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Further Review | Sports

Retired Tomey still has the skills to motivate

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Everybody knows that middle-aged, follically challenged rotund grouch who moans about life being better back when the microwave oven was high tech.

Yeah, that’s me. But only sometimes.

Now and then I check with a whippersnapper from Generation Text if I’m a lost cause, separated from the orbit of current reality and floating around near the land of revisionist history. If I sell something too hard as a golden oldie, well, it might just make me look like the middle three letters of classic.

So I turned to Rob DeMello, the 27-year-old sportscaster, and asked what he thought about Dick Tomey – specifically, the former University of Hawaii football coach’s oratory skills.

To which, DeMello replied, said skills are "angry." Oh wait, let me check my notes. Yeah, I think he actually said "mad."

"I agree with you. He’s a great speaker," DeMello added, in words I could understand.

At age 72, Tomey still knows how to make a speech. The other day at the stadium he got us pumped up … about a new scoreboard.

"There’s no greater gathering place on Oahu than Aloha Stadium!" Tomey worked it like a halftime speech, circa 1981.

"It’s not just about watching football," he spat in his crisp, clear voice of command, extolling the virtues of the ultimate flatscreen. "It’s about CELEBRATING FOOTBALL!"

IT WAS like the old days, sort of. Upon Tomey’s orders a fired-up mob charged from the bowels of the stadium and onto the field. But this wasn’t a football team.

This time, Tomey had hypnotized a bunch of media members and other buffet mongers to march right past the food. The priority mission was viewing of the new scoreboard, aka the Ninth Wonder of the World.

We stared at it for about 10 minutes. Then Jim Leahey was the first to realize: Hey, it’s a scoreboard, and he led our way back out of the sun.

Tomey – who once had his Rainbow Warriors believing the hot coals they walked over were cool moss – had worked his magic again.

"He’s a motivator, man," DeMello said. "He can get anyone to do anything. He could probably even get me to do the laundry."

Tomey’s mesmerizing manner pre-empted my serious journalistic queries. When the "kiss cam" function of the scoreboard was mentioned, I wanted to ask if the majestic new screen could be programmed for "score from the red-zone cam" or perhaps, "stop the run cam."

But Tomey’s tone and presence discouraged such tomfoolery. If there were jokes to tell, he’d be the one doing the telling. Like this one, about his title of "special assistant" for Aloha Sports Properties.

"I like it because no one knows what it means," he said.

And being retired as a coach is liberating. You can admit to some of your fibs, or fib about fibbing. Whatever.

"Jim (Donovan, the UH athletic director) was a defensive lineman. We lied to him in recruiting and told him he could play defense. But when he got here, I told him to take one step and turn around, that’s your position. It’s not far."

WHEN TOMEY retired as San Jose State’s coach after last season he said he’d return home to Hawaii. But it was clear he wasn’t ready for the lanai. What does a person with plenty of time, energy, charisma, connections, credibility and good health do now?

How about running for public office?

He laughs.



"Well, somebody mentioned it once. But I’ve never seriously considered it. Somebody mentioned it last week."


"Seriously, I have no idea what’s involved. I’d have to do a bunch of research on it and really be motivated. It’s been mentioned to me a couple times."

As a football coach, he worked long hours, raised plenty of money and made tough decisions.

And he inspired.

"We always prided ourselves on developing that. Get people to dig deep down and bring more out of themselves than they thought possible."

It’s too late for the upcoming elections. But mention politics to Dick Tomey, and it’s not like he’s completely speechless.

Reach Star-Advertiser sports columnist Dave Reardon at, his "Quick Reads" blog at and


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