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ASU interim head coach Shaun Aguano looks to lead program together as a family

The highly decorated Arizona high school coach won four state championships at Chandler High School

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Interim head coach Shaun Aguano watches the ASU vs. Utah football game from the side lines at the Sun Devil Stadium on Saturday, Sept. 24, 2022.

Fifteen years ago, interim head coach Shaun Aguano attended the Arizona football coaches convention as an assistant coach at Chandler High School. As he sat back and listened, 40 rows back from the speakers, he thought to himself, "I want to be that guy."

Every year he's attended, he's slowly started sitting closer and closer to the podium. 

After four state championships at Chandler, four years as the running backs coach at Arizona State and an ASU loss to Eastern Michigan, Aguano is finally getting his shot at being "that guy."

Following a mutual agreement that Herm Edwards would relinquish coaching duties after an ugly 30-21 Sun Devil home loss to the Eastern Michigan University Eagles, Aguano was named interim head coach on Sept. 18. 

"If they were going to choose one guy for the job, I personally believe coach Aguano was the right guy they chose," said senior fullback Case Hatch.

"If you look at the coaching world, there's probably less than 1% of people that have the opportunity that I have," Aguano said in his introductory press conference. "What you do with that opportunity is what counts and I look forward to that challenge."

Aguano has already left his mark on the Sun Devil program. Part of that change is a tradition he learned from where he was born and raised in Hawaii, the power of "Ohana," Hawaiian for "family." 

"That Ohana is a huge meaning for me because it's all about family, and I will instill in the next couple of weeks a couple of things that I think will help our program," Aguano said. 

During the Utah game, the ASU offense failed to find rhythm from the start of the game after going three and out on two opening drives. The team wasn't able to move the chains until the second quarter when the Sun Devils were down 14-0. The Sun Devils had a chance in the second quarter to bring back momentum after the defense limited Utah to a field goal.

Aguano said after the game, he would look over the offense again going into the USC game. He said rather than drastic adjustments, little ones will be more successful. 

"You guys don't see it, but I see it in the locker room. There is no pointing the finger, there is positivity," Aguano said in a press conference after the Utah game. "There was a fight until the end and that is all I asked them to do. What everyone else sees on the exterior, from the interior we are growing as a team. This is going to be a process."

Aguano said in that same press conference, it was "an amazing week" for him to be at the helm of the team. 

"For them to do everything that I have asked and then see them, the only thing that I asked was just play hard and we'll see what happens," Aguano said. "When we got in at half time, we brought them all in. ... Again, there was no finger pointing. I like the positivity. We're going to grow from it. i love these guys with all my heart. I told them at halftime and I told them after the game, 'there will be no quit from me, there is going to be no quit from our staff, and we'll keep working.'"

Since his promotion, the Hawaiian native brought back the pregame Sun Devil walk and hosted a team dinner with players' and coaches' families. 

"It was a lot of energy," said defensive coordinator Donnie Henderson following Aguano's first practice. "It was a different practice, it was an upbeat practice where players found themselves doing things they hadn't done in years."

Aguano played high school football in Hawaii and competed at Linfield College in Oregon before he moved to the desert. 

His Arizona football legacy started in 2001 when he was hired as an assistant coach at Chandler. Agauano worked his way up until being named to the lead program in 2011. In eight seasons, he went 88-19 with four state championships. 

Along the way, Aguano produced former ASU standouts, Chicago Bears wide receiver N'Keal Harry and Detroit Lions corner Chase Lucas, as well as UCLA product and NFL free agent Brett Hundley

"The success I've had has not been a secret," Aguano said. "It's about loving kids, it's about inspiring kids, it's about being a good teacher and then the last part is about listening to them."

During his stint, Aguano plans on focusing his recruiting efforts on in-state recruits for a program that has the fewest 2023 commits among Power Five teams. 

"I am personally going to see that we recruit the best players from Arizona," he said. "I take a lot of pride in the relationships I have built here as a high school coach. I want this to be a place those players desire to play for."

Aguano spent last Friday night at his old stomping grounds in Chandler after ASU extended an offer to Chandler junior running back Ca'lil Valentine. 

"And I will personally make sure that I recruit, that I will be out every Friday night recruiting," Aguano said. "Try to get on Thursday night to schools we did not hit."

In 2019, Edwards brought Aguano on the coaching staff as a running backs coach. Since then, the rushing attack has been a staple of the Sun Devil offense. 

In Aguano's first season at the helm, running back Eno Benjamin rushed for 1,083 yards and 10 touchdowns. Benjamin was drafted by the Arizona Cardinals in the seventh round in 2020. Last year, running back Rachaad White recorded 1,000 yards and 15 touchdowns under the guidance of Aguano last season. White was drafted by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the third round in 2021.

In his head coaching debut, ASU suffered a 34-13 home loss to No. 12 Utah. The path doesn't get easier for the first-time head coach, who faces No. 6 USC away and No. 15 Washington at home in back-to-back weeks. 

But win or lose, Aguano will continue preaching his message of family as he works to continue his legacy in Arizona football history. 

"There's not one coach in the nation that loves Arizona and is in place at Arizona State that I think can do a better job that I can," Aguano said. 

Edited by Kathryn Field, Logan Stanley and Piper Hansen.

Reach the reporter at  and follow @dstipanovichh on Twitter.

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