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Sandpoint football coach Satini Puailoa retiring

Sandpoint football coach Satini Puailoa led the Bulldogs to the state title game this past season. (Colin Mulvany / The Spokesman-Review)
Sandpoint football coach Satini Puailoa led the Bulldogs to the state title game this past season. (Colin Mulvany / The Spokesman-Review)

Satini Puailoa is retiring from coaching and teaching, effective at the end of the school year.

The Sandpoint football coach announced his plan Tuesday morning.

The short answer for stepping down is Puailoa has a number of other things he wants to do. Still, he won’t wander too far from football.

“To be the head coach and do it right is an all-consuming job,” Puailoa said. “You can do it part way but I don’t want to do it that way.”

Puailoa spent 14 years as head coach at Sandpoint in two stints. He returned four years ago, and the program was in worse shape than how he found it when he arrived from Santa Barbara, California, in 1994.

“I’ve been part of rebuilding four programs,” Puailoa, 60, said. “I was inner city Los Angeles, Santa Barbara and here twice. Coming back the second time the program was by far the worst of any. It wasn’t even close.”

Four years later, Puailoa had Sandpoint in the State 4A championship game last fall.

His teams were a combined 84-62 with a state championship in 1992 and two state runner-up finishes.

Before moving to Sandpoint, Puailoa was the head coach at his alma mater in Santa Barbara.

“He’s a superstar,” Sandpoint athletic director Kris Knowles said. “The energy that coach P brings and the competitiveness are impressive. The most impressive trait was how he was able to get kids to buy in. He’s one of the best I’ve ever worked with.”

He leaves the cupboard full. And more importantly, he leaves a weight room that’s second to none across the nation. In fact, no college has the collection of conditioning machines that Sandpoint has at its disposal.

“It’s cutting-edge equipment,” said Puailoa, who has been a consultant about weight conditioning and lifting across the nation. “There was a weight room like ours at Nebraska at one time – back in its heyday. No college has what we have in our weight room.”

Said Knowles: “Our weight room may not look like a million bucks but what we do in there is amazing.”

Puailoa said he has eight players who can power clean more than 300 pounds and 85 that can clean more than 200.

“And that’s out of a school of 1,000,” he said.

Knowles said he plans to move as quickly to fill Puailoa’s positions.

“He’s a huge loss to our school,” Knowles said. “He’s a helluva teacher.”

Puailoa said it’s critical that a person with the right fit is hired.

“If it’s all about their Xs and Os, he will fail measurably,” Puailoa said. “If it’s about relationships, working hard and the foundations of good education, that person will thrive here.”

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