Lee to coach High School
By David Williams
Published in Sports on August 8, 2004 2:04 AM
Courtesy Jacksonville Daily News
DIXON -- Billy Lee needed just one year to realize that he missed being involved in the game of basketball.
Fortunately, Lee didn't have to look very far to get back into coaching.
Lee, a Mount Olive native who spent 25 years as a college head coach, including 18 years at Campbell University before stepping down last year, was hired Monday as head boys basketball coach at Dixon High School.
He replaces Eric Kleiwer, who will be the JV boys basketball coach at Southwest Onslow.
As coach of Campbell, Lee was named Big South Conference Coach of the Year three times and led the Camels to a league title and a berth in the NCAA Division I Tournament in 1992. Lee, whose Campbell teams were ranked by USA Today as among the best for graduation rates, earned his 300th career victory in January of 1999. He also has had seven players go on to pro basketball careers.
Lee listed a handful of reasons why he decided to come back to coaching.
"I have coached college basketball for 25 years and when I retired from Campbell, I moved to Topsail Beach," explained Lee. "I just missed the kids, I missed basketball and the practices and I missed being a part of a faculty."
Lee believes that coaching at the high school level so close to where he lives is a win-win situation.
"It is really a motivating factor for me because I live right here in Topsail Beach and I am able to drive to Dixon." he said. "I had opportunities to coach at other high schools and colleges, but I didn't want to leave Topsail Beach. I wanted to stay home and coach basketball."
Lee's resume includes a seven-year head coaching tenure at the University of North Carolina Pembroke, a two-year stint as an assistant at East Carolina and head coaching jobs at New Bern and Wake Forest Rolesville high schools. As coach at Pembroke, Lee was one of the winningest coaches at the NAIA level, piling up 121 victories in seven seasons. UNCP also seized a trio of Carolinas Conference titles and qualified for the 1983-84 NAIA tournament.
His impressive history excites principal Lesley Eason and athletic director Homer Spring.
"It's rare to have a chance at getting a coach of such caliber as coach Lee," said Spring. "Mrs. Eason and I gave each other high fives when we hired him and it is not too often that we give high fives over a coach."
Added Eason: "We hired him the day before the first day of school and we are very excited."
Perhaps coaching basketball at the high school, rather than the collegiate, level will be less stressful for Lee.
"It was time for me to hang it up after 18 years (at Campbell), it was time for a change," said Lee on retiring. "Campbell is a good school and a good educational institute and I really enjoyed being there.
"But, I will not miss the recruiting part and having to spend over 100 nights in a hotel one bit. That is the big difference, in addition to dealing with lesser egos in high school. Kids in high school also play more team-oriented."
The 54-year-old Lee graduated from Mount Olive College in 1969 and who received a Masters degree from East Carolina in 1977.
He will be taking over a Dixon team that has been down in recent years.
The Bulldogs were just 2-20 last season and won just one game in the Coastal Plains 1-A Conference.
Lee also said that he won't know how to make Dixon competitive until he gets more acclimated to the situation.
"I haven't met any of the kids on the team and I haven't seen what the team has been stacked up against," he said. "I know that we are in a good 1-A league with talented athletes.
"My understanding is that the team hasn't been very athletic, but maybe a change in the system can be helpful. My goal is to make this team as good as it can be."
The opportunity to be a teacher excites Lee, who also works as a motivational speaker for such events as coaching clinics and banquets.
He has also been featured on ESPN, CBS, NBC and ABC for his ability to entertain and energize his audiences.
"I will teach career management and that is a good field for me; I got my masters degree in education," Lee said. "I have to get into the routine of teaching and living by the bell, but I am looking forward to it."
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