On the last day of his "retirement," Dick Tomey awakened at 2 a.m. yesterday to prepare for the orientation session at his new job as the Hawaii football team’s special teams coordinator.
He pored through a media guide, trying to match faces with names and backgrounds.
Sometimes his studying was interrupted by the mental slide shows of his 10 seasons as UH’s head coach (1977-1986).
After all these years, Tomey remains the master of details.
"He’s a perfectionist," UH head coach Greg McMackin said, adding, "he’s perfect for this position."
Tomey met with several Warriors yesterday morning. Three of them — London Sapolu, Liko Satele and Beau Yap — are sons of players he coached at UH.
Yesterday afternoon, Tomey was introduced as the successor to Chris Tormey, who coached the Warriors’ safeties and special teams the past two seasons. Three weeks ago, Tormey resigned to accept a coaching job at Washington State.
Tomey officially starts at UH today.
But already, he acknowledged, "This is kind of the full circle."
Tomey guided UH through the early years of its Western Athletic Conference membership. After the 1986 season, he left to coach at Arizona. After success there — he is the Wildcats’ winningest coach — he went to San Jose State. At the end of the 2009 season, he announced his "retirement." He spent the past 14 months as a consultant, motivational speaker and overseer of the renovations on his house in Kahala.
Asked if he thought football would be out of his blood when he retired, Tomey said, "not necessarily."
When the UH coaching job opened, Tomey was one of about 100 applicants. Tomey and McMackin were on the San Francisco 49ers’ coaching staff in 2003. "He was the guy other guys had to knock out of the saddle," McMackin said of Tomey’s chances.
McMackin said he pared the list to six finalists. He spoke with each in telephone interviews.
"He was clearly the one," McMackin said. "I couldn’t find a better person."
UH football assistants are limited to one-year contracts. "I’m planning on him coaching as long as he wants to coach," McMackin said. "That’s up to him."
Tomey, who turns 73 in June, said: "I’m in it as long as I feel good. … I know I’m feeling good. I know I’m healthy."
He said he exercises daily. He runs and lifts weights. He recently picked up stand-up paddling.
Tomey said he would not have considered any other job.
"It had to be Hawaii," Tomey said. "It had to be this job. In my mind, I think it’s just a unique opportunity."
Tomey emphasized that he will be focused on special teams, as well as serve as a sounding board for other coaches. He said he has no aspirations of being a head coach again.
"I’ve done that, 29 years worth, and I had a great time at three terrific schools," Tomey said. "I don’t want to spend the time it takes. I’ve got eight grandchildren. I need to take some time to see my grandkids, and be there for (wife) Nancy. Being a head coach just takes too much time."
McMackin said he believes Tomey will implement a more "aggressive" style on special teams. Tomey also will assist in game-management strategy.
"I can bounce things off of Dick," McMackin said. "Shoot, he’s been a head coach a heck of a lot longer than I have."