Stories of Faith

Kalani Sitake might not be coaching at BYU if he hadn’t followed a surprising prompting during his job interview

BYU Introduces Kalani Sitake
Brigham Young University's head football coach, Kalani Sitake, poses for a picture at a press conference on December 21, 2015.
George Frey/Getty Images

While interviewing candidates for the new coach of the Brigham Young University (BYU) Cougars football team, Tom Holmoe flew prospective coaches out to Provo, Utah, but Kalani Sitake wasn’t offered the trip to tour the campus and stadium. Instead, Tom called Kalani and asked to take him to dinner the following night in Portland, Oregon, just a couple hours away from Kalani’s home in Corvallis.

“When I told my wife, Timberly, about the call, I said maybe it was just a token interview.”

Comparing his interview experience with those of the other candidates, this assessment appeared to be true. But Timberly disagreed. “There is nothing token about you!” she said, according to Kalani. “We are going to make this a great experience. This is what we have been waiting for.”

So together, Timberly and Kalani prepared for the interview.

Kalani had dreamed of coaching at BYU, so throughout his career, he kept notes about what he would do if he ever had the opportunity to coach there. Knowing this, Timberly started questioning him as if she were running the interview.

“On the drive to the interview, we were on speaker phone, talking back and forth, and she’s motivating me the entire drive,” Kalani said. “She was spitting out all these questions, and I’m saying, ‘Oh, he won’t ask that question,’ but I’m just playing along and responding.”

What was their game plan to nail this interview? Kalani shared: “Our thought was to give Tom everything that we can, and the worst-case scenario is that I don’t get the job, but hopefully, they can implement some of the ideas and help the program because we both love BYU so much.”

They talked the whole two-hour drive to the interview. “When I arrived, we said a quick prayer, and then she shared with me something she felt I needed to say at the end of the interview,” Kalani said.

But he didn’t know if he wanted to ask the question she suggested. “I told her it sounds a little weird.” Still, Timberly asked Kalani to consider it. “I really think you should say it,” she said.

Because of their conversation, Kalani felt very prepared for the interview. “As we started to go through the interview, the questions [Tom] asked were the questions [Timberly] grilled me on. I literally started to think during the interview, ‘Tom must have emailed my wife the questions for this interview.’ I had the best answers on the tip of my tongue.”

After a three-hour interview, the question Timberly wanted Kalani to ask popped back into his mind. “So, at the end, I said what my wife wanted me to say,” Kalani reported. “I said, ‘Tom, you are here in this restaurant meeting with me in Portland. The other candidates for the job—you’ve flown them in for the weekend and shown them the stadium, you’ve shown them the facilities, you’ve shown them everything at BYU. Yet here we are in a steak house in Portland. Why didn’t you fly me and Timberly into Provo to have the same type of experience?’ Then I added, ‘I didn’t want to say that, but my wife told me that ‘you need to say this.’

“Tom replied, ‘You and Timberly already know everything about BYU, you met [t]here, you went to school [t]here, you graduated from BYU, you lived in Provo, you know everything about the city, you know everything about what it’s like to be a student at BYU, you know everything about what it’s like to be a football player at BYU, you grew up a BYU fan, so we didn’t feel like we needed to bring you to BYU because you already know BYU.’

“Then I said, ‘That’s exactly why you are going to hire me to be the head coach at BYU.’

As soon as I said that, I recognized it was the delivery my wife wanted me to make. She knew.”

Kalani called her on his ride home. “I said, ‘You killed it. You absolutely killed it.’ I told her, ‘Thank you for pushing me through discomfort, allowing me to be my best, and finding potential in me.’ I didn’t know at the time if I got the job, but I felt like I did.”

And he absolutely did.

This story, and so many more, are included in 100 Years of BYU Football. Read all about the historic moments, memorable victories, and legendary players in the new book by Duff Tittle and Brett Pyne, with an afterword by Kalani Sitake!

100 Years of BYU Football

Explore the story of BYU football through more than 400 photographs, historical documents, and detailed letters, including many never-before-published images. Told from the perspective and personal accounts of more than a hundred former coaches, players, and administrators who influenced the program, this is the most comprehensive history of BYU football ever published—a must-have for every Cougar fan!

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