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Tomey: Hiring of Robert Anae as assistant coach is a ‘win-win’

Robert Anae

Robert Anae coached with Dick Tomey in 1986 at Hawaii.
Photo from BYU

Less than an hour after coach Mike Stoops offered an assistant coaching position to Robert Anae — who accepted — the former BYU offensive coordinator called the man who gave him his first coaching job.

Dick Tomey.

“He is really fired up about being a Wildcat,” Tomey said Tuesday night from his home in Hawaii.

“I have talked to him several times, and he is so excited about coming to Tucson. … He is fortunate to be coming to Arizona, and Arizona is fortunate he’s coming. It’s a win-win.”

Arizona athletic director Greg Byrne broke news of the hiring on his Twitter account on Tuesday night, although it was already well-known that Anae was likely to replace offensive line coach and co-offensive coach Bill Bedenbaugh, who is leaving for West Virginia.

Still to be determined (or announced) is whether Anae will handle any of the coordinator or play-calling duties.

Anae, 52, was a standout offensive lineman for BYU and played on the Cougars’ 1984 national championship squad. One the BYU’s closest calls in that undefeated season was an 18-13 victory over Tomey’s Hawaii team.

“We played against him. He and his brother (Brad, a defensive end) were both great players. They were a thorn in our side,” Tomey said.

“His dad was a great coach on the islands, and we were fortunate enough that Robert elected to come with as a graduate assistant.”

Anae was Hawaii’s offensive line coach in 1986, Tomey’s last year at Hawaii before becoming the head coach at Arizona.

Anae’s most notable coaching assignments after that were as the offensive line coach for Mike Leach at Texas Tech from 2000 to 2004 and then as the offensive coordinator for BYU head coach Bronco Mendenhall after that. Anae resigned under pressure after this season as Mendenhall opted for sweeping changes.

Anae is known for his no-nonsense, demanding style of coaching.

“I’m a tough guy,” he said in a 2005 interview with the Deseret News. “That’s how I coach, how I live, how I am, how I played.”

Tomey said Arizona is getting a coach with a reputation for being strong in the fundamentals of the offensive line position.

“First of all, he has a strong coaching base because he played under Lavell Edwards and his coaching staff, and you know the kind of teams they had,” Tomey said.

“He was a winner as a player at BYU, and he certainly has been a winner as a coach. He has coached on some real outstanding teams with Coach Leach at Texas Tech and with Bronco at BYU. Arizona is getting someone who is used to winning.

“He coached some tremendous lines at Tech that were adept at pass protection. At BYU, they combined a Tech system with a more traditional running game, and they ran the ball very effectively.”

As it turns out, Tomey launched the careers of both new Arizona coaches. Last month, Stoops added defensive tackles coach Joe Salave’a, who started with Tomey at San Jose State in 2008.

That coaching combination should invigorate Arizona’s efforts to recruit Polynesian players.

The Samoan-born Salave’a is well-known in the Polynesian community because of his NFL career and his football camps on the islands. Anae has extremely strong ties, growing up on the North Shore of Hawaii and attending Kahuku High School, where his late father, Famika, was the long-time football coach.

“This is the best tandem of guys recruiting Polynesian players, wherever they exist in the country,” Tomey said. “You can’t have two guys who are better connected.”

Tomey said it was special to him to have Salave’a and Anae on Stoops’ coaching staff.

“I’m just thrilled to death, because I believe in Mike and what he’s doing,” Tomey said. “And these are two guys I really believe in.

“Joe is becoming an outstanding coach and Robert is already established. It’s neat for me because I root for the Wildcats every week.”

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