Kalaheo is the right fit for new head football coach Nelson Maeda

Nelson Maeda, shown during last season as an assistant with Aiea, is the new head coach of the Kalaheo football team. Photo by Andrew Lee/Special to the Honolulu Star-Advertiser.

Nelson Maeda got three years worth of more relaxed football seasons.

Those days are over. Maeda, the former Castle and Kailua head coach, is the new Kalaheo head man. He believes he found the right fit.

“I had to give this situation a lot of hard thought,” he said. “One really big thing that had to fall in place for me to return to be a head coach was I did not want to be put in a situation where there was an administration that wasn’t going to be there with support. I had heard good things about Kalaheo and how they provide support. (Athletic director) Mark (Brilhante) has an extensive football background. He was a quarterback at Saint Louis in the ’80s. That makes a lot of difference. He understands team building. He knows what teams need. Those are big factors.

“And Kalaheo is in close proximity to where I work — five to seven minutes away, so if the need arises, I can be there in a short amount of time.”

Two of Maeda’s children went to Kalaheo and he has lived in the district for more than 50 years, so he has kept an eye on the Mustangs’ football program.

Maeda remembers many of the school’s coaches through the years — Fred Hilliard, Mel Pang (Maeda’s position coach at Kailua before becoming the head coach at Kalaheo), Darrell Smith, David Cosier, John Kawai, Chris Mellor, Tony Tuioti and more.

“Hilliard played at Syracuse with Jim Brown,” Maeda said. “He was quite an athlete.”

And, of course, Meada is looking forward to the challenge of building up a program that had its ups and downs under the outgoing Darrell Poole. The Mustangs were 0-10 last season and 5-5 the year before.

“It’s known more as a basketball and volleyball school,” he said. “But we’re going to work on getting the kids to cross-train and focus on playing more than one sport. Our goal is to try and increase participation and maintain program integrity and discipline. We want to build on Darrell’s foundation. There was no JV program. That’s rough with no feeder program. And the demographics have changed. The enrollment is down to around 700 or 800 now.

“We will be more flexible (while trying to build on Poole’s foundation) in establishing the culture and expectations. The goal will always to be competitive and instill character values. As an educator/coach, I feel strongly about that. We want to win and we want to win the right way. We’ll be firm but fair, and players who deserve to play will play. I always say you’ve got to bring your lunch pail to work and if you don’t work you don’t get paid. I’m elated, ecstatic about this opportunity. I wasn’t expecting the offer. I am happy to help mold these kids. It’s an immense challenge, but I know the administration and AD will be providing the village of support so necessary and needed.”

For the last three seasons, Maeda was an assistant for Wendell Say at Aiea.

“I really enjoyed that,” Maeda said, “After 20-odd years of being a head coach, there was much less responsibility. It was a nice change of pace. I helped as much as a could, but I had a lot of free time and flexibility.”

Maeda went 96-116-2 overall in 22 years as a head coach and led Castle to the 2002 OIA championship. He went 91-103-0 in 20 seasons with the Knights from 1997 through 2016 and 5-13-2 with Kailua in 1980 and ’81.


  1. ??? March 7, 2020 1:08 pm

    Go Get Um Coach!!!

  2. Rebel March 7, 2020 3:46 pm

    Hope the Black Knight philosophy can be instilled at Kalaheo….just need a name..

  3. Hmmm? March 7, 2020 8:42 pm

    How about P-51 for a name. P-51 Mustang was fighter plane during WWII.

  4. BK Parent March 8, 2020 7:50 am

    This qoute is what makes Coach Nelson a great coach. My sons played for him years ago and are now successful men. That’s what good parents want for their kids.

    “The goal will always to be competitive and instill character values. As an educator/coach, I feel strongly about that. We want to win and we want to win the right way. We’ll be firm but fair, and players who deserve to play will play.”

    Unfortunately, in this era of high school football, get plenty crazy bad parents, entitled parents, who will do not believe in hard work and” those who deserve to play will play”, because their boy no like da coach, no like do the hard work, they will complain den crazy parents will attack, and ruin da program for da good boys and good parents. It’s da same every school.

    Good luck Coach Nelson, black knights are forever grateful for you and your values and commitment.

  5. Mahatma Gandhi March 8, 2020 11:29 am

    Right guy? Hmmmm. Nelson Mae-da is a fine man. The guy works hard. But is he the right guy at Kalaheo? He would be the PERFECT fit at a school like Iolani, but I don’t think he is an OIA guy. I think he got chased out of Castle, which is just like Kalaheo. You can’t coach OIA players the same way you can coach OIA players.

  6. Mahatma Gandhi March 8, 2020 11:34 am

    I remember Mark Brilhante, the one year starting QB at St Louis in 1979. St Louis had plenty starting Pordagee QB’s back then. Had Darwin Luna in that decade. Vince dos Passos too. Head Coach was another, Ron Marciel. Had Brian Cabral, standout LB’er.
    St Louis always put out competitive teams that decade. No need to recruit to the degree they do now, ruining the competitive balance of Hawaii state high school football.

  7. Ty Howser March 8, 2020 5:21 pm

    I wish coach Maeda the best of luck as the next head coach! Kalaheo class of “83” Go Mustang!

  8. 96730289 March 8, 2020 8:54 pm

    Coach Maeda taking Castle to a state final would be like someone taking Hawaii to the college National Title game. Great coach that I agree should be at an ILH program.

  9. former coach March 9, 2020 7:12 am

    Gotta admit it when coach says he needs administrative support! At Castle, he got no support from the AD and principal! Those 2 are a joke!

  10. BK Parent March 9, 2020 8:59 am

    @formercoach I agree, Coach Madea got no support from AD and Principal at Castle. They were afraid of da parents, just like many other schools, like I said, bad parents attack, den make up lies and AD and Principal only cover da okole, but no support to da coach. Same at other places look at Roosevelt girls basketball coach, Moanalua boys b ball coach dis year, Kaiser a few years ago , Dat is the Era we live.

  11. 808warriorfan March 10, 2020 10:21 am


  12. ILoveHawaii March 10, 2020 3:57 pm

    I hope the time off from being a HC will have given him time to reflect and evaluate.
    It feels as if hes going from one end of the spectrum with Castle to the other with Kalaheo.

    So many different tools out there to get the job done, old school shouldnt be the only tool in the tool box. Just saying.

    Good luck Coach. Kalaheo got a good one.

  13. Stoleajob March 15, 2020 12:33 pm

    Kalaheo doesn’t back up there football program all they do is spend money on things that they don’t use and The AD IS A FAKE GUY like bruh he always says it’s for the students but it’s really for him

  14. British dragon April 8, 2020 5:44 am

    He was a great head coach at castle in my opinion . Class of 2017!! Taught me discipline and were in perfect condition for the games, felt great . The players made the team look bad, the years after Maeda over there, still terrible. It’s the players. Harry Paaga once said, when a team does good, people on the outside praises the players, when the team doesn’t , the coaches get the beating. Good luck Maeda, wish things were better at the time.

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