Castle football coach John Hao steps down

In 2018, Castle football coach John Hao had the Knights in the OIA D-I championship game after starting the year 0-4. Photo by Jamm Aquino/Star-Advertiser.

John Hao has resigned as football coach at Castle.

The former Hawaii and Saint Louis quarterback stepped down due to “family reasons,” he said. That includes helping his father, John Hao Sr..

“Time is precious for my family. We’ve got to spend as much time as possible,” Hao said on Sunday morning. “I have eight kids, four young ones. They’re with my dad a lot. We had to make some life changes. My son goes to Saint Louis. He’s only a block away (with his grandfather).”

It’s where John Hao Jr. grew up, deciding between two options.

“I had two choices. Damien, I would have to get up early and catch the bus, or get up at 7 o’clock and walk to Saint Louis,” he said.

He hasn’t missed a football season since he was a fifth grader. After playing pro football in Finland for a year, he returned and joined the staff at Saint Louis, where he coached for 15 years. He was head coach at Saint Louis in 2008 and ’09, compiling a record of 15-6. Then came assistant coaching stints at Kapolei, Kamehameha and Kahuku before taking on the head coaching job at Castle in 2017.

In all, the Knights were 10-20 overall during Hao’s three seasons, but in league play, they were 9-11. The best of those three years, 2018, included an upset win over previously unbeaten Moanalua in the semifinals. Utility man Senituli Punivai moved to quarterback for that late-season run and finished with 1,247 yards and 14 touchdowns on the ground, and 523 yards and six TDs through the air.

Castle quarterback Senituli Punivai scrambled away from Kailua libebacker Koalii Kama-Toth during this Windward rivalry game in 2018. Steven Erler/Special to the Star-Advertiser

The COVID-19 global pandemic — and cancellation of sports including football — has been a gut punch for many players and coaches in Hawaii.

“The team that we’ve been working with, they’re all kind of graduating this year. The incoming kids, we haven’t even seen them. This past year is a real screwup,” Hao said.

Change is always on the horizon. Hao believes the program is in good hands with interim coach Junior Pale, the former Mid-Pacific and Pac-Five standout.

“The good thing is they have Junior Pale, who is on security staff (at Castle) and has been coaching at Pac-Five almost 30 years, and (former Damien coach) Chris Bisho. They kept it in house,” Hao said.

“I’m hoping he keeps some of my guys. They’re real loyal coaches. Coaching high school, it’s key that you have a loyal, dedicated, honest staff. That’s the staff I had. They’re great guys. Our families got to know each other. I was sad on that part,” he said.

The demands on football coaches are always unique, but Hao will miss them. He always had 60-plus players on the varsity roster, and another 60-plus on JV.

“If the AD is going to allow me to hold 60, 70 kids, I don’t believe in cutting. I would only cut for safety reasons or bad behavior. A lot of these kids just need guidance, to stay off the streets,” Hao said.

The school stood by Hao when they faced a lawsuit filed by parents of three players who claimed serious injuries as the result of a tackling drill. The matter was settled out of court.

“Castle’s administration is super great. The athletic director, the assistant AD, principal, vice-principal are the best I ever dealt with. These are all women. I like the way they lead. They’re for the kids. Everybody wants to win, but their values are family values. That’s what I loved about them. They knew I would make the right decision every time.”

So a new chapter begins without his Castle football family.

“I wish them the best. Every year, it’s always exciting coming out of the winter season. It’s sad that we couldn’t do any major training. They’re in good hands, though, that’s the main thing,” Hao said. “Junior has a great mind and he’s a very good coach.”


  1. NORTHBOUND April 25, 2021 12:29 pm

    Shoulda clean the whole house, not just empty the trash…

  2. Revan April 25, 2021 8:53 pm

    Coach Pale is top notch. Sad to see my boy step down but Coach Hao will be back in the future. Hope everything works out for everyone

  3. Falcon Future April 26, 2021 8:26 am

    Eight kids? Umm, yeah, I think it was time to focus on family about four kids ago.

  4. Almost 50 April 26, 2021 9:30 am

    Uncool Falcon Future.

  5. Rebel April 26, 2021 2:43 pm

    I guess Pac-5 football won’t have a coaching staff, possible coaching change there too (Pac-5).

  6. Rumorville April 27, 2021 6:17 pm

    Heard Pac-5 losing most of its staff to Castle

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