Congratulate Fairview boys basketball coach Frank Lee on notching win No. 600 in a career that began before many of the parents of his current players were even in high school, and the response more likely will be a roll of the eyes than a triumphant smile.
Not that Lee isn’t proud of his victory total. It’s just that reaching that sort of milestone has left him with one specific, jarring impression.
“It just means you’ve been around a long time,” Lee said. “We’ve had some good players who bought into the system. I’ve had some great assistant coaches. You just look at it, and it’s the old cliche, but you just try to go one day at a time. It’s more important that we now have three (wins this season), and now how are we going to get to four?”
Lee reached the 600-win mark with Fairview’s 61-56 win against Greeley West Wednesday night in the semifinals of the annual Fairview Festival, setting up a championship showdown Friday night against Front Range League rival Monarch.
That lofty victory total not only includes Lee’s 17-plus seasons at Fairview, but his 12-year tenure as the head coach at Sterling (Ill.) High School in addition to a six-year run as the head coach at Winnebago (Ill.) High School.
“There was some information that came up at the end of last year that said we were at 597,” Lee said. “I’m not a mathematician, but I knew what that meant going into the season. It’s funny — people say it’s great, and you do remember a lot of those wins, but what you remember a lot more are the losses.
“It’s nice to have been in the game this long, but as I told my son he had more to do with it than I did because he actually played defense and scored some points for this team. I didn’t do either of those things.”
While Lee has been focused entirely on notching win No. 601 Friday night against Monarch, the milestone has reminded the veteran coach of all the things he’s grateful for in order to have put together such a lengthy track record of success. Lee is grateful for the many players — including those from Winnebago and Sterling — that have reached out to congratulate him in the days since reaching the milestone. He’s grateful for the generations of players that have bought into his system and teaching style. And, most of all, Lee is grateful for the unwavering support, through all the big wins and tough losses, of his wife Paula.
“That’s one of the best part of this job, when you hear from your former players,” Lee said. “And my wife has been around for all of them. She wasn’t aware of the 600, but she’s been a part of all of those. When you’ve been through it as long as I have you have some good times, and you have some times that aren’t as good. But we’ve always tried to keep that family atmosphere.”
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