Saturday, December 1, 2001

Cal Lee wavers
on decision to
step down

After losing the state championship,
he says he's uncertain about his future

Kahuku edges St. Louis

By Dave Reardon

Before last night's state championship game, in which Kahuku beat St. Louis, 21-14, at Aloha Stadium, Cal Lee, the most successful high school football coach in Hawaii history, expressed second thoughts about stepping down.

Lee said last summer that this would be his final season as St. Louis coach and he planned to remain as athletic director. There has also been much speculation about him becoming an assistant coach at the University of Hawaii, where he has been offered jobs several times.

After the game, Lee indicated that he would indeed step down, although he is not sure about his future. He did not rule out taking a break from coaching to return later.

As he did last summer, he joked about coaching Pop Warner.

But this week he told the Star-Bulletin there's a chance he might remain as the Crusaders' coach, after this, his 21st season there.

"Just being athletic director looks pretty good," said Lee, whose teams have won 16 consecutive league championships. "But you never know. Look at all those guys who retire and un-retire. Look at Michael Jordan."

Lee declined to go into details about his future, but he did say he has been asked to meet soon with school leaders. St. Louis president Allen DeLong and principal Burton Tomita have publicly expressed interest in trying to get Lee to remain as coach.

When asked before last night's game if Lee's return as coach is a possibility, DeLong said, "From my point of view it is."

No formal search has been started for a replacement, and logical candidates like current top assistants Delbert Tengan and Vince Passas have expressed little interest.

"You never know what Cal might do," said his brother Ron, his longtime offensive coordinator at St. Louis and a current UH assistant. "It's interesting. I don't think he's ready to give up coaching. I think he's had some frustration with the way the league and the administration were going, but that could change and he loves the kids and coaching.

"One thing I do know is how relaxed he is. He was calm even during the season, he never seemed worried. It's the first time I've seen him like that, coaching with him all these years. I don't know if it's because he's retiring, or what."

Several other people close to Lee and the situation have also said recently they would not be surprised if he chose to stay on as St. Louis coach.

Others have noticed his calmness, too, including his mother, Hazel and father, Tommy, who spent time with Cal on Monday and last night. Lee is normally a tense bundle of energy and concern the week before big games, but this week he was full of smiles and jokes. What it means regarding his future, if anything, is anyone's guess. If Lee himself knows, he wasn't telling.

"To be honest I don't know if there are any options at the university right now," Ron Lee added. "Deep down inside I don't think he wants to leave St. Louis. He's been there 30 years. Some guys can move on. Cal's a special fit. My guess is he's happy to stay at St. Louis."

When asked his immediate plans after last night's game, Lee said "I'll probably get a good night's rest."

"To be honest, I don't know if there are any options at the university right now," Ron Lee added. "Deep down inside, I don't think he wants to leave St. Louis. He's been there 30 years. Some guys can move on; Cal's a special fit. My guess is, he's happy to stay at St. Louis."

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