Former Kahuku coach Tata joining Mililani football staff as co-head coach

Former Saint Louis all-state defensive lineman and Kahuku coach Vavae Tata will be joining the Mililani football team as co-head coach, Trojans coach Rod York announced Tuesday morning.

Tata, a 1994 graduate of Saint Louis who went on to play collegiately at UCLA, will serve as coordinator for both of Mililani's defensive and special teams units.

"I believe in Vae," York said of Tata, who has coached at the high school and collegiate levels in his career.

"He is a proven winner with so much to offer our kids and coaches. He is a seasoned veteran and a family man with God at the center," York added.

Tata had stints at Vanderbilt, Stanford and UCLA prior to his two years as coach at Kahuku, where he compiled a 24-2 record. The Red Raiders reached the state title game in both of Tata's seasons, including a 13-0 mark in 2015 that was punctuated by a state championship win over Saint Louis.

By his own admission, Tata has come a long way since his days at Kahuku.

"Mililani is going to get the best version of Vae now than whatever it was 10 years ago," Tata said. "I can't wait."

Tata, who now resides in Utah with his wife and soon-to-be 1-year old son, said the opportunity to join the Trojans coaching staff came about when he was on a family vacation in Hawaii recently.

"Rod heard I was in town and we got together, broke bread and he told me what is on the table. I talked it over with my wife and we came back to Utah and after praying about it and seeking help from my mentors in the industry, it was a no-brainer for me," Tata said.

After his two seasons at Kahuku, Tata was assistant head coach at Carson High School in southern California. In 2018, Tata was with the NFL's Tampa Bay Buccaneers through the Bill Walsh Diversity Coaching Fellowship program. Among the players he worked with was first-round draft pick Vita Vea.

"I saw how they did things on a professional level and got to see that point blank," Tata said.

Following his time with the Bucs, Tata had stops at Cerritos College (defensive line coach) and Santa Monica College (defensive coordinator).

During the COVID pandemic, however, Tata moved his family to the Beehive State, where his wife's brother had just purchased a home.

"Her brother was moving from Ft. Lauderdale to Utah and in the process of helping them move, a house popped up for sale that was ninety-three steps from door to door – the kids counted it – and we didn't think much of it at the time, but we put an offer in and God's timing, they accepted the offer," said Tata, who has assisted at both Bingham and Westlake high schools since resettling in Utah.

Being back in the warm weather of the Aloha State, however, was an opportunity Tata could not pass up.

"It's been way too long for Mililani not to have a Koa in their trophy case, so I'm just willing and able to serve and hopefully I can be a positive influence. At the end of the day, it's about making a positive impact on those kids and I hear nothing but positive things about how coach Rod has mentored those kids and I just want to put my spin on it and give insight on what I've learned coaching at different levels, but first and foremost I'm there to serve," Tata said.

Tata expressed his gratitude to York, along with Mililani principal Fred Murphy and athletic director Joy Matsukawa.

"Hats off to them. Thanks and praises to Fred and Joy and Rod and their aspirations and their vision on not only settling, but to take Mililani to newer heights and obviously to win it all. They've done a phenomenal job and after I talked it over with my wife and family members, it's an opportunity I can't pass up," Tata said.

York is excited for the chance to work alongside Tata.

"We will see the best version of himself and I am so excited to learn and collaborate for our program's improvement. It's his time and his opportunity," York said. "Mililani Trojans just leveled up."

Tata said the birth of his son was a turning point for him and has made a significant impact on his appreciation for life.

"Now that I'm a family man – married and with a young one – my whole perspective on life is so, so different. Now I'm laser focused and I'm going to give Mililani and that community the best that I can offer, put my best foot forward and represent that community and Fred and Rod and Joy the best that I can," Tata said. "Life does miracles for you and now that I'm a family man, my perspective is so much different now and it's for the better."

Tata said he's still uncertain if his immediate family will make the move back to Hawaii with him, but his extended family owns a house in Waipahu nearby.

"So there's options," said Tata, who will be back in town next week for the funeral of former Saint Louis quarterback Mark Andrus, who passed away recently.

Mililani went 11-2 and captured its fifth OIA championship in 2023. It reached the Open Division state final, but lost to Kahuku, 21-19. 

Reach Kalani Takase at [email protected].

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