If nothing else, Greg McMackin suffers from a case of unfortunate timing.
When he took over as coach of the Hawaii football program two years ago, the Warriors were coming off a 12-1 record and a trip to the Sugar Bowl, the greatest season in school history.
Maybe fans got spoiled. Maybe they felt jilted when the coach responsible for molding their team into a national contender, June Jones, bolted for Southern Methodist.
Either way, the affable McMackin stepped into a tight spot.
"Yeah, that's not an easy deal to follow," he said. "It's always a little easier when you go somewhere they've been losing a little bit."
Losing has become an issue with McMackin, whose record hovers just south of .500. To say he is on the hot seat might be an overstatement, but the man could use a break.
Such as a strong showing against heavily favored USC in the season opener at Aloha Stadium on Thursday night.
"It's not him personally; people just want to win," said Chris Hart, a sports radio host in Honolulu. "A lot depends on how it starts this season."
McMackin needs to make something good happen, something to offset a string of miscues and bad luck that has made the last two years at Hawaii anything but a walk on the beach.
Jones' departure stings
By the winter of 2008, Jones was an icon on the islands.
The former Hawaii quarterback had transformed his old team from irrelevant to irresistible with tons of offense, receivers spread everywhere, a run-and-shoot attack that regularly gunned down bigger opponents.
The Warriors went to six bowl games in nine seasons, cracked the Bowl Championship Series clique to get into the Sugar Bowl against Georgia, and produced Colt Brennan and Timmy Chang, two of the most prolific quarterbacks in NCAA history.
So Jones' abrupt departure in early 2008 hit like a blindside blitz.
"I mean, people here were really in a panic," Hart said. "It was one of the darkest times in the program's history."
Enter McMackin, a round-faced man who related well to the players as Jones' defensive coordinator. He planned to follow his boss to Texas, where his family owned a home, until Hawaii's president called with a job offer.
"He asked me if I'd be interested," McMackin said. "I said yes, if it was sincere and it would be quick."
In retrospect, some people wonder whether administrators acted too hastily. Brennan had blasted the school's aging facilities, and the athletic department had dragged its feet negotiating to keep Jones.
Hawaii gave McMackin more than a $1 million a year to stick around, a hefty sum for a small school and substantially more than Jones had been paid. The new coach quite suddenly became the state's highest-paid employee.
And his salary became a point of contention on a campus, in a region, hurt badly by the economic downturn.
"Obviously, faculty are concerned about both the level of compensation for the head football coach and the deficits that the athletic programs are running up," said J.N. Musto, executive director of the faculty's union, in an e-mail to The Times.
The 2008 season did little to soothe matters. The Warriors, who had lost key starters from the previous season, finished 7-7 with a lopsided defeat against Notre Dame in the Hawaii Bowl.
It was a bad omen.
The next summer, McMackin attended a preseason media gathering for the Western Athletic Conference and used a slur toward gays to describe a chant by Notre Dame players before the bowl game.
The university suspended him for 30 days without pay and required him to work with gay and lesbian students on campus. The coach had previously agreed to a voluntary 7% pay cut.
"I just want to say that I made a big mistake," he said, fighting back tears at a news conference. "I'm very pained and disappointed in myself."
Back on the field, the team seemed to drift some from the run-and-shoot that had been so effective in the heyday of Brennan and Chang.
The Warriors struggled through much of the 2009 season, starting three quarterbacks, finishing with a 51-10 home loss to Wisconsin that left them at 6-7, out of the bowl picture.
Now, McMackin senses a rumble of discontent among Hawaii faithful.
"Anywhere you are, there are positives and negatives as far as fans go," he said. "You always have people who aren't happy that are on the blogs and the radio shows."
Fans stand by McMackin
In the early 1990s, McMackin was an assistant at Miami, working beside current USC defensive coordinator Ed Orgeron.
"He was fun to coach with," Orgeron said. "Kind of a low-key guy. I don't think he let a lot of things get to him."
Those traits appear to have served McMackin well in his current post.
A large contingent of Hawaii fans was relieved when he took the job after Jones' departure and, detractors notwithstanding, continues to support him in no small part because of his personality.