Everett’s Mentoring Gives DeMello A Dream Career

Never has anyone tried so hard to dissuade me from doing a story they were pitching. This happened a week ago, when KHON2 sports director Rob DeMello phoned with an idea for a follow-up article of sorts on Neil Everett’s induction into the HPU Sports Hall of Fame.

A year ago we profiled Everett’s rise from HPU sports information director to nightly SportsCenter anchor. The broadcaster often has credited his success to the relationships he built while working in Hawaii. DeMello says there is more to the Everett story. As much as he received from Hawaii, the Oregon-born broadcaster has given back to those seeking to follow in his footsteps.

Therein lies the problem. DeMello can’t tell Everett’s story without telling his own. That’s not something the Kailua graduate is comfortable doing. Even though he’s been on the air since the age of 20, DeMello is much more of an introvert than one would expect. He’ll discuss UH athletics for hours, but gets noticeably uncomfortable when he becomes the subject.

It’s really kind of hilarious. Some would say sweet. I’m sticking with funny.

DeMello was a directionless teen — good in history and writing (he used to pen recaps of the video games he played), but bad in math and science. He had a 1-point-something GPA, no plans for college and didn’t really care about either. That changed when his friend Nathaniel invited him to dinner with KGMB staff members.

Nathaniel Conely’s parents purchased thedinner at a charity auction, and while dining at I Love Country Cafe, weather hottie Kim Gennaula asked DeMello about his career plans — a difficult question for any teen. He wanted to be a sports-caster but had no idea how. Gennaula passed along Everett’s phone number and told the teen to give his favorite broadcaster a call. Nervously, he did just that. The then-KGMB sports director invited him down and later made an offer. DeMello could intern once a week and learn the business from the inside. There was a catch: Improve his grades or find someplace else to spend his Tuesday afternoons.

“I was a whole new person. It changed everything because I had purpose, I had a goal,” he says.

The pair didn’t spend much time talking academics. Everett would broach the subject a few times a month, but beyond that, he let DeMello do his thing. Or at least that’s what the teenager thought. Unknown to his protege, Everett would regularly call Kailua High School to check on DeMello’s academic progress.

“It’s Neil. I’m sure he sweet-talked his way into getting the grades,” DeMello says.

Everett’s teaching style was indirect. He never told his young intern how to write. Just do it and they would discuss the results after. It fit perfectly with DeMello’s learning style. By his senior year in high school, DeMello was writing copy for broadcast.

Everett left for ESPN in 2000. Dave Vinton took over as KGMB’s sports director, and Liz Chun (who also benefitted from Everett’s mentoring) became his new on-the-job chaperone. DeMello applied at HPU (at Everett’s recommendation), then got a job in the school’s sports information department, which Everett set up. When he literally ran into then-KITV sports director Robert Kekaula while Christmas shopping at Windward Mall Footlocker (Kekaula offered DeMello a chance to interview for a paid producer position), he called Everett for advice.

It became a pattern.

Whenever the once-insecure DeMello had a career question, Everett was his adviser:

“He always told me, ‘You are more ready than you think you are.'”

DeMello thinks of Everett as an uncle, a brother, a coach, a friend, a teacher. Whether the issue is personal or professional, Everett has been an encouraging and caring voice, even when DeMello’s marriage was dissolving, a victim of his long and unpredictable hours.

After some 20 years of friendship, the student/teacher relationship remains.

Says DeMello: “No matter how much older I get, no matter how long I am in this business, when I see Neil, I’m 15 again.”