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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Friday, October 18, 2002

Islanders, Cal Lee in 'win-win' situation

Advertiser Staff

In a "win-win" situation, former St. Louis School coach Cal Lee will become the new coach of the Hawaiian Islanders arenafootball2 team, and still will be able to:

Former St. Louis football coach Cal Lee will coach in the arenafootball2 league.

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• Remain athletic director at St. Louis School;

• Leave if the University of Hawai'i comes calling.

"The clause in contract (says) if you're offered to go to NFL or college, you could break the contract," said Lee, Hawai'i high school's winningest football coach who retired after last season.

UH coach June Jones had offered Lee a non-coaching job as an administrative assistant this season. Although there were no openings on the UH coaching staff, a non-coaching job would have been created for Lee if he were interested.

Lee also turned down an offer to join UH as an assistant coach last year.

Lee says he's fortunate to be in this position, saying "a win-win situation sounds like a good situation."

The Islanders, who completed their inaugural season in af2 in late July with a 5-11 record, have been in contact with Lee the past few months.

"He's a consummate champion and professional," said team owner Kimberly Wang.

Lee said many factors influenced his decision to accept the one-year, $40,000 contract.

"Yeah, of course I missed football. That had a lot to do with it along with the idea of doing something different, on a higher level or maybe the next level, or whatever you want to call it," said Lee, who turns 56 on Sunday.

Lee said feeling "comfortable" with the Islanders ownership also played a role.

"It's the ownership, the organization. It's also something new ... starting the groundwork on something. It's intriguing that you can start something and build and see where it goes."

In his 21 years at St. Louis, Lee had a 241-32-5 record, won 18 Interscholastic League of Honolulu titles, 14 O'ahu Prep Bowl titles and the inaugural state championship in 1999.

With Lee's reputation as a winner, it is hoped he can draw more fans to the Blaisdell Arena and recruit talented players. In eight home games at the Blaisdell, the Islanders drew an announced average crowd of 3,632.

"He has the mark of a champion, the way Cal carried himself throughout his career as an administrator and coach," said Chris Dey, the team's new general manager. "Another important thing is the credibility Cal brings to the franchise."

All af2 first-year head coaches make a set amount, according to Wang, who added that coaching staff members and players can only sign one-year contracts.

"It's only one year. If they like me ... well ... if they don't like me ... it's an experience," Lee said.

Lee doesn't have any experience in arena football as a player or coach, but it doesn't concern Wang.

"Absolutely not," she said. "He has an abundance of experience in excellence and being a champion."

The high-scoring arena league is played on a 50-yard field and teams throw on virtually every down.

Chad Carlson, who replaced Guy Benjamin in May and served as the team's head coach for the final 12 games, has been reassigned to director of player personnel, Dey said.

As far as the team's four assistant coaches — Al Noga, Doug Semones, Jon Fia and Darren Hernandez — Wang said the new head coach will decide on his own staff.

The af2 season runs from late March to late July. Lee said he's not too concerned with the overlap with the end of the high school year.

"If you got good people to managing your activities that's a big part of it," he said. "Our athletic programs are in good hands."