Interim coach ‘still the kid from Kaaawa’


Interim head coach Chris Naeole said he’s “going to ask guys to work hard and, if they don’t, get the hell out.”

Chris Naeole hopes to fix in four weeks the ills of the University of Hawaii football team's past four years.

"I know guys want to jump off the ship," said Naeole, who was named interim head coach following Norm Chow's firing on Sunday. "But I'm not going to put up with no (BS). I'm going to ask guys to work hard and, if they don't, get the hell out."

Naeole is a Kahuku High graduate who played 12 seasons in the National Football League. He joined UH as the offensive line coach in 2013. This past summer he added the title of associate head coach. He arrives early each morning and leaves late. In between he studies videos, crafts strategies and teaches players.

"I enjoy coming here every morning," he said in his corner office, which offers a scenic view of the parking structure. "I grew up on Kualoa Ranch. My dad worked at the ranch. He got up at 4:30 in the morning every day, sick or whatnot, and he put in a good, honest day's work. He came home, loved his family and repeated the process. I learned at a young age about work ethic and keeping the drive."

Naeole said it is too late to change the offensive and defensive schemes. But he plans to alter the practice schedule and demand hard work from his players and coaches.

"You can't lie to a man," Naeole said. "Guys know who's pulling their load and who's not, especially in this day and age."

Naeole acknowledged that times have changed.

"When I was growing up, I didn't know what a damn hamstring pull was or any kind of pull," he said. "What's an MCL? Nowadays it's like, 'Coach, I've got this, I've got that.' Guys have dings. But it's a gladiator sport. I think that's the best thing about this sport — it's legalized violence. You actually have to be kind of a sick person to play this game. You've got to love what you do. Your body is your weapon, and you've got to use it as it is."

Naeole said he is not afraid to speak his mind, especially if it will evoke a positive change. Bruised feelings are collateral damage. He also has not expressed an intention to apply for the permanent head coach's job. For now, he said, he is focused on winning the Warriors' final four regular-season games — his way.

"Everybody knows who I am," Naeole said. "I'm still the kid from Kaaawa. I might have played in the NFL and made some money, but you would never know. I'm still the same."