Destiny finally reaches new Clay coach Mike Lee
Timing is everything, as Mike Lee can attest.
Lee, Clay’s new head football coach, remembered an incident 15 years ago when he figured he might be destined to one day coach the Eagles.
“I was the head coach at Woodmore and I was in Oregon getting gas one day,” Lee said. “I had a Woodmore hat on and a guy at the gas station says, ‘You’re Mike Lee, right?’ He said, ‘You’re going to be our next head coach, right?’ I didn’t make a whole lot about it. The next year, that job was not open, so I went to (coach at) Fostoria.”
Lee, 56, who led Woodmore to four playoff appearances in his six years (1992-97) as the Wildcats’ coach, left Woodmore to be the head softball coach at Fostoria High School, where he also served as the offensive coordinator for football.
Lee has been a head softball coach for 24 years and is a member of the Ohio Fast Pitch Softball Coaches Hall of Fame (2006). He also has seven years of experience as a head girls basketball coach.
When Clay’s head football coaching position opened up in 1999, Mike’s brother, Jeff, was an assistant coach at Central Catholic.
“I had just moved to Fostoria, and Jeff said he was interested (in the Clay job),” Mike said, “so I backed off. Jeff got that job, and as time went by I was interested in coming here to help him.”
Jeff Lee was Clay’s head coach from 1999-2006 and guided the Eagles to a 41-39 record, including the school’s only state playoff appearance, in 2004 (they lost to Avon Lake in the first round).
“When Jeff resigned (in 2006), that was not a good situation for me to jump into,” Mike said. “I always kept my eye on it. It opened when Mike Donnelly resigned (after last season) and I was getting all my things in order. I knew they had to post the job within the school system and I didn’t think anyone from outside the Clay system was going to apply.
“Then, Mr. (Mike) Vicars got the job and I put my things away. When he resigned, I jumped on it and didn’t want to wait. I applied for the girls’ basketball job when it opened up a couple years ago, after Roger Achter (resigned).”
Lee’s hiring comes on the heels of the announcement in April that Vicars, who led both Delta and Genoa high schools to the state playoffs, including two state semifinal appearances, would not be accepting the assistant principal and head coaching positions he accepted in January.
Vicars has since been hired as a middle school principal in the Pike-Delta-York school district as well as Delta’s head football coach.
Mike Lee, meanwhile, has been an assistant football coach and teacher at Lake Wales (Fla.) High School since 2006. He taught health education and was a personal fitness and weightlifting instructor at Lake Wales.
“Everything was going well in Florida,” Lee said. “I was happy coaching there. Every job I’ve taken has been a step up, just go up a little further. That ultimate goal, obviously, was Clay, and it finally happened.”
Lee was in Oregon this week to meet with Clay administrators and put together a coaching staff. He was to meet with the football players on Thursday.
“I’m up here this week to take care of getting things in order for summer with the junior high program and my assistants,” Lee said. “I have to set the calendar, set the camps, weightlifting, seven-on-seven (camps) and so forth. As soon as school’s out (June 5), it’s off and running.”
Lee said he didn’t have a hard time convincing his wife of 36 years, Jeanette, to move back to Ohio. The couple has three daughters: Becky is a teacher at Starr Elementary School, Tracy is a teacher in Sarasota, Fla., and Jackie is a teacher at Elmwood Elementary in Bloomdale.
“She’s all for it,” Lee said of his wife. “She’s a great lady. I am very excited and I can’t wait to get started.”