ASU head coach Todd Graham has promoted graduate assistant Josh Martin to fill the immediate void, but what happens with the job beyond this season remains to be determined. Graham prefers hiring coaches he or one of his staff members has worked with in the past, and it's worked well for him.
There's an intriguing name locally, though, that might be a good fit for the Sun Devils and is well known to them even though he's never coached at the college level previously at all, much less with any of the current ASU staffers.
That name is Shaun Aguano.
Chandler High School's head coach, Aguano has had an impressive run since taking the position in 2011. He has gone 38-12 in four seasons and ended Chandler’s winless streak against cross-town rival Hamilton High School and last year guided the program to its first state championship since 1949.
For starters, Aguano was a running back at Linfield College, so he's got plenty of experience with the position. The native Hawaiian has coached at the the high school level for two decades in Hawaii and Arizona, two states where ASU would like to improve its recruiting. He has taught at Chandler High for over a decade while coaching at the school on the offensive side of the ball in various roles before becoming its head coach.
There are also similarities between Aguano and Graham from a style standpoint. Aguano, like Graham, does not allow his coaches to belittle players in practice. During his first year as Chandler's coach he reportedly sent two coaches home for a day because they swore loudly during a practice. Another rule at Chandler requires coaches who yell at a player at practice to put their arm around the player and tell him what he did right that day.
Chandler has had one of the most prolific offenses in Arizona since Aguano became the offensive coordinator. The last six years the starting quarterbacks at Chandler have been Brett Hundley, Bryce Perkins and now Mason Moran. Hundley starred at UCLA and is now with the Green Bay Packers, Perkins is a freshman at ASU, and Moran committed to Oregon State to play quarterback before he had even started a varsity game.
Part the of the reason for Chandler’s ascension is the staff Aguano has built at Chandler. He brought over former Saguaro offensive line coach Chris Chick and former Iowa staff member George Hawthorne to coach the defensive line after his first year. He hired former NFL player Keith Taylor, the father of wide receivers Kerry, Kendyl and Kolby Taylor, to coach the freshman team. Both of Taylor’s eldest sons played for Hamilton. His youngest, Kolby, a junior with an ASU offer, plays for Chandler.
In the past Graham has not been afraid to dip into the high school ranks to hire members of his staff. Despite Aguano’s track record as a coach and player, his biggest asset to the program would be recruiting. He has two high-profile prospects ASU is chasing after this year, wide receiver N’Keal Harry and athlete Chase Lucas. Those two players recently visited ASU and are seriously considering the Sun Devils. They're also very good friends and are similarly close with another of the state's top 2016 recruits, Saguaro's Byron Murphy.
Aguano also has developed one of the most talented, if not the most talented program in the state. Since he took over the Wolves the program has surpassed rival Hamilton as the go-to program in an open enrollment state. At an ASU football practice earlier this month, Aguano told SunDevilSource.com that his young crop of players, mostly freshmen and sophomores is as good or better as any he's had come through the program to this point.
While hiring a coach based solely on landing one or two recruits is short sighted, Aguano is well respected locally and should be able to recruit Arizona and probably Hawaii more effectively than ASU has over the last decade. Aguano would have a lot of local success to sell as well connections all over the Valley. His addition may even allow some of ASU's current coaches to spend less time recruiting in-state and more time to focus their efforts elsewhere. Running back is an ideal position to hire someone for recruiting cache.
Another plus is ASU could hire him after his high school season is over, which would be no later than early December. This, instead of waiting until closer to signing day or after signing day when most coaching changes happen, and when momentum in the recruitments of Harry, Lucas and Murphy may be especially valuable.
The Sun Devils very well may be at a critical stress point in their efforts to forever reshape the tectonics of in-state recruiting, and the hiring of Aguano -- coupled with ASU's new football facilities coming on line and continued success in the win column -- could very well be the final shock to make it happen.