Former Crusader Returns Home To Lead Red Raider Team

Named head coach for the Kahuku High football team last week was Vavae Tata. Born and raised in Hawaii, he was a standout defensive lineman at Saint Louis School (1991-94) and went on to a stellar career at UCLA, where he earned a sociology degree.

Tata’s coaching career includes stops at UCLA, Stanford, San Jose State and Vanderbilt, where he served as an assistant for player development on Derek Mason’s staff during the 2014 season. Tata also coached in the Pittsburgh Steelers’ Bill Walsh Minority Coaching Fellowship Program.

“I’m excited to be part of Kahuku’s powerhouse tradition on the gridiron,” Tata said. “People have asked, ‘Why Kahuku?’ My consistent answer is, ‘Why not?’ I plan to challenge our athletes to compete in the classroom and move forward with the continuing philosophy of faith, family, future and football.

“My primary focus will be student first, athlete second,” he added. “I’ll also use my widespread resources to propel our students into college, and mentor them to be great men through college, career and family. This isn’t a one-, twoor four-year decision; this is a lifetime commitment from me.”

Tata began coaching in 2006, spending two years as a defensive line coach at McKinley High School. In 2008, he landed back at his college alma mater, serving as a defensive graduate assistant at UCLA under former Bruins head coach Rick Neuheisel. Tata was promoted to a defensive assistant position for the 2009 season with the Bruins.

Other coaching highlights include serving on David Shaw’s staff at Stanford in 2013-14.

“Coach Tata has expansive experience at the college level,” said Kahuku principal Pauline Masaniai, “which will increase the linkage of our student-athletes to college opportunities while he prepares them physically and mentally for the next level. We’re excited to see the progression of our recognized football program under his leadership. We will do our best to make red his favorite color.”

Tata replaces Lee Leslie, who left after one season to return to Idaho to spend more time with his family. The team went 10-3 overall under Leslie in 2014, finishing runner-up to Mililani in the OIA. Kahuku went on to make the state semi-finals, where it was defeated by eventual state runner-up Punahou.

Tata is Kahuku’s third coach in as many years. Reggie Torres had coached from 2006 to 2014, compiling a 75-14 record to go with three state championships.

The tradition-rich Red Raiders have won 23 OIA championships and seven state titles in their history.