surpassing Tomey as UH's winningest head coach, also chipping away at a little bit of his considerable legacy when the Warriors play San Jose State.
Jones has 61 victories in eight seasons at Manoa, and in looking for one of the three victories he needs to step past Tomey, he will confront his one-time mentor on the opposite sideline in a collision of UH eras and styles.
Though their one year (1983) association at UH didn't last — "he wanted to run the run-and-shoot," Tomey has said, '... and we didn't want to." — they remain fast friends. Jones has been a guest at Tomey's house for holiday dinner and they've played golf together. "We enjoy each other's company," Tomey said.
All of which, in Tomey's book, means they are the best of rivals this week.
"You like to beat your friends when you play golf, all that kind of thing," Tomey said. "I don't think it is any different competing against your friends."
Good thing, too, because with four games remaining this season, including the Sheraton Hawai'i Bowl, Jones can redact some of Tomey's lengthy resume. One of Tomey's claims to fame in compiling a 166-121-7 record over the past quarter-century is that he is one of three Division I-A coaches who have been the winningest coach at two schools. In Tomey's case, UH and Arizona. The others are Paul "Bear" Bryant (Kentucky and Alabama) and George Welsh (Navy and Virginia).
Between them, Tomey and Jones have made significant contributions to UH football. Tomey earned UH Circle of Honor recognition for putting football on a solid Division I footing in the turbulent late 1970s. Jones breathed life back into it after the depths of an 0-12 mark in the season before his arrival.
At one point four years ago, it looked like they would work together again, that time with Tomey as UH's athletic director and Jones' boss. At least until Herman Frazier's resume was dropped on the desk of the president's office in Bachman Hall by the contracted search firm, prompting Tomey to search for a head coaching position.
Now, as fate would have it, Jones' best team, the 8-2 (6-1 WAC) Warriors, confronts Tomey in the season that has seen what might be the 68-year-old's best coaching job, turning the once-moribund Spartans into a bowl-eligible team at 6-3 (3-2).
Yet, for all their connections they are as disparate in personality and philosophy as their eras. While Tomey's win-with-defense-and-the-kicking-game mantra at UH was "we just want to have a chance in the fourth quarter," Jones' might as well be, "we want to get our backup quarterback some work in the fourth quarter."
While Tomey maintains his offense's only mandate is to allow the team to punt every series, Jones' pass-happy offense can go a whole game without employing the punter. And has.
Tomey plays for field position. Jones throws from anywhere. Sometimes on fourth down, too. Tomey utilized a tight end. Jones does not acknowledge the concept. Tomey learned at the elbow of Bo Schembechler. Jones at the side of "Mouse" Davis. One believes three things — two of them bad — can happen when you put the ball in the air. The other sees the ground game as a change of pace.
Saturday Tomey returns to Aloha Stadium for his first WAC game since 1986 and two of the dominant figures in UH sports come full circle where they have made their names.
Reach Ferd Lewis at email@example.com or 525-8044.