Planet Claire has pink air. All the trees are red. — B52s “Planet Claire”
Editor’s note 1: Quotes from former McKinley head coach Pat Silva on the job David Tautofi did as the Kaimuki coach in his five years was added to this story a few hours after it was first posted.
David Tautofi rocked the boat and got fired.
Whether Tautofi was right or wrong in what he did that led to his ousting, the Kaimuki football team is not going to have one great football coach who cared deeply about his players and brought them some winning seasons against long odds.
Editor’s note 2: Let’s clear up something right away. The term “fired” isn’t something the Department of Education uses when a school moves on from one head coach to another. The powers that be (and in this case, the powers that be are Kaimuki athletic director Fred Lee and principal Jamie Deal Cruz) can and do “let go” coaches often. Sometimes the coaches simply resign. Other times, the coaches are shown the door. And ALL coaches are hired on a one-year basis and either renewed for the next year or not. Each year, most coaches are renewed. Some are not.
News came late last week that as of Aug. 31 Tautofi was no longer the Bulldogs coach, and the announcement came not from the DOE or Kaimuki but from Tautofi himself, who used a nonprofit organization that he is the executive director of to send out a release to various media outlets.
Whether the DOE cares or wants it to be known as big news, THIS IS BIG NEWS, especially for Kaimuki football fans who watched Tautofi grow the program to be known as one of the best in Division II statewide.
David Tautofi spent five years as the Kaimuki football head coach.
(Image credit: David Tautofi’s LinkedIn profile).
Tautofi is a former Kaimuki and UCLA standout football player. He IS one of their own. He was always sending out what sounded like the RIGHT message to his players — from the perspective of us (reporters, fans, parents) on the outside looking in, anyway. Maybe the DOE and Kaimuki administration didn’t always see it that way, I guess.
Editor’s note 3: Let’s clear up something else. This screed will strike many readers as one-sided, and you won’t get an argument from me. Reporters are taught to get both sides, but I know from years and years of experience that the only thing the DOE or the school administration will say is the fact that Tautofi has been replaced. They will not get into the nuts and bolts of the why. And part of me understands their reasoning. The DOE is very strict about privacy matters when it comes to giving out information (especially on the negative side) about its employees. I imagine those strict rules to be in bold letters in the handbook. As a matter of fact, I put in a call to the Kaimuki athletic office on Monday and Lee immediately let me know that Reid Yoshikawa had been hired as the new interim football coach. And I thanked him for that information. I’m sure Lee knows I was hoping for something about the WHY of Tautofi being “let go,” but he deftly cut the call short by offering to email me information on the new hire. I figured that was about all I was going to get anyway. I didn’t have time to ask about Tautofi, but I know deep in my heart that he wouldn’t have been able to talk about it.
And so, let’s delve into WHY Tautofi was let go from Tautofi’s perspective.
For starters, here is that full document he sent to media outlets from the Kaimuki Youth Development Organization:
As a reader, the key part of the release is that the Kaimuki administration shared with Tautofi that he was non-compliant of school policy.
In a phone call from Bedrock Sports to Tautofi on Monday, the Bulldogs ex-coach expounded more on what that ACTUALLY MEANT, from his perspective.
Again, if Lee or the Kaimuki administration want to tell their side of the story, please call me, Nick Abramo, at 808-391-7371.
“I was advocating to find solutions to the statewide pandemic and the loss of learning in the classroom and on the field,” Tautofi said.
And, he continued that the advocating was with government leaders, including state senators and representatives and the Board of Education’s education committee.
“I had a lot to say when they postponed the season right before it was about to begin (Aug. 6),” he added. “The athletic director and the principal tried to cut that off. And I was doing (the advocacy) since January as the executive director (of the Kaimuki Youth Development Organization). In their minds as coach, I was not supposed to go above them (on these matters).”
Tautofi, who nearly left as the Kaimuki coach at the end of the 2019 season partly for what he perceived as lack of support from the school administration, reiterated that stance Monday. Part of that perceived lack of support at the time had to do with what he felt was rampant student absences with little or no effort by those in leadership roles to fix the problem.
“I wasn’t getting much support from the beginning, but I made the most of what I had,” he said.
Early last week, Tautofi met with his now former Bulldogs player on a Zoom call.
“It was definitely hard to swallow when I gave them the news,” he said. “Part of the program I built for these kids was to empower them so they understand how to deal with the most challenging changes that happen in their lives. And this (losing their coach on the eve of the new Oct. 15 start of the OIA football schedule) is going to be one of those challenges for them.”
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Pat Silva, the veteran coach who recently stepped down as McKinley head coach, gave his thoughts to Bedrock Sports about what Tautofi meant to the Kaimuki program.
“I was shocked like others to hear that Coach Tautofi was released from the Kaimuki football program,” Silva said. “Over the course of five seasons, he and his staff turned that program into contenders, vying for a championship year in and year out. THEIR SUCCESS WITH A LIMITED AMOUNT OF PLAYERS SPEAKS VOLUMES. Being able to convince your players to play on offense, defense and special teams in order for the team’s success says a lot about the players he worked with, but more importantly about his leadership in convincing his players that it can be done. I know the OIA schools and the DOE has high demands from coaches in all sports and at times can be stringent, but that’s the world we live in today. I now that this may be a bump in the road for Coach Tautofi, but I’m sure whoever picks him up on their staff if another pbgroam gives Coach Tautofi another opportunity, he’ll not only will have learned from his past mistakes, but will be a better coach moving forward, one that I see vying for championships again.”
Under Tautofi in 2019, the Bulldogs football team went 10-3, winning the OIA D-II title despite extra-low participation numbers. That team only had about 25 players for a 35-28 first-round state tournament loss to Kapaa.
Tautofi was the Honolulu Star-Advertiser’s Coach of the Year that season and his teams went 27-16 in five seasons.
In 2018, the Bulldogs won a state football first-round game, 28-27 against Kamehameha-Hawaii before losing to Kapaa 20-12 in the semifinals.
Kaimuki’s first Oahu Interscholastic Association football game of 2021, under new coach Yoshikawa, will be at 6:30 p.m. Oct. 16 against Radford at the Farrington High School field.
Yoshikawa’s replacement of Tautofi is the 19th head coaching change in Hawaii high school football since the November 2019 state tournament.
Hawaii high school football coaching changes since November 2019:
>> CASTLE: Junior Pale, interim, in; John Hao out
>> DAMIEN: Anthony Tuitele, interim, in; Eddie Klaneski out
>> HILO (a): Lave Suiaunoa in; Kaeo Drummondo out
>> HILO (b): Chris Todd in; Lave Suiaunoa out
>> KALAHEO: Nelson Maeda in; Darrell Poole out
>> KEAAU: Ian Van Cleave in; Leo Abellera out
>> KAIMUKI: Reid Hoshikawa in; David Tautofi out
>> KAMEHAMEHA-HAWAII: Kealoha Wengler in; Shaun Perry out
>> KAPAA: Mike Tresler in; Philip Rapozo out
>> KOHALA: Jay Blanco in; Chad Atkins out
>> MAUI: Robert Dougherty in; Rodney Figueroa out
>> McKINLEY: Kale Ane in; Pat Silva out
>> MOANALUA: Vince Nihipali in; Savaii Eselu out
>> PAC-FIVE: Kena Heffernan in; Kip Botelho out
>> PUNAHOU (a): Leonard Lau in; Kale Ane out
>> PUNAHOU (b): Nate Kia in; Leonard Lau out
>> SAINT LOUIS: Ron Lee in; Cal Lee out
>> WAIALUA: Gary Wirtz in; Lincoln Barit out
>> WAIANAE: Matt Murakawa in: Mike Fanoga out
RELATED STORY AT BedrockSportsHawaii.com: Reid Yoshikawa Takes Over For David Tautofi As Kaimuki Head Coach On An Interim Basis