By Jeremy Balan
Update: (Saturday, 4:00 p.m.): Sacred Heart Cathedral has put out a media release about the coaching change. Th release stated that the school “will conduct a search for Lee’s replacement, effectively immediately.”
“This was an [extraordinarily] difficult decision for me personally because of the personal relationship that I have with coach Lee, but after a thorough analysis of the football program and [Lee’s] role, I felt this was the best decision for the program at this point in time,” athletic director Phil Freed said in the release.
Update (Thursday, 6:40 p.m.): We got in contact with John Lee. He said that the choice to make the change was not his decision. He was also unsure whether he would continue to coach in the football program at Sacred Heart Cathedral or at another school.
He also made the following comments:
“It’s true. I’m out, but I won’t comment much on why right now. I will tell you that I’m very thankful for the opportunity to be head coach for 9 years. Half my life has been coaching there and I’m thankful for the opportunity . . . [When I first found out], it was a little unsettling, but I’ve always told the players and the coaches that Sacred Heart football has been around a lot longer than I have and it will hopefully be around a lot longer after I’m gone. It was great to coach at my alma mater – not a lot of people can say that – and coach at Kezar Stadium . . . It will be strange going into spring football – it’s a part of life and I understand that – not going out there with that Irish baseball cap on, with a great group of kids.”
Update (Thursday, 6:00 p.m.): Comments from former Sacred Heart Cathedral football player Zach Tapel, who was a three-year varsity player under Lee and graduated in 2012.
“[I’m for] whatever is best for the school. I love coach Lee, but we haven’t had winning seasons. I’m not blaming it on him, but if we’re not winning games, there can be changes. He always had our back, though, and that’s why I loved him.”
According to a source close to the Sacred Heart Cathedral athletic department, John Lee is no longer the head coach of the school’s varsity football team.
Sacred Heart athletic director Phil Freed confirmed that Lee would “not be returning” as head coach for the 2013 season, but would not comment on the details of the move or anything else regarding the future of the football program until the school officially releases the information on Monday. Lee will continue to be a full-time teacher at the school.
Lee had a 45-51 overall record in his nine seasons as head coach and brought the Irish back into the West Catholic Athletic League in 2008, after an 18-year hiatus from the league, in which the Irish played an independent schedule. In the five seasons since their return to the WCAL, the Irish have a 9-26 record.
That 2008 season was arguably Lee’s best. The Irish had an overall record of 8-5 and went 4-3 in WCAL play, and won their first and only Central Coast Section title in school history. Sacred Heart also made a deep playoff run in 2011, when the Irish lost to rival St. Ignatius in the CCS Division III title game at AT&T Park. He had a 2-8 record against St. Ignatius and a 7-2 mark against Riordan.
Lee is a graduate of Sacred Heart, where he also played football, and the 2012 season was his
24th 23rd year as a coach in the program.
Lee was not available for comment at the time of publication.