Lake Wales Names Randy Lee New Basketball Coach
Tue. June 05, 2012 at 11:50 p.m. | By Solange Reyner
By SOLANGE REYNER
LAKELAND | In a meeting Tuesday afternoon with the players he will coach next year — and in years beyond, he hopes — Randy Lee was asked what matters more.
"Defense or offense?" one player queried.
It was a telling moment because stingy defense is what helped motor Lake Wales to a Class 5A state title this year and a state runner-up showing the year before.
And change is not what the former head coach at Tennessee Temple University who was hired Tuesday to replace Billy Washington at Lake Wales is looking for immediately.
"There are some big shoes to fill," Lee said during a phone interview.
"But the one thing that will continue is the defense and intensity they displayed. We don't want to change that. We're going to build on what they have been successful with."
Lee, 39, was selected from a pool of 77 applicants, which was trimmed to nine, then three over the course of the past week.
The final three coaches were Tyrhon Crawford, the head coach at Lake Region; Jimmie Johnson, a former coach at Bartow and Lake Wales; and Lee, who played at Lakeland High School from 1988-90.
Lee also had head coaching jobs at the University of Texas of the Permian Basin and the University of Maine before spending three years at Tennessee Temple, a school that competes in the National Christian College Athletic Association.
The selection process was thorough.
It took five weeks, with a selection committee of about 17 people, which included administrators from Lake Wales and two basketball players, one a graduate and another a sophomore currently on the team, making the final decision.
"We had a number of really good candidates, and there were several we couldn't have gone wrong with," Marvin Pavy, Lake Wales' athletic director, said. "[Lee] has a good history, and he's been successful at the college level. We think he's going to be able to take this team in the direction it was headed."
Lee helped turn Tennessee Temple's program around. The team had three wins in the season before he took over. The next three years they were a .500 team.
"He made this a respectable program," said Ezell Dodd, an assistant coach under Lee last year.
Lee also pushed for the school to play tough competition, and they did against two or three NCAA Division I schools per year, including Murray State last year.
Washington, who resigned in late April after an incident at the school where a 17-year-old girl was injured by another student in the gymnasium where he was working, also maintained a tough schedule in getting his team to the state title game.
"As far as the direction, we're going to continue to test ourselves in all areas — in the classroom and in the community, too," Lee said. "The schedule hasn't been finalized yet, but we will test ourselves and challenge ourselves."
Lee said he will implement slight changes but will look to retain the assistant coaches.
"The team is going to be different losing the seven seniors, so I have to establish what our focal point is going to be and holding players accountable on both ends," Lee said. "I think, too, with my background at the college level, I want to set some high standards and bring some things from the college program to help improve their skill set."
But to the chagrin of many, he said the emphasis on defense won't waver.