Star-Bulletin Sports

Saturday, July 7, 2001


St. Louis Coach Cal Lee led his players in a prayer after
the Crusaders beat the Waianae Seariders in the 1996
Prep Bowl, the 11th of 14 straight for the school.

Lee leaves behind
legacy of winning

The Crusaders head coach,
winner of 14 Prep Bowls, will
still call the shots, just
not on the field

Cal Lee to step down

By Dave Reardon

Cal Lee never said he was in it forever, no matter how much it seemed he was.

As the championship hardware piled up at St. Louis School annually, new rumors would abound about a new destination with new challenges.

Lee always kept his options open. But he always ended up staying at the small all-boys Catholic school on Waialae Avenue.

The Kamehameha Schools job opened up a couple times, and his name came up fast. There was brief talk about resurrecting the old alma mater, Kalani. How about starting from scratch at Kapolei?

Take your pick of a university: Over the years, Lee has been linked with jobs at Utah, Montana and, of course, Hawaii. After all, this is the guy everyone referred to as a college coach coaching a high school team.

"With his talent and record he belongs at the college level," Interscholastic League of Honolulu executive secretary Clay Benham said.

Back in the late 1980s, there was even brief talk about Lee skipping the college ranks altogether and becoming a San Francisco 49ers assistant.

But now, even when he is finally leaving St. Louis, he isn't really leaving -- at least for now. Lee said this, his 21st season, will be his last as Crusaders head coach. Not his last as athletic director, though.

"I'll still be around," Lee told the Star-Bulletin. "It's not like I'm leaving the school."

Many would not blame him if he did.

Lee has taken a lot of criticism in recent years -- some of it from within the St. Louis family -- regarding football becoming too important at the school.

But his supporters feel that Lee and St. Louis football is being made a victim of his and its own success. The Interscholastic League of Honolulu has instituted new rules and a new schedule format in an attempt to restore competitive balance after 15 consecutive ILH titles won by St. Louis.

"The biggest misconception about Cal is that he is only about winning, winning at all cost. It's never been do-or-die for him," his brother, Ron Lee, said. "It's his decision and he loves St. Louis. He's been there for 30 years. Cal has been as loyal as you can be to St. Louis."

The Lees will always be associated with St. Louis. But it doesn't take much to imagine Cal spending at least some of his future time a couple of blocks down the hill working with his brother.

UH has never seemed a better fit for Cal Lee. Head coach June Jones is a good friend from way back, and Ron Lee is the wide receivers coach. (Cal was Ron's defensive coordinator during Kaiser's glory years, and Ron was Cal's offensive coordinator for a good share of the St. Louis run.)

Don't forget defensive backs coach Rich Miano, whom the Lees coached at Kaiser.

The offense at St. Louis is the run-and-shoot, the same as at UH. The quarterback for the Warriors is Tim Chang, the WAC Freshman of the Year last season. When he was Timmy Chang at St. Louis, he was the Dick Butkus National Player of the Year.

At least 10 other former St. Louis players could be on the Warriors roster this fall.

In the event that UH special teams coach Dennis McKnight does not return to the staff this year -- which seems likely -- Jones has said the position will not be filled this year. That leaves a potential opening for Lee in 2002.

Still winning after all these years

Cal Lee's year-by-year record as St. Louis varsity head coach (* denotes ILH championship; ^ denotes Prep Bowl/state championship):
1972: 2-7-1, 4th in ILH
1982: 2-8-1, 6th in ILH
1983: 14-0*^
1984: 10-3*
1985: 9-2-2, 2nd in ILH
1986: 13-0*^
1987: 13-0*^
1988: 13-0*^
1989: 13-0*^
1990: 10-2*^
1991: 12-1*^
1992: 13-0*^
1993: 11-3*^
1994: 13-0*^
1995: 12-1*^
1996: 13-0*^
1997: 13-1*^
1998: 13-1*^
1999: 15-1*^
2000: 14-1* (2nd in state)

Totals: 231-31-4, 17 ILH championships, 14 Prep Bowl championships, one state championship.

Other highlights: 55-game winning streak, 1985-1990; 14-1-1 against out-of-state teams.

The Warriors wanted to hire Lee this year, but the timing wasn't right.

"We talked, but I think Cal feels like he has some things to finish up at St. Louis," Jones said.

Regardless of what he does in the future, Lee leaves an incredible and indelible legacy. His success has impacted not only St. Louis, but all of Hawaii high school football.

Some say not all for the better; among other things, St. Louis has been accused of overzealous recruiting and blamed for declining attendance because of its dominance.

But the Crusaders got Hawaii prep football noticed.

"Schools from around the country come to Hawaii to recruit now," Hawaii High School Athletic Association executive director Keith Amemiya said. "Wisconsin and Nebraska didn't have much of a presence here before St. Louis' run. Because of Cal's success, everyone around the country knows about Hawaii football.

"Cal's success at St. Louis has played a large role in setting up the possible doubleheader (involving Oahu teams and national powers De La Salle and Mater Dei of California in 2002)," Amemiya added. "He's helped create new opportunities for not only his own players and team but for others around the state."

Benham is one of Lee's staunchest supporters.

"I think his legacy will be that he developed a program that is an outstanding example for other schools. He's a wonderful coach and tremendous person in getting along with young people. He's very loyal to the ILH. When he leaves he will be not soon forgotten," Benham said.

"If he remains as athletic director, he more than likely will remain as coordinator for football. Of course things can change, but I don't foresee that."

Lee said the most important aspect of St. Louis football for him -- more important than the winning streaks and the championships -- remains his relationships with his staff and players.

"I'm going to miss the camaraderie with the staff. I'll miss the players, watching them grow and develop," he said.

Lee said he does not know who will succeed him as head coach. Two logical prospects are offensive coordinator Vince Passas and defensive coordinator Delbert Tengan, both longtime assistants and highly respected at St. Louis and in the state's football circles.

But Lee said neither has expressed interest.

"We probably need to find someone," Lee said in his typically understated manner. "Not too many out there seem to want it. I don't think anyone on staff is that interested."

It's certainly a tough act to follow.

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