Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Lee hard at work in Tar Heel country

Former Jayhawk dives into new job

Former KU basketball player and graduate assistant Michael Lee has been hired on the men's basketball coaching staff at the University of Oregon.

Former KU basketball player and graduate assistant Michael Lee has been hired on the men's basketball coaching staff at the University of Oregon.


Michael Lee answered the phone on the first ring Monday night in his Gardner-Webb University assistant men's basketball coach's office.

"I was wondering who'd be calling me at 7:30 on Memorial Day," said the hard-working Lee, who - in just his eighth day on the job - has not yet met a lot of people in the town of Boiling Springs, N.C. - Pop. 3,997.

Lee, who spent four years as a player and one as a graduate assistant at Kansas University and also traveled the world one year as a member of the Harlem Globetrotters, likes what he's seen of his new digs just 45 miles west of Charlotte and a whopping 2,249 miles from his hometown of Portland, Ore.

"I'm in Tar Heel country now. I understand that concept," joked Lee, who soon will be wearing a 2008 NCAA championship ring to forever proclaim his allegiance to the Jayhawks, who beat North Carolina in the 2008 national semifinals.

"It's a smaller town. Everybody is real nice. I'm excited to be here, but to be honest at this point the excitement is over. I've been working the past week. There's a lot of work to do."

Just 25-years-old, Lee feels he's prepared for his full-time assistant's job after working the 2007-08 season on Bill Self's KU staff where he helped in day-to-day operations, scouting and travel.

"Coach Scruggs (Rick, 14th year) gave me a list of things I'm responsible for," Lee said. "I'll be on the road recruiting. I'll do scouting reports on opponents, full scouting reports. I'll be responsible for the players' study hall, track the progress of players, work with the managers. I'll be involved in mailouts, unofficial (recruiting) visits, official visits, everything. It's a learning process for me."

Lee says he's grateful to Self not only for his two years as a player under the fifth-year Jayhawk coach and one year on his staff, but for Self's input in the job application process.

"Coach Self mentioned it (opening) to me. He said, 'Mike, what do you think?''' Lee said. "I said, 'I think it's a good opportunity, whether I get the job or not, to go through the process of contacting the coach, filling out my resume, maybe even interviewing.'

"I sent in my resume, they called me in and I interviewed well," Lee added. "I didn't have much coaching experience, but had playing experience at Kansas. Winning the national championship didn't hurt. Coach Self spoke on my behalf. Coach Williams (Roy, North Carolina who coached Lee two years at KU) spoke on my behalf as a reference. They spoke highly of me and I got the job."

Scruggs is tickled to have Lee on the staff as the Bulldogs begin their first season moving from the Atlantic Sun Conference to the Big South.

"Obviously, this is a young man who had the unique honor of playing and learning under two of the top coaches in the college game in Roy Williams and Bill Self, so it came as no surprise that Michael's base of knowledge was so strong," Scruggs said. "He comes highly recommended as a coach and person, and we feel he can have a very strong influence on our student-athletes and basketball program."

Lee - he played on two Final Four teams at KU (2002, 03) - and was part of a national title in his only year on the Jayhawk staff, says naturally he'll miss Lawrence.

"There is no place like Kansas and Kansas basketball," Lee said. "Coming back this past year and being a graduate assistant ... a lot of people helped me out. They welcomed me back. People had no problems helping me, the whole athletic department and whole community. I thank everybody for that."

He said he can sense KU's first national title since 1988 has brought KU's basketball alumni closer together. Since the title victory over Memphis, he's either spoken with, or traded emails with Nick Collison, Jeff Hawkins, Kirk Hinrich, Keith Langford, Bryant Nash and his closest friend, ex-Jayhawk point guard Aaron Miles.

"Everybody is happy," Lee said. "Aaron and I talked about it a bit. It (national title) is something we wanted so bad (as players). It meant a lot to us as players. Getting close and not having one put it in perspective for me on how hard it is to attain that. I don't think the guys ('07-08 Jayhawks) even realize it yet. What they achieved is no minor feat. They did something big, real big. It's something all players want so bad. To see them get it ... it's amazing. I'm very happy."

Lee believes the Jayhawks will field an exciting team next season even with seven newcomers coming aboard to replace a batch of veterans.

"It will be a year where there's definitely a lot of teaching," Lee said. "We can always have a good year. Coach Self will always bring in the top talent in the nation. I just read it's the No. 2 class in the nation. The talent is there. Coach Self is a teacher. Put talent with a great teacher and we'll be right there."

He's also optimistic about his new school - Gardner-Webb.

"It should be a fun year next year, especially moving to the Big South Conference," Lee said. "It's going to be fun getting familiar with our players this summer and the fall."

As to how long he wants to be an assistant ... "I don't know. I guess realistically I could be an assistant for the next five to 10 years. If I get great experience under my belt, hopefully I will someday be a head coach."

And as far as his world travels ... they are on hold for just a bit.

"I've not been everyplace I want to go. I've not been to South America yet," he said.


jaybate 11 years, 8 months ago

One day, he will be a D1 coach and a very good one.

nameer 11 years, 8 months ago

no no i meant he won a title here as in at KU, not in high school. my bad on not clarifying

cklarock 11 years, 8 months ago

Man, I still believe that Mike Lee was literally fingertips away from making The Shot that gave us an NC in 2003.Mike was so clutch at the end of games . . . when he went up for that shot, I just knew it was going in.Congrats Mr. Lee!

nameer 11 years, 8 months ago

I'm pretty sure Danny Manning has no interest in any other coaching position, as he went to lawrence high and won the title here. I think he sees it as he can a lot for KU that he couldn't do elsewhere, for two reasons. First, as a recruiter he has a title ring and NBA experience (and was the number one pick), while also knowing what it was like living in lawrence and being "Mr. Jayhawk." Secondly, he has unique experience in that he was an athletic force, had that taken away from him, and still found ways to dominate based solely on technique. Because of this, he can coach all aspects of post play. For this reason, i think he's is perfectly suited to be an assistant coach, possibly the best in the nation.

GIHAWK 11 years, 8 months ago

I believe Nebraska showed interest in Manning during their last search. But they also got a good one in Doc Sadler. Next to us, I think they will be the second best team in the North next season.

Chris Weaver 11 years, 8 months ago

in a kansas city star breaking news story are reporting that chalmers is not attending the pre-draft NBA camp. do i smell a title defense in his future?

Lance Hobson 11 years, 8 months ago

Great story, Lee was always a class act at KU and will be a great head coach someday.

Chris Weaver 11 years, 8 months ago

don't y'all wish he coulda knocked down that jumper against syracuse. dang. michael lee is good people.

nameer 11 years, 8 months ago

i bet he's not attending the camp because he's pretty sure he'll be drafted...these days almost all the players in the camp are trying to work their way into the second round, and there are very few if any certain draftees in the group. I don't know what the list is this year so i can't speak for this group, but thats how its been the last couple years.

Brian Skelly 11 years, 8 months ago

Kudos for Michael Lee.That guy is something else.One of the most mentally tough guys we've had come through the roster the past 20 years.He definitely strikes me as a guy who'll probably be pretty good at whatever he decides to do.I just remember Michael Lee playing as if it was his last game against Bucknell. If the rest of the roster had been playing that way, we never would have lost to them.The best to Mr. Lee and his future endeavors.

Jonathan Allison 11 years, 8 months ago

Hopefully Gardner-Webb has a great year this year. The Kentucky win last year was big, hopfully Coach Lee can help them to build on that success.The whole time I was reading the article I was waiting to hear who it was that called him at 7:30pm on Memorial Day. When I got done I realized that it was Gary Bedore and the LJWorld. I guess that's just not a typical way to start a story...

Displayhawk 11 years, 8 months ago

AFILMER, I couldn't agree more!Michael Lee is Good People!Hey Jayhawk Nation, you probably already know that KLZR in Larrytown wants to rename part of 19th Street Bill Self Boulevard, and I have absolutely no problem with that. But why don't we honor our other National Championship coach with his own street???I personally think we ought to rename Missouri street in Lawrence to Larry Brown Boulevard!Kill 2 Tigers ......birds with one stone!

peter56321 11 years, 8 months ago

I love Coach Manning and would like little more than for him to remain at Kansas, but it's absurd to think that Danny Manning came back to Lawrence to retire as an assistant men's basketball coach. He has his sights on being a head coach somewhere and because he and Coach Self are so close in age, there is essentially no chance he can inherit the program from Self. No. He'll put in time here learning from one of the best coaches in America and then he will move to a top program once the timing is right. I also love HCBS and I think it is WAY too soon to speak of naming any streets after him. That should be reserved for legacy makers and 5 years does not make a legacy. If he retires from Kansas in 20-25 years from now as the winningest coach in the history of the program? Now we are talking legacy and I'll draft the petition myself. Likewise, Coach Brown was only at Kansas for 5 years. I'm glad our relationship was mutually beneficial but I think his return to the NBA was enough of an "award" for winning us a championship (and leaving us with NCAA violations that prevented us from defending our title).

lance1jhawk 11 years, 8 months ago

nameer- I'm pretty sure that Danny never won a state title at LHS. I do agree though that he most likely isn't going anywhere. Lawence and the University are home to him.

NH_JHawk 11 years, 8 months ago

Way to go Mike! You'll be a great asset to Gardner-Webb and no doubt will be a head coach one day.Sooner or later someone's going to have to lobby the NCAA to rename North Carolina, East Kansas instead. It's the least we deserve for KU's outstanding contribution to Carolina Basketball.

jayharchitect 11 years, 8 months ago

Coach Self and Coach Williams as refrences.... that's pretty sweet.

100 11 years, 8 months ago

  1. If Mario is staying out of this camp, he's wise. There are just too many people ahead of him right now to be guaranteed a first round spot. Next year's KU team aside, surely by now he has seen the major benefit he is doing for himself by staying one more year at a school where he will be focused on nationally by Sportscenter every night his shoes touch the floor. In a nutshell, if he works hard on his game for another few months (much quicker passes, tighten up the dribble and extend the already great range) -- he will be guaranteed a first round spot in next years draft, and potentially even a lottery pick.2. Michael Lee will be another one of those amazing KU coaches, following in the footsteps of previous KU player/coaches such as Phog Allen, Adolph Rupp, Ralph Miller and Dean Smith -- talk about an amazing classy coaching tree he's already been taught by at KU -- Self, Manning and Roy Williams -- and he's so intelligent, diligent and extraordinarily passionate about winning, and doing it the right way. If the timing is right (he's 20 years younger than Self), we might choose to hire him whenever Self decides to hang it up (hopefully in 25 years or more). He is a true Jayhawk -- how ironic that he's wearing that national Championship ring in Carolina for the next decade...

Debbie Mangen 11 years, 8 months ago

I am so happy for Michael Lee. He has his national championship ring now! This article has me wondering.... now that Danny Manning is an assistant coach for the Jayhawks, if a head coaching job should present itself somewhere other than KU, do you think Danny Manning would take it and leave the KU faithful? I can't see that happening because I feel he just wanted to be back in Lawrence and wanted to be a part of his alma mater and give back, with a little paycheck behind it. So, I'll wait to hear your thoughts.

DrPepper 11 years, 8 months ago

I suppose if Lee had made the shot, his jersey might even be hanging in the rafters. Thats how it worked for Chalmers.

number1jayhawker 11 years, 8 months ago

Displayhawk, they talked about renaming misery street after coach Fambrough,a couple of years ago, but I guess it died somewhere along the way.But I agree, they should honor coach Brown somehow also.

JJHawq 11 years, 8 months ago

I like changing Missouri street to Fambrough street. THAT IS PERFECT.

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