A visionary

While UH seeks a committee to seek a new athletic director, former Chaminade athletic director Mike Vasconcellos’ passing allows reflection on a simpler time in local sports.

While the “Miracle on Ward Avenue” – the Silverswords’ upset of No. 1-ranked Virginia in 1982 – is archived in college-basketball lore, what is forgotten is the tiny school still operated on an austere budget after that game. There were no upgrades to McCabe Gym, no increases in personnel, and Vasconcellos and coach Merv Lopes still worked in the “Shack.” (Two years later, though, NAIA District 2 was reclassified as Hawaii-only District 29.)

All of which meant that Vasconcellos, as Chaminade’s athletic director for three decades through the 1990s, still hustled and maneuvered for every cent that went into the program. The eventual creation of the Maui Classic infused money into the athletic program. But for the most part, Chaminade survived because of Vasconcellos, who: 1) Took a chance in hiring Lopes, and 2) Continued to develop deep and sincere friendships. Under Vasconcellos, Chaminade’s bills were always paid and either the facilities were not an issue or used as David-themed motivation. Vasconcellos even helped find off-season jobs for UH football players.

People outside his circle sometimes liked him, sometimes didn’t like him as much. But his true friends always were loyal, helping Chaminade and, eventually, helping Vasconcellos after he was diagnosed with Parkinson’s.

The lesson of the Tinman is a “heart is not judged by how much you love, but by how much you are loved by others.” Several bosses and cohorts – the late Bill Walsh, Dick Vermeil, John Ralston, Dick Tomey, Lopes, Chuck Williams, Elroy Chong – were lifelong friends. Walsh, unsolicited, would send checks to a mutual friend to help cover Vasconcellos’ medical and living expenses.

Chong, a former UH quarterback, regularly visited Vasconcellos at the care home in recent years. They spoke of faith, of life’s meaning and, of course, of UH sports. After learning of Vasconcellos’ passing, Chong said: “I had a heart-felt cry.”


  1. 3-Prong January 1, 2015 9:47 am

    Happy New Year!

  2. RB January 1, 2015 9:57 am

    ST not sure if its true but word is Barry Higdon is going to transfer. Can you confirm?

  3. Stephen Tsai January 1, 2015 9:59 am

    He’s looking to transfer. Distance, lack of playing time, and so forth. He’s a nice guy, but he wasn’t developing enough to make the travel squad last year.

  4. tom January 1, 2015 10:00 am


    Happy New Year, one and all!

  5. BigFan January 1, 2015 10:10 am

    Hauoli Makahiki Hou,

    We have a good start with basketball and here’s hoping that all UH sports have a good year.

  6. RB January 1, 2015 10:14 am

    ST thanks. Best wishes to Barry

  7. Stephen Tsai January 1, 2015 10:16 am

    I fell asleep at 11 p.m., and my family was unsuccessful in waking me up. (I think they did hold a mirror to my face to see if I was breathing.)
    No, I did not drink.
    Yes, I’m 54.
    At a certain age, it’s like, “Ah, I’ll catch the next one.”

  8. Stephen Tsai January 1, 2015 10:19 am

    UH probably will lose a couple walk-ons, too. It’s hard being out here without a scholarship.

  9. orioles4eva January 1, 2015 10:19 am

    May we all have a healthy and happy new year.

  10. jm2375 January 1, 2015 10:36 am

    Happy New Year!

    Condolences to the Vasconcellos ohana.

    On to Warrior volleyball!

  11. Willie January 1, 2015 10:40 am

    jeezy33, in reply to your comment yesterday.

    Was not comparing Hawaii athletes to Boise State. My reference was to poster #6 about the recent commits from Mililani being too short and his reference to “under 6 feet clowns”. Point was that Boise had a bunch of 6 ft and under players dominating the bigger, faster Arizona players. The QB was money and a shade under 6 ft. (24/34, 1 TD, 1 int for 309 yds). Leading receiver is 5′ 11″ (12 receptions for 199 yds).

    Did make reference to BSU coaching staff (1st year HC & new 32 yr old OC) as being on the ball. Comparison to Hawaii coaching in 2014 as being predictable & conservative; results speak for themselves. Did you see the BSU/AU game?

  12. st. anthony trojan January 1, 2015 10:41 am

    Nice piece on Mike….thanks….may he rest in peace…

  13. A-House January 1, 2015 10:45 am

    ah, thanks to our neighbors and rest in the neighborhood for not using fireworks last night – some did, but it was of the small variety so got a good nights sleep

    ah, clear skies and bright sunshine has returned to the valley making for a very nice new Year’s day – and, best of all, NO smoky skies and gun powder smell

    slept till 8:30 am which is unheard of for me – another year older – sitting at the computer with a long sleeve shirt to keep warmer

  14. DaMenehune January 1, 2015 10:46 am

    Good morning Tsaikos!
    May we all have a happy, healthy
    and safe new year!

  15. A-House January 1, 2015 10:46 am


    current “walk-ons” or future ones?

    noisy near your house last night?

  16. Inyoface January 1, 2015 10:55 am

    Wonder if Rolo will be with Nevada next year. Didn’t have a great season with an experienced qb.

  17. jeezy33 January 1, 2015 11:36 am

    11. I’ll take under 6 feet clowns all day if they got explosive speed and/or agility to make guys miss in space. Davone bess was a pretty slow straight line runner but had extremely quick feet and could get 0-5 yards very fast.. problem with Hawaii under mack and chow is we’ve recruited pretty slow wrs for the most part that don’t make explosive plays or yards after catch. Stubblefield and gant are probably the only 2 wrs recruited in past 5 years that fit the bill. Ewaliko has potential but still raw. Mack Richards hasn’t arrived yet. Until we can stretch the field vertically and attack the seam, safeties will play up and attack our run game and qb all day… collie will make a solid slot… but we need more..

  18. markazulu January 1, 2015 12:01 pm

    I’m gonna ask what playoff system would you guys prefer for CFB?
    4,8, or 16 team playoffs?

  19. MattyBoy January 1, 2015 12:28 pm


    I think an eight-team playoff would be perfect.

  20. 3-Prong January 1, 2015 12:36 pm

    Agree that an 8 team playoff would include all worthy teams and excentuate the meaning of the regular season games. From Hawaiis standpoint a 16 team playoff would probably be be better as it would give us a better chance of one day getting included.

  21. 3-Prong January 1, 2015 12:37 pm

    ….and Geaux Ducks!

  22. jeezy33 January 1, 2015 12:49 pm

    I like 6 team… I really don’t think 8 is needed..

  23. gigi-hawaii January 1, 2015 1:07 pm


    I like what you said about the Tinman.
    Happy New Year, everyone!

  24. Boolakanaka January 1, 2015 1:37 pm

    Hmmmn, Marcus seems the superior athlete to Jameis to this point…

  25. al January 1, 2015 4:23 pm

    Rest in peace Mike.
    Truly one of the good guys to walk this earth. When I met Mike he had just learned about the Parkinson’s disease. He never complained about it and continued to run and play tennis as if he never missed a beat. He was a loving and caring dad.

    My heartfelt condolences to Ki’ilani and the rest of the ohana.

  26. al January 1, 2015 4:26 pm

    On another note…isn’t John Ursua due on campus soon?

  27. al January 1, 2015 4:32 pm

    Me too. We were talking this playoff thing over yesterday and my contention was a six team playoff. Numbers 1 and 2 get a bye. First round is between 3 through 6.

    That way, hopefully a TCU doesn’t get screwed by the BCS political powers.

  28. clyde January 1, 2015 6:06 pm

    Been waiting for Stephen to post an update on Ursua, too. Hope he’s keeping his commitment. Think he’d make a great slotback/kick returner … and/or point guard, if he chooses to explore that route.

  29. Inyoface January 1, 2015 7:01 pm

    8 teams will never happen, it’s too much wear and tear for a college athlete especially when not getting paid. If TCU wants to be in the top 4 they should’ve gone undefeated.

  30. champ January 1, 2015 7:11 pm

    8 team playoff might too many games for a Div I school to play after their conference playoff game. Some teams will play up to 17 games. On another front, maybe Mr. Chow might take another pay cut and hire an experienced OC that has a bigger and versatile playbook.

  31. Markazulu January 1, 2015 8:14 pm

    I ask because espn debated about it. I have a feeling in the following years the 4 playoff format will always have someone left in the cold especially the mid majors. I think the fairest would be 8 teams because u can have a team represent all 5 power conference and still have an extra 3 spaces for left over power conference teams or even mid majors like Boise st. I get it that 8 team playoff would drag the season for teams and some might play up to 17 games a season but c’mon fcs has a 16 team playoff system that seems to work out for them. I’m not sure though how long their regular season is though.

  32. pollypicador January 1, 2015 9:42 pm

    What a difference 7 years makes…to the day. It was January 1, 2008 and Hawaii was playing Georgia in the Sugar Bowl. The lead up to the game was fun. Everyone was piggybacking on the Warriors good run. Everyone was happy. The big game, however, saw the big fish eat the small fish and Hawaii was Georgia’s lunch. So much for Hawaii’s storied swim up stream. Yet the point of emphasis, gulp, is where Hawaii football is… today since that special day.

    The Mack and Chow years, since, have been frustrating.

    In seven years Hawaii football went from being the vehicle that piggybacked happy fans to being the vehicle that has (had) a carload of coaches (since) with monkeys on their backs, albatrosses around their necks and left frustrated fans in their wake.

    Hawaii football and fans deserve better. Seven years ago there was momentum, proudness, good direction–it’s sad that it wasn’t parlayed. It’s no fun losing, or being other’s lunches.

  33. d1shima January 2, 2015 6:00 am

    Great Morning All!

    Happy New Year!


  34. d1shima January 2, 2015 6:01 am

    RIP Mike Vasconcellos

  35. 3-Prong January 2, 2015 7:38 am

    …kinda doesn’t feel like it but it’s Aloha Friday! Smile and have a good one today.

  36. champ January 2, 2015 8:41 am

    Mid Majors could have their own playoff if they don’t make it to the reg playoffs. Like Sub-div schools do apart from the bigs. Also, mid-major guys don’t have 300 lb + players up and down their rosters to get hurt from or a bunch of 4.4 guys. With all the bowl games around they could designate certain mid-major bowls to run the middle playoffs. Furthe, Mack was a hell of lot better than Chow!! They were still exciting to watch altho frustrating at times when they lost to SJSt and UNLV in the last year. UH should have been 8-5 that year and going to the Hawaii Bowl. Also, thinking it over I dont think a new OC would work out too well as he will have more knowledge than our current head coach-GUARANTEE FRICTION!!! So in conclusion, aloha NC you gave it your best shot!

  37. Tempmanoa January 2, 2015 8:41 am

    I knew Mike through his cousins, then through his daughter Ki’i in youth and high school sports. He always did what he could to help and always had an idea to suggest– a creative guy, a doer, and an expediter. He hung tough through his health issues, but gave his all to the teams and schools he supported. All the best to Ki’i and the rest of his family and friends.

  38. Abunai January 2, 2015 8:42 am

    #17 Jezzy33
    How can you say Stubbs fits the bill when he didn’t even play on the field yet?!?! I know he was hurt. But still he has to show it on the field. I’ll believe it when I see it. I hope he does fit the bill.

    Also Jezzy33 I mention on Dec 31 post about the miliani WR speed because I don’t think espn is accurate.. Because I believe the #2 rated DB is way faster then 4.68. That’s why I posted Iman Marshell espn profile to show how espn is not accurate. When did I say the the miliani wr is faster then SEC DB?!?!

  39. Stephen Tsai January 2, 2015 9:14 am

    Ding, ding, ding: http://hawaiiwarriorworld.com/?p=26825

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