Highland High School has a definite Utes flavor with hiring of new football, basketball coaches

Kautai Olevao and Chris Jones are alumni of the University of Utah, as is the man who hired them, principal Jeremy Chatterton.

(Rick Egan | The Salt Lake Tribune) Kautai Olevao is one of the new Highland High football coaches, on the Highland football field, Wednesday, May 19, 2021.

Jeremy Chatterton, principal at Highland High School, used to coach Kautai Olevao’s daughter in basketball. He went to the same high school, Judge Memorial, as Chris Jones, who he got to know through some alumni events and later at basketball camps in Utah County.

So when it came time to fill the openings for head football and basketball coaches at Highland, those prior connections proved important. Chatterton hired Olevao as the school’s football coach and Jones for basketball. The trio are also all alumni from the University of Utah.

“It wasn’t really something that we searched for, but it obviously made them recognizable names and people that people would know who they were for sure,” Chatterton said of the Utes connection. “So to be able to have that name recognition is always helpful.”

Jones most recently coached under Larry Krystkowiak, who was fired in March. His son, Rylan, graduated from Olympus and played at Utah before transferring to Utah State, where Jones also coached under Stew Morrill.

Other coaches Jones has worked with in the past include Rick Majerus and Tommy Connor. Jones coached under Conner at Westminster College.

“My goal is just to try to take the best stuff that I got from those guys and try to implement it with what we’re doing at Highland,” Jones said.

Jones also had a stint as a professional head coach in London, England. The job at Highland will be hist first head job since living overseas.

(Trent Nelson | The Salt Lake Tribune) Highland High School basketball coach Chris Jones, in Salt Lake City on Wednesday, May 12, 2021.

Olevao takes the head football job at Highland after serving as the team’s defensive coordinator. He was actually planning on retiring from coaching after last season because his son, Ashton, was graduating.

But when the previous football coach left suddenly, Olevao said the administration asked if he would move into the role to provide some stability for the players, who were shocked about what happened.

So after sitting down with his family, Olevao decided to take the job. It’s his first stint as a head coach at any level, he said.

Aside from playing college football for the Utes, Olevao was invited to training camp with the Tennessee Titans. After that, he played arena football for the Utah Blaze.

While Olevao thinks passion for and commitment to coaching and molding children can make any high school coach successful, he does think playing or coaching at the Division I level can make a big difference.

“A lot of this is volunteer time,” Olevao said. “We get paid pennies, if anything, for the amount of time that is put in to coaching on a high school level. And so for me, any time there is a coach that has D1 experience, that is of great value to add to your coaching staff.”

Both coaches say they’re competitors and want their teams to win. But what’s more important to them is helping players improve not only on the court or field, but in their individual lives as well.

“We’re trying to push them out of their comfort zone to become successful citizens — not just in Highland as they represent Highland football, but in their community and in their homes,” Olevao said. “Those are things that I have a passion for. I have goals to implement so that they can achieve that while they are under me as their head coach.”

Chatterton feels in Jones and Olevao, he’s found two men who excel at building relationships and want to create successful basketball and football programs.

“They’re both just fantastic, high-energy people that really want to focus on doing what’s best for kids and helping kids develop and helping us really build a positive culture through our athletics program here at Highland,” Chatterton said.

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