A Kauai boy is getting his chance at coaching Division I college football.
Kapaa native Shaun Aguano was hired as the running backs coach for Arizona State University last week.
“It was a huge blessing for me and my family, especially to work for Coach Herm Edwards at ASU,” Aguano said in a phone interview Friday. “I’ve worked with him at the Under Armour Game. He’s just an incredible man, and our philosophies are exactly the same when it comes with dealing with students-athletes. So, it was an easy move for me to make.”
Aguano, 48, was previously the football head coach for Chandler High School in Chandler, Ariz.
During his eight-year tenure as head coach, Chandler won four state championships — including the last three straight — and his overall head coaching record was 88-19, The Arizona Republic reported.
“It was very difficult. My two older kids are there, and my wife Kristin teaches there,” Aguano said of leaving Chandler High. “It was very hard because I’ve been there for 17 years. Just leaving those kids and leaving that program, it’s a nationally-renown program. Making that jump into the unknown was tough, especially for all the coaches and all the family that I left there.”
Aguano said the last time the school won a state title before him was in 1949.
“I think when I got there, I brought a lot of what I had growing up in Kapaa — bringing that aloha to the kids and loving the kids,” the coach said. “Them playing for us and building that program into a family-type environment, that helped us get over the top.”
Despite his success and his connection to Chandler High, Aguano said the shot to coach college football was too good to pass up when the ASU program reached out to him.
“I always thought of maybe getting into the college ranks. I was very comfortable at Chandler High School, where we were one of the top 20 schools in the country for the last five years,” he said. “When this opportunity came, I just think it was a no-brainer for me to take. Without moving my family, and just the challenges that were presented and being in big-time football, it was a blessing.”
He added: “I meant a whole lot (that they reached out to me). Because I’ve worked with Coach Edwards, he knew exactly who I am. Also having the landscape of knowing Arizona and Hawaii, being connected with a lot of high school coaches in the country, that was intriguing for them, too.”
The 1988 Kapaa High School alumnus was a four-letter athlete in high school — football, baseball, basketball and track. After high school, he played football at Linfield College, a Division III school in Oregon.
Aguano was the head basketball coach and an assistant football coach for Kapaa High. He moved to Arizona in 1999 from Kauai.
In addition to winning state titles, Aguano had great success grooming running backs at Chandler High.
The Arizona Republic reported Chandler had three rushers that had 2,000-yard rushing seasons that are either now or will be playing Division I college football.
“I played the position in college. And then, the last five running backs that we had, they all made it to big-time Division I, and one is playing for the New York Giants right now — that Paul Perkins kid from UCLA,” Aguano said. “We’ve had a bunch of running backs, and that’s where I feel most comfortable.”
Aguano has hit the ground running since he was hired by ASU.
He was officially hired last week Thursday and then left for the recruiting trail. He said he just returned to Phoenix after visits all over California.
He said he aims to not only keep Arizona talent in-state, but to also bring prospects from Hawaii into the fold.
“It’s been awesome. We did a caravan with nine coaches. So hopefully, I’ll get a chance to recruit Hawaii, that’s going to be huge for me, and then all of Arizona,” he said.
The Sun Devils running backs coach said he last visited Kauai about four years ago.
“I just want to thank all the Kapaa High School coaches, those guys that gave me the opportunity to do what I love,” Aguano said. “I’m just a small-town Kapaa boy trying to make it big.”
Nick Celario, sports writer, can be reached at 245-0437 or firstname.lastname@example.org.