Kamehameha Maui Gives Nakamura Football Opportunity
By Rodney S. Yap
There is no substitute for hard work and Cody Nakamura, the new head football coach at Kamehameha Schools Maui, will be expecting plenty of it once he meets with the returning players on Wednesday.
Kamehameha Schools Maui Athletic Director Blaine Gaison called Nakamura with the good news on Monday, April 8, sending a buzz through the Upcountry campus. The former Baldwin High School standout replaces Kevin O’Brien, who resigned last year after three seasons with a 9-15 Maui Interscholastic League record and a 10-17 overall mark.
“It wasn’t an easy process, I can tell you that much,” said Gaison of the school’s decision to hire the Weber State tight end, who enjoyed an NFL Pro Day just three years ago. “We certainly had a number of very good quality candidates for the position. There was very strong interest by many throughout the Maui community. But when it was all said and done, we felt like Cody will be and is, the best person to step into the shoes to be the next football coach.”
Nakamura was one of three finalist for the job. The other two were former University of Hawaii lineman Kaulana Noa (Honokaa) and former Brigham Young University receiver Jack Damuni (Kahuku).
Nakamura signed some paperwork at the school’s human resource offices Monday as news spread like wildfire, adding to the excitement of the much-anticipated introduction of the new head coach during lunch Wednesday.
“It’s dream come true. I’ve always been known as a guy who never turns down an opportunity,” Nakamura said. “So when this opportunity popped up, of course I jumped right on it — didn’t even think twice about it and threw my name in.”
Once the commitment was made and the wheels of the hiring process began to turn, Nakamura said: “I knew I was going to get it, it was my job to have.”
Despite having only two years of coaching experience, working with receivers at Baldwin, Nakamura’s communication skills, enthusiasm and positive energy were huge strengths, Gaison said.
“I think Cody is a very young, enthusiastic, very energetic young man that has been there. He’s a Maui boy, born and raised here, participated we all know at Baldwin and had a tremendous career in high school and also on the collegiate level, where he was a one-time All-American. Up until that unfortunate situation with that injury (knee in 2009) he may have ended up playing football in the NFL somewhere.
“But its more than just his football ability. I think he’s got a tremendous football IQ,” Gaison continued. “He brings a great deal of energy and excitement to our program. People may say, ‘But he’s never been a head coach?’ We thought about that. But everybody needs to be given an opportunity and I think he is deserving of that opportunity and we are pleased and happy that Kamehameha Maui can give him that opportunity.”
In addition, Gaison said: “He’s a tremendous role model for our kids here. He’s able to connect with them. They know his story — and that goes a long way.”
During his playing days at Baldwin, Nakamura was a versatile, multi-sport athlete, who made an impact in everything he did. The 2010 graduate from Weber State currently shares his knowledge and football experience with athletes from as young as 5-years-old, every Saturday at his Hard Naks High-Performance Speed Camps.
“I knew I would be a coach,”he said. “When my playing career was over, my coaching career started.”
The former all-state wide receiver and Big Sky All-Conference Third Team All-American tight end is determined to build a championship landscape at the Pukalani school.
“It’s going to be a lot of hard work. The boys have never experienced what they are about to experience,” explained Nakamura, who manages and co-owns Yogurtland in Kaahumanu Center. “Again, it’s going to be a lot of hard work and a college-type atmosphere at practice. We are not going to coach these kids with the high-school mentality. We want to prepare them for college so we’re going to coach them with a college-stye in mind — it’s going to be a great football atmosphere. Our goal is not only to win, but to help fulfill their dream if they want to play football at the next level anywhere.”
Nakamura has plenty of next-level connections with former teammates and is already trying to secure commitments for key assistant coaching positions, including offensive and defensive coordinators.
“A lot of them excelled in college. So we know what it takes to get there and we know what it takes to succeed.”
At the top of his wish list is former Baldwin and Montana Western offensive coordinator Pohai Lee.
“I think he’s the main reason why the MIL is the way it is today. He flipped it upside down when he came in with his spread offense. It was my first year playing varsity and his first year at Baldwin, too. I experienced it. That Lee family is like the football gurus from Hawaii.”
Defensively, Nakamura would like to be reunited with David Carino, who served as Baldwin’s defensive coordinator during the Bears championship years from 2005 to 2009.
Other assistant coaching candidates Nakamura may consider include Kai Maiava (UCLA), Kawika Kahui (San Diego State), Brett Nakamura (Hawaii), Akamu Aki (Montana Western; Weber State), Trenson Himalaya (Dixie State), Kepa Gaison (Utah), and Colton Quinabo (Concordia, Neb.)
“It’s a huge opportunity. For me there will be no excuse why we can’t win. We have beautiful facilities, a beautiful weight room, a beautiful field and practice field. We have all the things that we need. All we have to do now is to implement our coaching style and some weight training stuff that I love. Hopefully all of that, and a lot of hard work, will turn the program around and be respected in the state.”
Nakamura is married to the former Sasha Hobbs. The couple resides in Wailuku with their 9-month-old daughter, Evalyn Haweakamiko.