In the decades since John Hao quarterbacked Saint Louis to a Prep Bowl title, played at Hawaii and coached at various schools, he has accomplished something few people would do.
Or want to do.
Hao, who was hired as the varsity football coach at Castle on Wednesday, fixes nuclear submarines. Or more accurately, he oversees more than 300 workers who repair the US Navy’s supreme vessels.
Hao, himself, is built for the task at Castle, where Nelson Maeda engineered a largely overachieving program for two decades. Like Maeda, Hao is a former Hawaii player who knows the nuances of the four-wide, or run-and-shoot, offense. But Hao has been at many programs since his stint as head coach of his alma mater, Saint Louis, where he compiled a 15-6 record. His two-year run as offensive coordinator at Kahuku broadened his understanding and appreciation for the smashmouth, run-first scheme.
But it comes back to leadership, personnel and above all, Hao says, loyalty. Hao chatted with Hawaii Prep World on Thursday morning.
HPW: Good morning, Coach. How do you feel?
Hao: I’m excited. I’ve got to put a staff together. I’ve got a handful of guys who are very committed, and then put together a JV staff. It’s a matter of picking the right coaches. Our goal is to be able to learn how to build confidence and excitement in these kids. They just need guidance.
HPW: The Castle community has been passionate about football for a long, long time. I’ve seen that on the field with some of the great teams that Coach Maeda had, and then there were struggles most years, as well, with numbers, with kids and probably parents, too, who didn’t want to run the gassers, didn’t want to do things his way. Same at most football programs.
Hao: We’ve just got to be very resilient. Nelson is a great coach. He has great knowledge and expertise, and he and his staff produced a lot of great people. One of my standards and expectations is to let the players play and the coaches coach. We’ll teach them some life lessons.
HPW: What was the process like for you and the opportunity at Castle?
Hao: The decision to put in an application was very, very last minute.
HPW: You mention expectations.
Hao: The No. 1 objective is loyalty. I learned that from Cal Lee. I’d rather have loyalty over knowledge. You can always work on gaining the knowledge. You can teach x’s and o’s. I’ve always seen home he has committed coaches under him. I believe that you’ll have success when you are quick to listen and slow to speak. Listen more than you talk and you will understand.
HPW: Where did you grow up? Are you from the Kaneohe area?
Hao: I grew up in Papakolea, and when I attended Saint Louis, we moved right down the road. It was catch the bus home (to Papakolea) or walk to school.
HPW: So it’s been roughly 24 hours since the announcement by Castle. What happens now?
Hao: No. 1 is staff, and No. 2 is our team meeting. I’ve got to get as many kids as possible to come out for the team. I want them to play for Castle instead of going to a private school.
HPW: There are stories out there about kids who didn’t want to do the kind of conditioning that Castle and Coach Maeda always required. A lot of that was due to small rosters and players pulling double duty on offense, defense, special teams.
Hao: Conditioning is key, you have to last all four quarters. It starts with your linemen. I’ve been through everything, learning everything. Being a passing guy, learning all I could about the running game (at Kahuku). Whatever I run will be based on the talent we have.