Sunday, July 8, 2001
[ PREP FOOTBALL ]
Back to businessThe St. Louis School quarterback stopped on his way to his summer pass league game yesterday morning to put gas in the car. When he went into the convenience store to pay, he saw the Star-Bulletin headline: "Cal Lee to step down."
The coach insists that his
stepping down is not a big deal
Manoa is next logical stop for Lee
By Dave Reardon
Bobby George was jolted, but not all that surprised.
"Right now everyone is kind of shocked. But it was kind of a rumor, actually for a couple years now," George said. "Everyone knew it would come sooner or later. He's had such a long career. What else is there for him to accomplish?"
Right now, Lee is trying to accomplish some sense of normalcy. That's why he didn't tell his players en masse about his decision that this, his 21st, season will be his last as Crusaders varsity head football coach (he plans to remain athletic director).
"I don't want it to be a big deal. We've got to concentrate on this year," Lee said. "I'm still here.
"It's not really much. Just after this season I'll hang it up and see what happens."
Lee did officially inform his staff and school principal Burton Tomita last week. School president Allen DeLong returns from the mainland in about 10 days and the three will meet, Tomita said.
Tomita tried to deflect talk that conflict between the St. Louis football program and school administration led to Lee's stepping down as coach.
"I don't think anything that has happened at the school is not resolvable," Tomita said. "We know that Cal is certainly the best football coach in the state at this level. We're proud of what Cal has done here."
That seems to leave an opening for Lee to change his mind. But one of his closest assistants said not to count on it.
"I don't think anyone will talk him out of it," said defensive coordinator Delbert Tengan. "I don't think he'll be like (a) boxer and attempt a comeback.
"I'm just sorry that Cal's leaving, but I'm happy for him," Tengan added. "He personally decided to move on to new horizons and opportunities."
Those possibilities include joining the staff at the University of Hawaii, where his brother and former St. Louis assistant Ron Lee is the wide receivers coach, and his friend June Jones is the head coach.
Another St. Louis assistant, offensive coordinator Vince Passas, said he thinks Interscholastic League of Honolulu rule changes bother Lee.
"I think that's part of it," Passas said. "That 65-player limit when you've got 100. What do you tell them -- 'Sorry, we can't take you to the stadium'?"
Tengan and Passas are two prime candidates to replace Lee. But Passas said he is not interested and Tengan is lukewarm at best.
Lee also mentioned the 65-player limit. "It's not fair for the kids," he said.
But for the most part, Lee seemed at peace with himself and the situation yesterday. He spent the morning doing what he loves best -- coaching football. After the scrimmage he was relaxed, smiling and often joking.
"Next year I might be a janitor," he said with a laugh.
His decision was not made in a day, a week or even a year.
"When you think about something so long, when you make a decision, right, wrong, whatever, you feel a lot better," he said. "I don't think about it now. I think about football."
There has been speculation for more than a decade about Lee leaving St. Louis.
"In 1990, when my son (Jon) graduated I thought it would be a good time. Every year it's a question. When do you stop? It's the right time," Lee said.
Bobby George will play one more year under Lee and his senior season without him. If his attitude is any indication, the players understand.
"When we got to the school today, it was, 'We've got to win for Coach Cal,' " George said. "I guess we'll just start to worry about it all after this season. We're fortunate to have him one more year."
Cal Lee said that deep-down -- for the players and staff -- he wants it to be longer.
"I wish I could last forever," he said.
"I can sense some frustration."
St. Louis offensive coordinator
"It's a loss to high school football and the league when you lose a coach of that quality. But everybody moves on."
Nanakuli head coach
Reaction was varied yesterday to St. Louis football coach Cal Lee's decision to step down after this coming season:
>> "We've just got to continue to work hard and make him happy. He's 'The Man.' "
-- Bobby George
St. Louis junior quarterback
>> "We both know what we've got to do. When the time comes, we'll deal with it."
-- June Jones
University of Hawaii head coach June Jones, on speculation Lee may end up on the UH staff
>> "I don't think the school is forcing Cal out. We're proud of what Cal has done for our young men, and not just the football players."
-- Burton Tomita
St. Louis principal
>> "It's just like BYU without LaVell Edwards or Florida State without Bobby Bowden."
-- Delbert Tengan
St. Louis defensive coordinator
>> "I know deep down in his heart he's not ready to retire."
-- Frank Pahia
St. Louis offensive line coach
>> "He'll find something to do. It's all up to him."
-- Val Lee
Cal Lee's wife
>> "Cal's always been a terrific coach, going back to when I was playing. He knows the game inside and out. Cal's always run a great program."
-- Chris Bisho
Damien head coach and 1985 Punahou graduate
>> "When you think about it ... 15 Prep Bowls and state championships. That won't be matched for a long time, if ever. He's a complete coach: offense, defense and kicking game."
-- Hugh Yoshida
UH athletic director, coached against Lee at Leilehua
>> "Why focus on me? I'm just one piece of the puzzle. It's really about the players."
-- Cal Lee
The crowd of notebooks, cameras and microphones surrounding Cal Lee after yesterday morning's pass-league scrimmage was as big as those after any of his 15 Prep Bowl or state title victories.
Manoa is next logical
stop for Lee
He says that after leaving the Crusaders,
he would 'love to go coach at UH'
By Dave Reardon
And it was similar to his post-big game media gatherings in another way. The questions kept coming back to what would be next for the most successful high school football coach in the history of Hawaii.
Lee, who will leave the St. Louis coaching job after this, his 21st, season, plans to remain afterward as Crusaders athletic director. But nobody seemed to believe he is done with coaching.
One of the reporters asked him directly: "Will you coach again?"
Lee's response: "High school? Pop Warner maybe. Not high school."
Ironic deadpan, typical of Lee. Then he smiled, and the group laughed.
Cal Lee leaving high school coaching to tutor Pee Wees would be about as fair to the competition as Cal Ripken retiring from the Orioles to play tee-ball.
And about as challenging.
The questions became more direct: "Would you like to coach at the University of Hawaii?"
The answers did, too: "I'd love to coach at the University of Hawaii. I'm not going to the mainland. I'd love to go coach at UH. (Hawaii head coach June Jones) is a great guy to work for."
Lee has been offered assistant coaching jobs at UH at least three times, twice by Jones. Jones said he will not fill a probable opening this year. That means there will likely be at least one spot open in 2002 -- after Lee has coached his last St. Louis game.
But Jones was hesitant to make any public commitment yesterday.
"Cal and I have talked, about a lot of things," said Jones, who has known Lee for about 20 years. "Now is probably not the time to do any more talking."
UH athletic director Hugh Yoshida was also noncommittal, saying assistant football coach hirings are left to Jones.
"But (Lee's) been speculated often as a (UH) coach, and there's a reason for that," Yoshida said. "Of course there needs to be a right fit, and it's up to June."