Even as he wowed the football and basketball world in Hawaii high school sports, Darnell Arceneaux had an underdog’s mentality.
The work never ended as he became an elite quarterback and hoopster at Saint Louis, then a standout QB at Utah. Along the way, he coached Saint Louis to a football state crown and chased his dreams. But again, that sense of climbing to keep up stayed with him.
No more. Waialua hired Arceneaux as its athletic director and his first day on the job was on Monday. Former AD Bryce Kaneshiro, now at Aiea, has helped with the transition.
“It’s just eye opening about how many things an OIA AD does. I’ve been an ILH (assistant AD) and it’s eye opening. Bryce has been nothing but awesome, doing double duty here and at Aiea,” Arceneaux said on Tuesday. “The roles, working with admin, things on campus. Even if you’re AD, if they need help with security or of a kid needs something, you wear a lot of different hats like a head coach. A lot of people are helping me learn the ropes.”
Wife Nicole is a teacher at Mililani. Daughter Elle is now 10. She loves to play multiple sports, and dad plans to give her his fullest attention after being away coaching at Servite (Calif.) the last few years. Servite has a top-level quarterback and wide receiver coming back from the team that lost to St. John Bosco by one point.
“I’m going to miss high school football. I’ve been doing it since I was an eighth grader at Saint Louis, but coaching my daughter will fill that void. She means so much to me. I’m going to make so much time for them,” Arceneaux said. “I’ve learned over the years that it’s OK to step away and close chapters in my life. I’ve missed a lot of important things because I put football first, but I’m OK with stepping away now to put my family and faith first.”
When he coached at Saint Louis, in between the title stints of Cal and Ron Lee, Arceneaux couldn’t get a faculty position. He went back and got the work done, which has opened doors.
“I feel like I played too long. I wish out of Utah I had gotten my masters. I chased my dream too long,” he said. “It’s been a great ride these last 15 years, but I didn’t want to coach too long like I played too long. My wife and I did a lot of praying. It’s the right decision to be home with my wife and raise our daughter.”
With the family residing in Mililani, the daily drive to Waialua is something Arceneaux already relishes. He taught at the school for a year.
“That was when (oldest son) Cole was a senior,” he said. “So I know a bunch of these kids. When I got the job, the kids gave me some dap and some love.”
Day one was a new experience. A joyful one, too, in the world of administration and to-do lists.
“I’m learning how to do PO’s (purchase orders) and work with the budget. It’s super rewarding work. I feel like I accomplished something,” said Arceneaux, who coached at Mililani before he took the helm at Saint Louis more than a decade ago. “My wife is a big Mililani supporter, goes to all the games. I told her, now she has to wear a Waialua shirt.”
The influence of mentors like the Lee brothers continues.
“I love Coach Ron and Coach Cal, Coach Vinnie (Passas). I’m going to help with clinics and stay involved that way,” Arceneaux said. “We love to win, but it’s not about the 19 championships. It’s about the thousands of players’ lives they’ve changed. That’s why it’s important for players to come back and give back. That raises the bar for me. That’s what (Waialua football coach) Lincoln Barit is about.”