Lee Leslie, head coach at Idaho's Kuna High, has been named head coach at Kahuku High and Intermediate, effective later this month, according to the Hawaii Department of Education.
During his 20-plus-year career as a professional coach and teacher at the high school and professional levels, Lee led his teams to 17 championships.
His teams' titles include two academic state high school football championships for Bishop Kelly in Idaho. Lee has earned nine Coach of the Year awards, and has coached in the Arena Football League and at the University of Utah. His former players who turned pro include Joe Germaines, Minnesota Vikings; Bart Hendricks, Chicago Bears; and Jerry Montgomery, New Orleans Saints.
The father of four also coached his three sons' teams to state high school football championships. Leslie's ties with Hawaii include coaching former Kahuku High football players at the University of Utah; knowing many of Hawaii's coaches including Norm Chow for more than 30 years; and facing off repeatedly against Kahuku High in the championship games at team camp, when he coached Utah's Hillcrest High Huskies.
"I consider Kahuku to be one of the top opportunities in the country," Leslie said. "They’ve always had amazing athletes."
He plans to start by having his players get to know him and his expectations. His vision is to coach them to "a winning spirit and attitude on and off the field."
"I’ll spend as much time with them off the field to ensure that their GPA and ACT scores are where they need to be," said Leslie.
Leslie credits his upbringing – his mother died the day he was born, and he and his siblings ended up in an orphanage – and his grandparents, who eventually raised him, with instilling his morals and values.
"Number one, they taught me to respect women. Number two, they taught me to work hard and to do it right," said Leslie.
His high school coaches taught him the same principles and he says, "I try to be the same kind of coach."
"With many qualified candidates, it was a very difficult decision," said Kahuku High Principal Pauline Masaniai. "Coach Leslie has been very successful in all the programs he's developed, he's a motivational speaker, big-hearted and has integrity. … He's known for rallying the community, building support, and structurally improving his stadiums, locker rooms and facilities."
"Kahuku High is creating the whole package – academic, extracurricular, cultural, arts – so parents don’t have to look beyond their own community," Masaniai said. "Coach Lee represents the connection for all of our students and the bridge for those who choose to pursue college and football opportunities in the mainland."
Masaniai also cited his "great love of the Islands and its ethnic diversity."
Leslie, married for 30 years this month, earned his bacherlor's degrees in sociology and a teaching certificate.
Leslie replaced Reggie Torres who had been head coach since 2006 and led the Red Raiders to three football state championships.