Kauhaahaa lands on feet with Broncos


He knew he wasn’t going to starve, but Chad Kauhaahaa admitted he was a bit worried when a few weeks went by without a phone call.

With a new head coach at Oregon State University, it appeared Kauhaahaa, a member of the old coaching staff, would soon be out of a job.

Then, the 1991 Baldwin High School graduate had a decision to make.

It came down to family for the veteran college football coach whose first official day as defensive line coach at Boise State University is today.

“I was sitting on the couch for a while,” Kauhaahaa said via phone on Wednesday. “Don’t think I wasn’t getting nervous now. I was lucky enough to be under contract with Oregon State until next February, so that was somewhat of a relief. Myself, I wanted to make sure. I didn’t want to get lost. When you sit out in college football, you get lost — I didn’t want that to happen.”

Kauhaahaa came home to Maui after the Beavers’ 1-11 season ended on Nov. 25 to tend to family land in Kahakuloa.

“I came back as soon as I could because there’s no phone service out there,” Kauhaahaa said. “I wanted to be able to make sure if somebody wanted to contact me they could. There was radio silence.”

Then, as Christmas approached and it was clear that Kauhaahaa would not be retained by new OSU head coach Jonathan Smith, the calls started rolling in.

“The week before Christmas I got a call from a Pac-12 school,” Kau­haahaa said. “They wanted to take a look at me and interview me and whatnot, so I was super fired up about that. My old boss, Gary Andersen, really played a big part in that.”

The family of Kauhaahaa’s wife Lena, a Lahainaluna graduate who met her future husband in high school, played a big part in his decision to instead join the Broncos.

“I would have been at the Pac-12 school if it wasn’t for Boise State,” Chad Kauhaahaa said. “It was just because, one, my wife’s entire family lives here now except for one sister — that played a huge role, but at the same time I consider Boise an elite program. I didn’t look at them as a non-power-5 school. I looked at them as consistent winners. There’s a huge winning tradition here.”

After three seasons in Corvallis, Ore., where the Beavers went 7-29, Kauhaahaa landed on his feet. He had previously been at Weber State (2005-08), Utah State (2009-10), Utah (2011-12) and Wisconsin (2013-14) prior to Oregon State, where he was associate head coach the final two seasons.

After flying into Boise on Dec. 30, he got to know a couple of the Broncos’ staff members who came off of vacation to meet with him. After an extensive interview that included video work, drawing up plays on a chalkboard, showing his coaching techniques on the field and philosophy questions from head coach Bryan Harsin, Kauhaahaa was offered the job.

“That was impressive and exhausting,” Kauhaahaa recalled.

After doing the Pac-12 interview, Kauhaahaa called Harsin from the airport and said he was going to be a Bronco. There were also more than one inquiry from other Mountain West Conference schools that Kauhaahaa declined to name.

Kauhaahaa worked for Andersen at Utah State, Wisconsin and OSU. Andersen walked away from the Beavers at midseason when they were 1-5, leaving $12 million remaining on his contract unclaimed. Andersen has since rejoined the staff at Utah as the associate head coach.

After Andersen’s departure, several text messages he sent to a columnist for the Oregonian newspaper were published, most of which were not friendly to Andersen’s OSU staff.

“Gary did what was best for him and his family,” Kauhaahaa said. “You can say this: All the BS rumors that were going around, what the public doesn’t know is that everything that Gary said to that reporter through text messages, everything, word for word, he told that to our face. I will stand by it because the things that were written were told to us in our staff meetings.”

Kauhaahaa will recruit Hawaii, Utah and American Samoa for the Broncos. His Polynesian roots have helped him rise in the recruiting game.

“I say this to everybody: I didn’t get fired from Oregon State,” Kauhaahaa said. “I was just glad I performed well. I have a lot of confidence in myself. I’m grateful and this couldn’t be a better spot for me and my family.”

* Robert Collias is at rcollias@mauinews.com.