Kalani Sitake will always be known as the guy who demoted Heisman Trophy winner Ty Detmer as a college offensive coordinator.
That’s not an easy title to wear in Provo.
Replacing four very popular former players who worked as BYU coaches is a milestone in BYU football that had plenty of uncomfortable moments for those who knew them.
With the hiring of AJ Steward as running backs coach this past week, Sitake completed a staff shakeup that included replacing offensive coordinator Detmer, running backs coach Reno Mahe, receivers coach Ben Cahoon, offensive line coach Mike Empey and longtime defensive coach Steve Kaufusi.
Sitake has received criticism for how such moves were handled from some BYU faithful. The dismissal of Detmer made many folks cringe. And they’re still cringing.
In an interview with Patrick Kinahan and David James on The Zone Sports Network (1280 AM), Sitake explained the emotions of pulling the trigger on close friends and a legend.
“I love those guys,” said Sitake. “I’ve said that over and over again. My friendships and relationships will always be strong. I love Ty Detmer and the classy way he handles things. Obviously, he’s one of my favorite players when I was growing up as a kid watching him play. I’m just like a lot of members of the church and BYU fans that love him.
“So, he and the other guys handled things with class and the right way in our communications back and forth and as we made the adjustments. There is one thing that came out of it, they handled it with class and they love BYU.”
Sitake said his personal relationship with the four coaches will not change. “This has nothing to do with anything personal. It had to do with work and business and my obligations to players and fans who follow the program.”
Sitake said in his short time as head coach, he will face tough decisions that have to be made but that come with the job. “I believe in doing the right thing regardless if it is popular or not. I have to say Ty Detmer, Reno Mahe, Steve Kaufusi, Ben Cahoon and Mike Empey love BYU and will continue to support the program."
The coach pointed out Empey’s son James is competing for a starting job on the offensive line and Kaufusi’s son Corbin is a team leader on defense and another son Devin just came off a mission and is lifting weights in the team’s offseason conditioning program.
“They have expressed to me how much they love this place and I’m grateful for their contribution in building a foundation the past two years on what we will build on.”
Sitake said he believes in being upfront and honest with people, and his players and staff know exactly how he stands. He tried to keep this approach in his staff hires and releases.
“I’m not good at lying. I don’t have a good memory so it’s better for me to always tell the truth. My wife knows when I’m about to lie before the words ever come out of my mouth. It’s better for me to be upfront even if it isn’t popular, at least they know where I stand, and that’s something I can always live with.”