Hawaii’s Coach Lee Retires, Effective Immediately
By Rodney S. Yap
University of Hawaii offensive coordinator Tommy Lee announced his retirement from coaching effective immediately. Lee, a Honolulu native who has a coaching resume that spans more than 40 years, spent his only season with the Warriors as offensive coordinator and wide receivers coach.
“This opportunity to come back to finish my career and to work with Norm I’ve totally enjoyed, but being away from home takes its toll,” said Lee, who has a home in Dillon, Mont. “The people you meet and work with, that’s the biggest thing I’ll miss the most, more than the wins and losses, it’s the relationships you build with the staff and players. If you are successful, that’s a bonus.
“What’s most rewarding is being able to see guys you work with at different stops in your career and they tell you thank you. That’s the reward in this profession. This staff, I have no doubt, will be successful in the years to come.”
“I’ve known the Lee family my entire life – from small kid time – and I’ve enjoyed this past year working with Tommy,” UH head coach Norm Chow said of Tommy and brothers Ron and Cal. “We had a lot of fun this past year and I’ll always be grateful that we’ve had this opportunity together.”
In his 40-plus years of coaching, Lee’s experience includes stints at the high school, collegiate and professional levels. Prior to Hawaii, Lee was head coach at Montana Western, where he coached from 2001-07 and compiled a 33-43 record. The team was co-champions of the Frontier Conference in 2002 and ’04, including an NAIA playoff appearance in 2002. During his final season as head coach, the Bulldogs finished the 2007 season leading the conference in total offense (372.5 yards per game) and passing (255.9 ypg).
Previously, Lee coached at Utah from 1995-2000, where he was quarterbacks coach and offensive coordinator. He gained the title of offensive coordinator in 1998 and the Utes led the Western Athletic Conference in total offense (415.3 ypg) and were second in scoring (30.8 ppg). That season, the Utes also finished 18th nationally in rushing offense (206.0 ypg), the first time since 1984 that a Utah team averaged 200 yards per game. In 1999, the Utes led the Mountain West Conference and finished 16th nationally in scoring offense at 33.0 points per game.
Prior to his six-year stint with Utah, Lee spent four seasons in professional football, two years as offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach for Toronto of the Canadian Football League (1993-94) and two years at San Antonio of the World League of American Football (1991-92). In 1992, San Antonio shared the best record (7-2) in the league.
From 1986-90, Lee was the offensive coordinator at Division I-AA Montana, where the Grizzlies complied a 38-20 record during his stay. The Griz made the playoffs twice, including a semifinal appearance in 1989, the same year the team posted the best mark in school history at 11-3. His offense ranked in the nation’s Top 10 for four years.
Lee coached two seasons at Portland State from 1984-85. At PSU, Lee coached Terry Summerfield, an all-conference quarterback who led the Vikings to a Western Conference championship in 1984.
Lee’s move to the NCAA ranks came after a decade of coaching (1972-82) at Willamette College, an NAIA school in Oregon. He was an assistant at the school for two years before assuming the head coaching job in 1974 until ’83.
Lee starred a quarterback for St. Louis School in Honolulu, before an All-America career at Willamette from 1959-62. He later played one year with the Ottawa Rough Riders of the CFL. He was inducted into the NAIA District II Hall of Fame as the Outstanding Back in 1985 and Willamette Hall of Fame in 1995.
He began his coaching career as an assistant coach at Central Catholic High School in Portland, Ore., from 1964-68 before returning to coach at his alma mater St. Louis School from 1968-71.