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Norm Chow preaches responsibility, something he learned at a tender age

By Stephen Tsai

POSTED:
LAST UPDATED: 02:35 a.m. HST, Aug 31, 2012


Before Norm Chow became the Hawaii football coach intent on "chasing championships," there was the college graduate who asked his young bride, Diane: Now what?

They were living in the basement of her parents' house, with little money but no bills. Both were college educated.

"We had great support," Chow recalled."We had parents who really cared about us. We were able to find work. It went from there."

Chow became a successful offensive coach, developing four Heisman Trophy winners and being a part of three national championships. In December, he was named the UH head coach.

He then asked Diane: Now what?

They owned a house in Manhattan Beach, Calif., and considered buying a condo in Honolulu. Instead, their daughter and son-in-law invited them to stay in their Pauoa Valley home.

"It's fun to go home and see my granddaughters," Chow said.

Chow is paying for an expansion to the Pauoa house. The circle is complete.

FATHER KNOWS BEST

Warren Chow never missed any of his three sons' games. But there were many weeknights when he would come home late from his work with customs.

"He was in charge of guys who would go down to the airport and check bags for what is now TSA," Norm Chow said. "If a flight came in from China at 2 a.m., if you went down there, you were paid a whole day's pay."

The elder Chow helped the employees study for tests that would lead to promotions. He also did the tax returns for friends and relatives for free.

"I remember at Christmas time, we had a little porch, and it would be loaded with hams and turkeys," Norm Chow said. "So many people would leave them there for him because they were so grateful for all he had done. When the job was done, he was not."

Warren Chow avoided critiquing his sons' performances too quickly. Norm Chow remembered that when his own sons played sports.

"After one of my sons finished a tennis match, he didn't want to talk about it," Chow recalled. "He'd get mad at me. I used to say, ‘You should have done this' or ‘You should have done that.' Then I realized my dad never said that. He never said anything in the car ride. He waited until we got home. He'd take a deep breath and then talk about it."

Chow is admittedly a yeller during practice. But he also waits until after reviewing videos of practices before offering his most pointed critiques.

"I'm trying to learn the lesson my father taught," Chow said.

BEING RESPONSIBLE

For men of a certain age, the summers of their youth were spent in the pineapple cannery.

It was hard work, but a rite of responsibility. They ignored the noise and the smell and the ache in their backs and arms to earn a dollar-forty-and-a-half-cent hourly wage.

"I learned a lot from those days," Chow said.

His UH football practices are conducted under an unforgiving sun and to the boom-boom-BOOM beat of music blaring from an amplified amp. Some sing along. Some dance along. All are being conditioned to perform a job in an environment of aural distractions.

"Games have distractions," Chow said. "You can't let it bother you. There's noise going on all of the time."

ONLY GAME IN TOWN

In Manhattan Beach, Chow's next-door neighbors were USC fans. Two houses down, there was a UCLA flag in the front yard. One household rooted for Whittier College. Another boasted of its allegiance to El Camino Junior College.

"You don't feel there what you feel here," Chow said. "UH is the only game in town. There's no pro team. People are loyal to their high schools. But on the national scene, it's UH. The interest sometimes is overwhelming."

Chow retains preferences. Playbooks are produced on paper, not as iPad apps. Caps must be worn with the bills in front. Players are taught to thank everybody — custodians, parking guards, professors, even reporters.

"We're not teaching them manners," Chow said."We're teaching them how to represent the program."

Chow said he feels the expectations of a community. He has met fans who have spent hard-earned money for tickets or UH merchandise.

"You don't want to let them down," Chow said.

He also has an obligation to his players.

"I don't want to sound too corny, but I heard once that you don't coach football," Chow said. "We don't coach a ball. How do you tell a ball what to do? We teach young men the game of football, and all of the lessons that go along with football. What makes football so exciting is it parallels the lessons you need to be successful in life. It teaches you about working together."

THE BOOK ON NORM

>> 1964 — Graduates from Punahou, where he lettered in football, baseball and basketball and was named athlete of the year.

>> 1968 — Graduates from Utah with a BA in heath, physical education and recreation. Plays his lone professional season with the Saskatchewan Roughriders of the CFL.

>> 1970 — Earns his master’s degree from Utah in health, PE and recreation. Returns to Hawaii to begin his career as head coach at Waialua High.

>> 1973 — Joins the BYU coaching staff as a graduate assistant.

>> 1976 — Promoted to BYU’s receivers coach and recruiting coordinator.

>> 1979 — Earns a degree from BYU in educational psychology.

>> 1982 — Promoted to BYU’s co-offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach.

>> 1983 — BYU sets an NCAA record by averaging 548 yards in total offense and quarterback Steve Young finishes second in Heisman Trophy voting.

>> 1984 — BYU beats Michigan in the Holiday Bowl to complete a 13-0 season and wins the national championship with Robbie Bosco at quarterback.

>> 1985 — BYU leads the nation in total and passing offense for the third straight year.

>> 1990 — Adds the title of assistant head coach. QB Ty Detmer throws for 5,188 yards and wins the Heisman Trophy.

>> 1991 — Detmer ends his career as the NCAA’s all-time passing leader.

>> 1996 — BYU goes 14-1 and finishes fifth in the national polls. QB Steve Sarkisian leads the nation in passing efficiency.

>> 2000 — Hired as offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach at North Carolina State. Philip Rivers passes for 3,054 yards and 25 touchdowns and is named a freshman All-American.

>> 2001 — Hired as USC offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach in Pete Carroll’s first year as the Trojans’ head coach.

>> 2002 — Wins the Broyles Award as the nation’s top assistant coach. Carson Palmer throws for 3,639 yards and 32 touchdowns and wins the Heisman Trophy.

>> 2003 — USC goes 12-1, averaging 41.1 points a game, and is voted No. 1 by the Associated Press.  

>> 2004 — Matt Leinart throws for 3,322 yards and 33 touchdowns and wins the Heisman Trophy. USC routs Oklahoma 55-19 in the Orange Bowl to finish 13-0 and repeats as national champion.

>> 2005 — Hired as the Tennessee Titans offensive coordinator. The Titans finish 4-12 while averaging 18.7 points.

>> 2006 — The Titans improve to 8-8 and Vince Young is named rookie of the year and makes the Pro Bowl.

>> 2007 — Tennessee goes 10-6 and makes the playoffs as a wild card.

>> 2008 — Hired as offensive coordinator at UCLA. The Bruins go 15-22 over the next three years. Inducted into Punahou’s Athletic Hall of Fame.

>> 2011 — Hired as Utah’s offensive coordinator/tight ends coach. The Utes finish 8-5, closing the season with a 30-27 overtime win over Georgia Tech in the Sun Bowl.

>> 2011 — Announced as Hawaii’s 22nd head coach on Dec. 21, becoming the first Asian-American head coach of a major college program.

>> 2012 — Opens first spring practice as head coach on March 20.

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