SALT LAKE CITY — Will the Utah Utes say "Aloha," as in goodbye not hello, to one of its coordinators? It may up to a University of Hawaii search committee.
Offensive coordinator Norm Chow and defensive coordinator Kalani Sitake are both candidates to fill the head coaching vacancy at Hawaii.
"That is unique. Unique, not unheard of, you come across that from time to time," Utah coach Kyle Whittingham said of the situation. "I think they're both very good. Both should be viable candidates for that job."
The Hawaii job opened up when former Utah defensive coordinator Greg McMackin retired after four seasons at the helm. More than 30 coaches have reportedly applied for the position.
Sitake considers it "a good compliment" to the Utah program that both coordinators are in the mix.
Neither, however, really wanted to talk about it in great depth.
Chow, in fact, dodged the topic well after the Utes' practice Thursday afternoon.
"Geez. Hey, listen, I've got a son who is an agent," he said before switching gears. "We're getting ready for Georgia Tech. OK? Period. Period. Period."
When asked about it again, Chow didn't budge while continuing to smile.
"We're getting ready for Georgia Tech. They've got a heckuva football team," he laughed. "It's going to be a real challenge. All right?"
Sitake was more straightforward about the situation.
"All I know is that they reached out and wanted me to apply and I applied. That's basically all I know right now. There's really nothing else to report on it," he said while explaining his focus was on getting Utah's defense ready for Georgia Tech's triple-option attack.
"Right now I'm happy doing what I'm doing. There's really nothing to report other than that's just what it is," he continued. "Everything else is just kind of speculation. It's like a snowball effect. It just takes off."
Whittingham is confident both coaches won't be distracted by the opportunity in Hawaii.
"I think these guys are professionals and they understand you've got to separate the two," he said. "You can't compromise your preparation in any way, shape or form. You can't compromise your recruiting."
At the same time, though, Whittingham acknowledged coaches have to take a hard look at opportunities as well. It just comes down to being professional and doing things the right way. Whittingham said that as long as there's communication and everybody is on the same page, the Hawaii situation won't be a distraction.
Same goes for the players.
"My stance with them, and they know if there's something to tell them, I'm going to make sure I let them know," Whittingham said.
It's business as usual, for the most part.
Sitake insists he's focusing on getting his guys to finish up their finals and trying to stop Georgia Tech. The former BYU fullback, who became Utah's defensive coordinator in 2009, considers himself a product of what's been started up on the hill.
"This is a defense that I have learned," Sitake said. "It's an honor just to be a candidate."
Moving up to a head coaching position is something he eventually wants to do.
"I got into this profession and want to reach the pinnacle of it. There's a lot of things I have still left to learn," Sitake said. "Timing's everything and we have to see how it all mixes up together. So there's a lot of factors that go into it."
Leaving Utah, he explained, wouldn't be easy — noting there are probably too many things to mention.
"The timing has got to be right and everything's got to feel right. I'm real happy where I'm at," Sitake said. "So it's going to take a lot for me to feel like 'OK, this is a good move' because I think we're doing some great things defensively and I feel really comfortable with the talent that we have on the team now and also with the talent we are recruiting."
Whittingham hopes things are clarified soon, but realizes sometimes you can't dictate that.
"You've just got to go with the flow," he said before noting that coaching hires are pretty well settled before signing day for recruits rolls around.
In the meantime, Whittingham has plenty of praise for both of his coordinators.
When a reporter asked if Chow was ready to be a head coach, Whittingham had a quick reply.
"Ready? He's 65. Coach Chow has got a lot to offer. There's no doubt about that and if that's a step he wants to take, I'll support him 100 percent," Whittingham said. "He's been involved in many possible head coaching positions in the past, and if this is the right fit for him and this is what he wants, then he's got my support."
Chow, who is in the midst of his first season at his alma mater after coaching stints at UCLA, USC, North Carolina State, BYU and the NFL's Tennessee Titans, is from Honolulu.
Sitake also has ties to the islands, listing Laie, Hawaii, and Provo as his hometowns. The 36-year-old has led a defense that ranks among the Pac-12 leaders in numerous statistical categories.
"Coach Sitake is a very bright young football coach. He's got a great future in this profession. He's already proven himself as a very good defensive coordinator over the last three years," Whittingham said. "... He doesn't have a great deal of experience but I think experience sometimes is overrated. I think it's more your intelligence and energy and also your body of work. I think he's done a great job with that."
EXTRA POINTS: Running back John White IV, defensive end Joe Kruger and offensive lineman Sam Brenner, who were all injured in the Colorado game, practiced on Thursday . . . Whittingham noted that bowl preparations are going well and that most of the players have completed final exams. ... The Utes are scheduled to practice again today and Saturday before taking Sunday off.
Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Twitter: @DirkFacer
Copyright 2016, Deseret News Publishing Company