Lee turns down Gulfport

Published 1:52 pm Thursday, January 10, 2008

Picayune head football coach Dodd Lee will apparently remain at the helm of the Maroon Tide.

Lee has been courted by officials from Gulfport High School for about the last six weeks, and was offered the head coaching job with the Admirals on Tuesday afternoon.

Lee spoke with Gulfport principal Michael Lindsay on Wednesday afternoon and turned down the offer.

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While Lee said he wasn’t sure if a counter offer would be made by the Gulfport officials, he said he didn’t expect any further action to take place.

“I listened to what they had to say, and I thought it could have been an interesting situation,” Lee, a Picayune alumnus who just finished his 12th year at the helm of the Maroon Tide, said. “But after talking with them it wasn’t quite what I expected. And in addition to that, I have a job that I am happy with. I wasn’t looking for another job, but I wanted to hear what they had to say.”

Sources close to the Gulfport program indicate Lee was the top choice of the school’s official search committee to replace the fired Marcus Woods.

“Picayune has been good to me, and it’s home and the people and the administration has treated us well,” Lee added. “And that job may have been one of the few I would have even been interested in enough to talk about.”

Lee and Gulfport Athletics Director Howard McNeil are old friends and when Woods was relieved of his duties McNeil gauged Lee’s interest in talking to him about the Admirals’ opening.

Lee has won over 100 games in his tenure with the Maroon Tide, the most ever for a football coach at Picayune High.

Lee said that several concerns arose in the discussion process with the Gulfport officials. One of his main concerns was breaking up his current Maroon Tide staff when Lindsay informed him he could bring only three assistants with him at this time and he has seven on his staff.

“There were some misconceptions about that job that I needed cleared up,” Lee, who has guided the Maroon Tide to a 22-3 mark over the past two seasons, said. “We have a good staff in place and I was worried about not being able to keep them together. And there were some other factors involved as well.”

The Admirals will now apparently turn to either former head coach Ronnie Cuevas, who is now the head coach at Harrison Central or former USM assistant coach Mitch Rodrigue who was on the recently departed staff of Jeff Bower.

The Admirals hope to have a candidate to reccomend to the school board on Monday.

Picayune could have lost more than its head coach. Maroon Tide all-state standout lineman Jonathan Billups, expected to be one of the most highly recruited players in the state next year, could have gone to Gulfport as well if Lee would have brought Maroon Tide assistant John Feaster with him to the coast.

Billups’ mother died in a tragic house fire just before last season, and Feaster is Billups’ guardian.

The Gulfport vacancy is one of five vacant head football coaching jobs in South Mississippi at this time. That list includes Hancock, D’Iberville, East Central and Moss Point.

Lee said he was also contacted about the vacancy at Hancock High.

Sources close to that program have indicated that Bay High assistant coach Jeff Hopgood and West Point assistant David King, a former Hancock player, are among the leaders for that opening.

Longtime Moss Point head coach Jerry Alexander announced on Tuesday that he would step down after 17 seasons at the helm of the Tigers.

Picayune opens the season at Moss Point in late August.

And apparently, the Maroon Tide will have Lee leading them onto the field at Dantzler Stadium that night.