The man who put Sandpoint football on the map in the state of Idaho is returning, and he has plans to take the Bulldogs to loftier heights.
Satinia Puailoa, 56, led Sandpoint to a state championship in 1997 and runner-up finish in 2003 before stepping down.
“It’s too good of an opportunity to pass up,” Puailoa said. “We want to see how good we can be. Look at Bellevue (Washington 3A state power). That’s the best program in the Northwest. We would like to get to that level. Is it possible? I don’t know, but if you don’t go after it you won’t know.”
Puailoa has commitments from a number of his former assistants. He said the infrastructure is in place for a more accelerated turnaround than the floundering program he found in 1994.
“It is the first time we believe there will be support down below in the junior tackle program, support at the high school and support at the district office,” Puailoa said. “We’ve never had all three at the same time.”
Puailoa takes over for Mike Mitchell, who resigned after six seasons (29-31) to direct a professional team in Croatia for 3½ months. Mitchell also was recently hired as head coach at North Medford (Ore.).
“His energy is contagious,” Sandpoint athletic director Tom Albertson said of Puailoa. He coaches kids football instead of coaching football to kids. He’s like a magnet for kids. They draw right to it. It’s a good hire for us.”
Sandpoint teams were 63-37 in 10 years under Puailoa. Before coming to Sandpoint, Puailoa coached at his alma mater, San Marcos, in Santa Barbara, Calif., which inducted him into its Hall of Fame last year. His 18-year record is 100-63.
Puailoa was one of three candidates interviewed. The other two finalists were Casey McLaughlin, Sandpoint’s assistant head coach the last six years, and George Yarno Jr., a coach and teacher in Pocatello.
BF names coach
McLaughlin didn’t land the Sandpoint job, but he has been hired as head coach at Bonners Ferry.
He becomes the fourth coach in three years at BF.
“We’re extremely excited to have someone with Casey’s integrity, work ethic, experience and energy,” BF athletic director Kris Knowles said.
• Emmett Dougherty resigned as head coach at Lewiston after 13 years. Athletic director Tim Sperber said the position is open for applications.
Dougherty’s record was 70-58 with two state runner-up finishes.
GNL title up for grabs
The Great Northern League boys basketball championship will be decided tonight when West Valley (18-1 overall, 10-1 league) travels to Pullman (17-2, 10-1). Tipoff is at 5:45.
WV knocked off Pullman 38-35 on Jan. 17. WV is tied for second in this week’s Associated Press rankings and Pullman is fifth.
• GSL boys and girls conclude regular-season play tonight.
In boys and girls finales, Mt. Spokane is at Shadle Park, U-Hi is at Rogers, NC goes to Gonzaga Prep and Central Valley visits Mead. The girls tip off at 5:30 followed by the boys at 7.
The 4A and 3A regional gymnastics meets are Saturday at Central Valley.
The 4A meet begins at 10 a.m. with the 3A meet following at 2:30. In 4A, the winning team, top two all-around and five per event qualify for state. In 3A, the winning team, top two all-around and six per event advance to state.