From Kaiser To UH And Back

Head football coach Rich Miano at Kaiser High School: back to blue and gold. Nathalie Walker photo

Rich Miano couldn’t have been more excited about changing colors.

“I just put on my Kaiser High shirt for the first time while getting ready for the Leahey and Leahey show,” he tells me. “I think I’m really going to like wearing the blue and gold again.”

The 49-year-old Miano, who has been wearing the green and white (or green, black and white) of the University of Hawaii coaching staff for 13 years, has just signed on as the new head football coach at Kaiser High School, his alma mater.

He says the first few days on the job have been a whirlwind of activity.

“I’ve been getting emails and texts and phone calls from players and teammates and parents. It’s been incredible,” he says. “I can’t say enough about the support I’m getting from the people at Kaiser, the principal and the AD and everybody. Guys are calling me who want to coach with me. Guys like Dennis McKnight and Ashley Lelie and others are very interested. We have a chance to put something together that is really special.”

Miano was a star at Kaiser, and helped the Cougars to the 1979 Prep Bowl title. Then he followed his heart to the University of Hawaii, where he continued to star for head coach Dick Tomey. After more than a decade in the NFL, Miano began a 13-year love affair with the University of Hawaii as an assistant for June Jones and Greg McMackin, rising through the ranks to associate head coach. His coaching career appeared to be over when he wasn’t rehired as Norm Chow assembled his new staff.

“I never wanted to coach on the Mainland,” Miano says. “This is my home. I only ever wanted to coach at two places – the University of Hawaii or Kaiser High School. To give back to the place where I’ve lived 34 years of my life is really awesome.”

Miano has already reached out to former head coaches about what’s next.

“Dick Tomey told me that this age group is very impressionable and so you’re really going to make a difference,” he says. “He said it’s a lot different from being an assistant, as suddenly you are the one making all the decisions. You have to organize your staff, make sure you’ve got all the equipment, work with media, do fundraising – you’re responsible for everything, almost like a CEO. Football is such an organizational thing, so you’ve got to be organized.”

Miano is so excited about the position, he hasn’t even asked what he’s being paid.

“I didn’t even check on that,” he says, laughing. “Whatever it is, I’m going to give my compensation back, so that my assistants or the program can use it. We can also fundraise – it’s important that my assistants are taken care of for all the hard work that I know they are going to put in. These guys are doing it for the love and the passion for the game, not for the compensation.”

The new head coach knows it will be a tough task to make Kaiser football what it was like back when he played there, no matter what your name or football pedigree is.

“We don’t want to talk dynasty,” he says. “I just want to build a good foundation. There’s so much anxiety and anticipation; it’s going to be a challenge. I know how hard other programs are working; I’m just excited to get this opportunity.”

And, of course, to wear the blue and gold again.

“This is so great,” Miano says. “I just want to make Hawaii Kai proud.”