Hawaii football: Will a UH offensive guru, Brian Smith or Craig Stutzmann, succeed Nick Rolovich as head coach?

Hawaii football coaches Craig Stutzmann, left, Nick Rolovich, and Brian Smith posed for a portrait on Aug. 13 ahead of the 2018 season, when the run-and-shoot offense was reintroduced. / Photo by Jamm Aquino, Star-Advertiser

The game of pick the new coach started even before the old one had left. Speculation began regarding Nick Rolovich’s replacement even before the Mountain West Coach of the Year’s departure from the University of Hawaii to Washington State was confirmed Monday.

If you’re looking for a hint by who is now the interim coach, you are out of luck; there was none as of last night.

Most of the assistants were still at a national convention where this was obviously a hot topic, and plenty of coaches had one eye on the national championship game and the other on their text messages.

When a head coach gets hired away because of success, the first place an athletic director should look for possible replacements is that same coach’s staff of assistants. I haven’t spoken with him on this topic recently, but I have no doubt that is exactly what UH AD David Matlin has done. It’s not like Matlin is a new AD looking to bring in “his guy” from somewhere else. He is the person who hired Rolovich four years ago.

One of the biggest challenges in a situation like this is the coach who is leaving will undoubtedly take some of his staff with him — and sometimes an offensive or defensive coordinator at a Power Five conference school like Washington State will be paid a salary comparable to what a head coach at a Group of Five conference school like Hawaii can get.

Presumably, UH wants to keep the offense that was a huge part of its 10-win season humming. That would mean installing as head coach someone with intimate knowledge of Hawaii’s current version of the run-and-shoot attack. So, do offensive coordinator/running backs coach Brian Smith and passing-game coordinator/quarterbacks coach Craig Stutzmann both end up in Pullman with Rolovich, or does one of them become the head coach at Manoa?

Assistant head coach Mark Banker (who also coaches the linebackers) and defensive coordinator Corey Batoon are among other assistants from the current staff who might at least get an interview. It’s rare, but not unprecedented that a coach from the defense side of the ball is head coach of a team that plays a wide-open offense. Remember Greg McMackin?

As always in the age of social media, plenty of other names from outside have already surfaced and will continue to be tossed around. But if continuity of the offensive system, familiarity with the players (current roster and recruits), and affinity for the program’s culture are the major considerations they should be, count Smith and Stutzmann as prime candidates for the job.

Detractors will say neither has college head coaching experience. But Neither did Rolovich before Matlin brought him back to Hawaii from Nevada, where he was offensive coordinator.


  1. Andrew January 14, 2020 12:45 pm

    If they want to preserver the offense, gotta go with the offensive coach. I’d imagine if they were to not choose Smith or Stutzmann, they would both follow Rolovich to WSU. They’re all teammates and Rolo trusts them so why not take them to his next stop. The only way one of them stays is as the next head coach. I find it hard to imagine one of them would stay back as a coordinator especially with like you said, the pay differential. The really do need to keep consistency with the offensive scheme though, anything else would be a set back and years of rebuilding to recruit the players needed. We’ve all seen what that looks like

  2. Andrew January 14, 2020 12:45 pm


  3. 808bowler January 14, 2020 1:53 pm

    i wonder if Rolo gave his info in who to hire? like how leach gave his when he left. i like the idea of one those guys and also bring timmy chang in as qb coach.

  4. sports for fun January 14, 2020 2:40 pm

    I think Brian Smith would be a good hire. He actually took over play calling duties and the offense had a little more run to it.

    Do you think Bryant Moniz would make a good qb coach since he helped Cole McDonald get acquainted with the run and shot concepts? I don’t even know if he’s coaching. Ha!

  5. H-Man January 14, 2020 3:20 pm

    Some interesting names have popped up – Brian Norwood, Mike Cavanagh, even Dave Aranda (which I find hard to believe). My choice would be Craig Stutzmann.

  6. 808bowler January 14, 2020 3:48 pm

    just heard this from my friend. his son plays baseball with rolos son. about a week n half ago rolos son quits the team and donated his equipment back to the team. hmmmm

  7. kahuna January 14, 2020 3:52 pm

    I am certain that I heard that Mike Cavanugh once said that he does not want to be a HC. He feels his calling is to mentor offensive line and that is what he is doing now.

    As a head coach, you don’t really do on hand coaching. You let your assistants do the coaching while you oversee the entire team. There is just so much to being HC that I don’t think some people have the mental patience to be one. Coach Cav was a fiery guy who used salty language and in your face attitude to get his players to perform. He will need a big transformation if he was to become a HC.

    Coach Cav is a great position coach but I don’t think he would be a good fit to be a HC.

  8. ADG January 14, 2020 4:23 pm

    As a long time Hawaii Warrior fan it pains me to see Rolo go after a such a great turnaround. But completely understand the switch per pay and the chance for Rolo to compete in the Pac-12 conference. As of Hawaii is concerned per it’s new head coach, my opinion in Craig Stutzmann. Need to keep the Run & Shoot offense and not Implement a new offensive scheme. Also we need to keep the recruits we just made in Hawaii. I do wonder of this also helped Quarterback Cole McDonald make his decision to enter this year’s NFL draft. I think it’s a great idea to bring back Timmy Chang as quarterbacks coach. Timmy needs to come back to the island/Rock. 🏈🏈

  9. Hank January 14, 2020 4:36 pm

    Craig Stutzmann … Craig Stutzmann … Craig Stutzmann

  10. kahuna January 14, 2020 4:41 pm

    With such an overwhelming desire for Craig Stutzman, anybody other than Stutzman will be a let down.

    Maybe someone like Dino Babers can re-energize the program but anybody else….meh.

  11. sports for fun January 14, 2020 4:48 pm

    I don’t know…Timmy Chang and his interception record…was it broken by someone else?

    I like Stutz and Brian Smith, but I also like Brian Norwood. Not sure about his philosophy on offense. Although he was an Associate Head Coach there at Baylor when they had a prolific offense.

  12. boolakanaka January 14, 2020 5:26 pm

    Dino gets paid 2.2 million annually. If upper campus gave Rolo half that amount, we wouldn’t be in this predicament….

  13. Boolakanaka January 14, 2020 5:28 pm

    Duane (akina) might be ready to come home…

  14. UncleFester January 14, 2020 10:14 pm

    Mr. Reardon, I don’t agree with your assumptions, starting with preserving the offense. Why would you ever limit yourself to preserving the system of a departing coach? Rolo switched systems from the previous guy and had success. You’re hiring a person, not a football philosophy.

  15. UncleFester January 14, 2020 10:20 pm

    Hawaii will never be a coach’s destination; it is a temporary stop on the way to other things. We should content ourselves with being an incubator of good coaches that gets to keep a younger guy with potential for 4-5 years and then has to find another when the coach is spotted by a better situation. Nothing wrong with that so long as we recognize that that is our lot in life. We will never be big boys.

  16. justsomeguy January 15, 2020 6:02 am

    Unfortunate to see the same old nostalgia here in this thread…..

    JJ is a legend, truly and he gave Hawaii so much. We should all be grateful….but he’s too disconnected and in today’s world of ultra-fast paced recruiting he will get left in the dust. Recruiting was never his strong suit, which is why we relied so heavily on Miano’s walk-on program.

    Rich Miano is a wonderful man, and his love for Hawaii, its people, and its football in unquestionable….but again, he is too disconnected from coaching to be an effective replacement. He has announcing as well as new business venture’s he needs to focus on.

    Stutz will get his shot somewhere….and I wouldn’t object if it was here. He provides continuity and has a sharp offensive mind. I don’t hesitate to say that in the world of Air-Raid / RnS offenses Stutz may be the best young coordinator in the game today…that being said, I’m highly suspicious of his coaching experience being enough to take on a HC role. I’m not sure his network is deep enough and if he has enough behind-the-scenes experience running the day-in-day-out brain-suck that is being the CEO of a collegiate football team….he deserves at least an interview.

    So with all my whining about the same old same old names being thrown out there, here is my contribution to the list, in no particular order:

    Robert Anae / WR+OC / UVA
    Former Kahuku grad running a stellar version of the Air Raid out in Virginia. This could be a serious prospect. I would be excited to see him here in the green and black.

    Keith Bhonapha / RB Coach / UW
    Probably a little green to be a HC, but has learned a great deal from Chris Peterson and will do it the right way. Will get his shot someday.

    Mike Jinks / RB Coach / USC
    Top notch recruiter and rising star coach. Learned Kliff Kingsbury’s version of the Air-Raid and has HC experience at Bowling Green.

    Adrian Klemm / OL coach / Pittsburgh Steelers
    AMAZING recruiter and a deep network. Also, former Warrior. Salary requirements may bar this from happening.

    Chad Kauha’aha’a / DL Coach / USC
    A little green for a head coaching position, and I agree we need an Offensive minded coach, but his star is rising. We could use him one day.

    Rhett Lashlee / OC+QB / SMU
    Great offensive mind and can recruit texas. No Hawaii connections, but worth an interview.

    Chip Long / Former OC / Notre Dame
    Needs a job going into 2020 and is a proven offensive mind. His lack of connection to Hawaii notwithstanding, an high profile option for a mid-tier G5 school like Hawaii.

    Tosh Lupoi / DL Coach / Atlanta Falcons
    Another world-class recruiter. Rising star in the coaching world.

    Brian Smith / OC / Hawaii
    If Brian and Stutz aren’t swiped by Rolo, which is completely understandable….the HC / OC pairing of Smitty and Stutz would be option number 1.

    Tony Tuioti / DL Coach / Nebraska
    Connection to Hawaii, deep connections, and will be able to recruit the islands better than almost anyone.

    Jeff Ulbrich / LB Coach / Atlanta Falcons
    Salary limitation is obvious here….but an interesting interview nonetheless…

    I know people will be thinking about Dave Aranda, but his is long gone from the stratosphere of coaches Hawaii could get….same with Chris Peterson, Urban Meyer, Todd Graham, Major Applewhite, Mike Norvell, Mark Richt, etc. The Hawaii football God that is Cal Lee may be getting a little too old (early 70s I think) for the rigors of D1 Collegiate coaching…..but maybe not.

    Duane Akina / Mike Cavanaugh / Brian Norwood / Ikaika Malloe are all really solid options that I missed….which is silly cause they should be obvious….

  17. Boolakanaka January 15, 2020 7:08 am

    If you are going to look at local ties, two career coaches come to mind: Duane Akina and Brian Norwood.

    Upside: deep Hawai’i ties, bring three to four decades of proven experience from top tier programs, a huge recruiting Rolodex (especially Duane, who at one time was thought of as the premier defensive back recruiter as well as position coach in the nation), both are defensive minded and have a prove track record, can probably fit into the required salary scale, and both have served associate head coaches.

    Downside: never been a HC, both are long in the tooth, Brian is 56 and Duane is 62, lack of alumni and upper campus expertise, (tho Duane comes from the old school Punahou mafia that has political clout) and both have not worked on the offensive side of the ball.

    Still worth a look…..

  18. Kauai January 15, 2020 8:22 am

    I have heard rumors about the Lee brothers. Well food for thought, i have no doubt that Cal Lee can get the job done as St. Louis could be considered as a Div III college school in a High School environment, but look at UNLV when the hired Tony Sanchez. Bishop Gorman is the St. Louis of Nevada and Sanchez was very successful. When he got hired at UNLV it was a whole different ball game. But who knows….

  19. Harvey January 15, 2020 3:59 pm

    Dear fans of Hawai’i,

    I want to thank you for your support over the past few years. You welcomed my return to Aloha stadium with warmth and I will always remember that. My departure to WSU was a difficult decision, but it ultimately came down to my doing what’s best for my family. I will miss you all.

    And to all of the past and current Warriors who have worked, and fought, and bled to represent the team, the University and our state, mahalo. Going to battle with each of you was an honor. You are all great young men.

    Yeah, I didn’t have a team meeting to tell you I was leaving to your face, and I’ve unfollowed all of you on my Twitter account. And I haven’t issued a statement of thanks similar to this letter, but oh well. Transitions don’t build character, transitions reveal character.

    C ya,


  20. Boolakanaka January 15, 2020 6:36 pm

    Harvey, I’m a former warrior, and I got nothing but love for Nick. You show your aloha on the field and he has done it as player and coach. Further, I don’t know a single ex player that doesn’t feel the same way.

    Loyalty is a two street, just ask coach wags……

  21. NorthShoreFan January 15, 2020 6:48 pm

    IMHO… hoping Brian Smith get the HC job..Stuz can be the O coordinator and all the other coaches continue on with one exception…a bump i pay for all.
    It’s time UH pay for the excellence they want.
    Would be nice if the coaches stay and continue to keep continuity among the team. New recruits might appreciate that too.

  22. H-Man January 15, 2020 6:56 pm

    Watching KHON 2 News, AD Matlin said he hopes to announce the new head coach next Friday. Apparently there are many candidates and the vetting process is arduous, so no guarantee he will meet his target for next Friday. With so many candidates, the new coach may be a big surprise. I’m excited.

  23. UncleFester January 15, 2020 10:34 pm

    16. Intriguing. Thanks.

  24. rabbit ears January 16, 2020 9:20 am

    If Smith gets it. Stutz may stay. If Stutz gets it, Smith is gone. Washington St. money would be too much to turn down.

  25. Shaka808 January 16, 2020 3:46 pm

    The program wont survive another norm chow hire. We cant run a power offense thats based around being bigger/stronger/faster. Our only success since wagner (and dear god if we hire jasper and go back to the stone age of triple option) has been with up tempo passing offenses designed to mitigate size/speed disadvantages. Defense coordinator that understand that is fine. Hell a recruiter/ceo type like ed orgeron is good too if we can get good coordinators (that would see alot of shuffle as we wont pay enough to stay long term).

    It would be a funny case of deja vu for a tim chang hire to replace rolo. Id rather take a shot on an unproven with potential than an rehash that will fail like norm.

    As for norwood id rather not have a coach that was that close to art briles and that whole fiasco.

    Personal fav would be ulbrich (atlanta runs a pass heavy offense) but doubt he wants the paycut.

  26. H-Man January 17, 2020 3:04 am

    The excitement has waned for me, knowing Stutz is joining Rolo. If not the HC, I thought Stutz could have run the offense as OC. I know its been written that its premature to consider Stutz out, but Rolo knows he cannot run his offense without Stutz.

  27. boolakanaka January 18, 2020 11:09 am

    Hearing on the coconut wireless and a little bird that speaks to me, that Jim Mora Jr, is on the inside track for the HC position…

  28. kahuna January 18, 2020 2:48 pm

    #27…Jim Mora definitely brings the “wow” factor. However, it would make Matlin’s check list of what he wants in a coach obsolete. I thought having Hawaii tie, knowing the culture and the university were a must. Mora does not meet either of these.

    Football wise, it would be a big step up to get somebody with such an extensive NFL background to Hawaii. It would definitely help in getting more talented recruits to the island. I wonder who would be his OC if he was hired. If he can get somebody that can put butts in the seat, I say “bring him aboard”.

    I actually thought Jim Mora Jr would be out of reach. Maybe Matlin was able to get somebody in the community to help supplement Mora’s contract and might be able to get him on board.

  29. boolakanaka January 18, 2020 3:25 pm

    Mora doesn’t have kala worries. He has two buyouts in his possession, the most recent was for 12 million plus. That provides for lots of flexibility….

  30. cocobean January 18, 2020 5:04 pm

    If UH is going the cheap route (600K max) I have a feeling it’s going to be Banker. Rolo can probably outbid us for Smith and Stutz given WSU’s budget for assistant coaches is over 3.5 mil. Rumor has it the players want Banker.

    I’d like to see Miano on staff as recruiting director. He’s a meticulous go-getter. Also Tim Chang in Stutz’s role.

  31. Kawika January 19, 2020 7:17 am

    Mora does offer somewhat of a “Wow Factor” given his 4 winning seasons and being nationally ranked at UCLA. Mr. Matlin has to stop and look at him as an applicant, at least to hear what he says.
    There are questions about his coaching methods (3 UCLA players suing the school for mistreatment) and his two losing seasons that led to his firing. He did go through a divorce during his last season there, so he may be looking for a change of scenery and to get back on the sidelines. I just hope that if he’s hired, he doesn’t bring in a bunch of Don Lindsey or Wally English type of assistants who had no clue about UH/Hawaii.

  32. Kawika January 19, 2020 7:59 am

    Grown tired of the constant “Woe are we!” “UH has no money” or “We need more State support.” That last one, from the State, doesn’t seem to be happening, IMHO. There are wealthy potential private donors in our community, but UH seems to be unable to reach or connect with them. Fact of the matter is that from what I can see the fund -raising efforts for athletics are meager at best. Instead of feeling sorrow for itself, UH must be more proactive. The UH Athletic Dept’s fund-raising, marketing/promotions, and reaching out to wealthy donors needs to be carefully examined and scrutinized more. Watching Rolo’s press conference, you can feel the energy, support, and enthusiasm in that room, and WSU is considered the lower tier of the Pac-12 out in the Palouse.

    In the meantime, UH will continue to call small-time, “manini” UH grads like me at dinner time, asking for donations. I donate what I can, but I think they can do better. Sorry for the rant. Off my soapbox.

  33. pueo January 20, 2020 8:09 am

    NO 16, fair overview. I agree w your assessment of Stuzz. He needs more greening and time to build networks. Personally, Anae, appears to be sound and offers the experience preferred in the passing game. His work product at Virginia bears a closer look. However, the key to selection is understanding UHAD Matlin and based on his past selections, he has weighed heavily on connections to subject UH program, either as a player or a coach or both and youth. My guess is youth because the HC opportunity is valued over a lucrative salary. In this regard, not my personal choice, but Brian Smith has a huge edge.

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