Greg McMackin responds to a question during a news conference on Jan. 16 after being named head coach at the University of Hawaii. - AP

McMackin finds a home

It's been a career that has reached four different time zones, crossed paths through11 different states and spanned nearly 40 years.

The coaching profession can be fickle.

But Greg McMackin, a Southern Oregon University (then known as Southern Oregon State College) graduate and former Medford Mid-High football coach, is ready to settle in.

In January, McMackin found the one position that has eluded him, the one he has waited his entire career for: a Division I head coaching job.

McMackin, a onetime head coach for the now defunct Oregon Tech football program, was promoted from defensive coordinator to head coach at the University of Hawaii, just days after the Rainbow Warriors wrapped up their historic season with a loss to Georgia in the Sugar Bowl.

Hawaii recently completed its spring practice session with the Warrior Bowl.

McMackin, who spent numerous hours scouring for new recruits after his hiring, brought in 22 new players to replace key losses from Hawaii's 12-1 season.

Following the recent completion of Hawaii's spring practice session, McMackin was again back on the road last week. Only this time, it was vacation.

"Oh, it's nice to get this little break," says McMackin, while awaiting a flight out of the Phoenix airport.

The island life and his new duties with the Rainbow Warriors suit McMackin just fine.

To get there, the 63-year-old has been cutting his head coaching chops at numerous stops over the past 38 years.

"I've always wanted to be a head coach," McMackin says. "I've been a high school coach, a small college coach. I had opportunities a couple of times but things didn't work out. I thought I'd finish out my career a defensive coordinator, which would have been OK with me. But this is a great opportunity for me. I'm very excited."

One of the most influential times during that period came in the Rogue Valley, he says.

Following his playing days as a defensive back at Southern Oregon State College, McMackin spent time as an assistant at Medford-Mid High under then head coach Fred Spiegelberg.

"I was just out of college," McMackin remembers. "I really got my basics in coaching there. Those kids were my first students.

"In those days, that was one of the best programs in the state. I got a lot of my coaching philosophy from there."

Still a young man himself, McMackin made lasting impressions on some of his players, too.

Among those former pupils was Bill Singler, now the head coach at South Medford.

"I remember him being very fiery, very excitable," Singler said. "He was probably 22 or 23 and he'd get out their and put the pads on and get after it with us."

That fire led to other memorable moments for Singler.

"You always had to look out for the McMackin hand print," Singler says with a laugh. "You'd get out of the shower and he'd be there waiting. He'd plant his hand right on your chest and leave a big, red hand print.

"You haven't lived until you'd gotten a McMackin hand print."

Those former players, which also included Ted Pappas and Scott Spiegelberg, presented their former coach with a gift when McMackin finally landed his Division I coaching gig.

"Those guys are great," McMackin says. "They sent me an e-mail and a bottle of wine congratulating me on getting the job (at Hawaii). That was very kind of them. I have nothing but fond memories of those guys."

But McMackin's ties with Singler didn't end at Medford Mid-High.

The former bounced around from Aloha High — his alma matter — to Western Oregon State College, Idaho, San Jose State, Stanford and Denver before touching down on the Oregon Tech campus in Klamath Falls in 1986.

There, as head coach, McMackin helped usher in one of the most exciting attacks in NAIA Division II football.

The Owls installed the run-and-shoot offense, which McMackin first experienced with Mouse Davis while with the USFL's Denver Gold in the early 1980s. Davis, now an assistant to Jerry Glanville at Portland State University and widely considered the inventor of the fastbreak style offense, also worked with McMackin at Aloha High in the early 1970s.

"Mouse is one of my best friends since I was at Aloha," McMackin says. "But everybody thinks I'm just this defensive guy. I called the plays (at Oregon Tech)."

The Owls and their run-and-shoot offense had four straight winning seasons under McMackin and set 18 national records.

In 1988, Oregon Tech advanced to the national playoffs, and piled up over 700 yards in a quarterfinal victory over Carroll College.

"We had a lot of fun there," says McMackin. "I learned a lot about coaching."

Singler, himself a coaching nomad at the time, came to Oregon Tech after a stint at Kansas State.

With the Owls, Singler assisted under McMackin and head basketball coach Danny Miles.

McMackin left in 1989 to become the defensive coordinator at Utah. Soon after, OIT closed the doors on its football program.

But McMackin was just getting started.

Following two years with the Running Utes, he took the defensive coordinator position at the U.S. Naval Academy. One year later he was in Miami, leading the nation's top-ranked defense under Hurricanes' coach Dennis Erickson.

When Erickson left for the Seattle Seahawks, McMackin went with him in '95. When Erickson was fired in 1998, McMackin left, too, this time ending up in Hawaii for his first stint with coach June Jones and the Rainbow Warriors.

It was there McMackin helped turn a Hawaii team that was winless the year before into a bowl appearance in his first season. Hawaii capped its season with a victory over Oregon State in the Aloha Bowl.

McMackin ventured off to Texas Tech and then to the San Francisco 49ers before coming back to Jones and the Rainbow Warriors last season.

This past year, Hawaii ranked fifth nationally in tackles-for-loss, ninth in sacks and 11th in interceptions.

Now, the job of leading the Rainbow Warriors is his.

McMackin, though, will always look back fondly on his time in the Rogue Valley.

"I've obviously travelled around quite a bit with this profession," says McMackin, a Springfield native. "But Oregon is my home and Medford is my second home. Shoot, that's where my wife (Heather) and I got married. My daughter went to school at Southern Oregon.

"I'll always have a fondness for that area. It'll always be my home away from home."

Reach reporter Kevin Goff at 776-4483, or e-mail

Share This Story