MILTON — Harry Lees, the West Florida High School of Advanced Technology in Pensacola’s former head football coach, will take over duties as Milton High School’s head football coach next month.
Here, Lees talks about transitioning from coaching West Florida High to coaching the Milton High School Panthers.
What drew you to MHS’s head coaching position?
“I told my wife several times that the Milton job has always been interesting to me. It’s close to home and my wife works in the school system. It was a job that was always appealing to me, but it was a tough decision to leave West Florida, because of the relationships we have built with the kids and the winning tradition.”
Tell us about your previous experience.
“I have been the head coach at West Florida High School for the last seven years. Before that, I was an assistant (coach) at Pace High School for three years and, prior to that, I was a head coach at Zion Chapel High School in Alabama for four years. Before that, I was an assistant at Pace (High School) for three years. I also coached at Escambia High School and two schools in Birmingham (Ala.) when I was starting out. So, I have been around for a little bit.”
You’ve had experience coaching under Mickey Lindsey at Pace High School. What was that like?
“Coach Lindsey is a great man. He’s a good mentor to me. You take things from different head coaches. What I got from Coach Lindsey was really about being consistent and just coming to work every day, ready to work, and instilling that work ethic in your kids. Pace throughout the years did not have the most talent, but they got the most out of their kids; that is true testament to how he had so much success over a 20-year span and it was because who he was and how he ran his program.”
What do you think of the Panthers football team?
“The first thing, I think, of Milton High School is just the great atmosphere and the great community support. Everyone gets behind the team. It’s just real exciting and, in this day and age, that is rare. I love the things we did at West Florida High School, but I don’t believe there is a place in the Pensacola area that has the atmosphere that Milton has when things are going good. Even during some of their down years, people genuinely love their football, love their sports and get behind their kids. To me, it feels like home. My wife, Beth, graduated from Milton in ’89. Ever since I met her, she has always talked about Hurley Manning, Reggie Slack and the people her brother played with during high school. It’s a place I know where you can win at and the community gets behind them.”
You will take over head-coaching duties Jan. 6. What are some of the first steps you plan to take?
“Basically, when you take over a program, you have to have the kids trust you. I really feel like you can develop relationships and, once they feel like you are who you say you are, and you do the things you say you are going to do, then they will go to work for you. After you develop that relationship and they start working, you start seeing results.
“We have a family atmosphere at West Florida High School and the kids bought into this program, which had never won before. Once they figured out that, I was going to do everything that was in my power to help them out. They not only played for me, they played for each other.
“Going over to Milton, we are just going to go in there and get to work and we are going to compete. We are going to work hard and do things the right way and try to teach character and work for each other. The results will come after you develop that relationship. I know there is really good coaches over at Milton High School, so I got to meet with those guys and evaluate what we have in strengths and weaknesses and see where we go from there.
“I am excited about it, because I know we got some good coaches and some good players and they just really have to learn to trust me and we will figure each other out.”