Coach Lee finishes historic career at Placer


Story by Daniel Corkery, Sports Editor

In 1994, coming off of a 6-22 season, Placer Basketball needed a boost of energy to turn their program around. Luckily, there was a new man in charge. Coach Mark Lee, a section championship winning coach from San Juan of Citrus Heights, took over as head coach of the Placer Hillmen.   

A program that desperately needed to find an identity had found one, and it was seen instantly. Coach Lee led the Hillmen to a 16-12 season and a playoff berth in his first season. The standard had then been set.

“Every year you try and get the most out of your team,” Lee noted. “Sometimes you have great classes, sometimes you have classes that aren’t as good but you try to keep the same standards all the time.”

Coach Lee built a consistent winner that carried into the 2000s. 

In the MaxPreps era, which opened its site in 2004, Coach Lee mounted 332 wins, including a Section Runner-Up in 2018. The Hillmen also won several Kendall Arnett championships under Lee. 

Coach Lee was not only able to have an impact on the court, he had a large impact on Placer’s athletic department as a whole. Lee took over as athletic director in 2000 and has led the way for Hillmen Athletics ever since. 

In addition to coaching Varsity Basketball, Lee also coaches JV Baseball, has assisted Golf, Football, and Track and Field. 

Many coaches struggle to find balance between coaching high school sports and other jobs, and Lee has juggled teaching on top of everything. Lee has been teaching over 35 years, and has been an active PE teacher at Placer. 

“It was very busy,” Lee stated. “You had to prioritize things and stay organized.”

Coach Lee’s teams are characterized by hard work, tough defense, and unselfish play. He has coached players who have attained All-League and All-Metro honors,  Several players have played collegiately and professionally, including Isaiah Pineiro, who played overseas and with the Stockton Kings.  

Kai Huntsberry, one of the most talented players to ever play at Placer, got to play under Lee for 3 seasons. “He was one of the  first coaches to truly teach me how to play,” Huntsberry said. “He’s really attentive and regardless of his team he’s always found a way to win.” 

“My sophomore year I was practicing at 14 years old and on my first day moving and practicing, they were pressing so I kept trying to push the ball up and it kept getting stolen. Coach Lee kept pressing me in front of everybody. He already saw potential in me at that age and that’s always something I can appreciate.” Huntsberry shared.

Coach Lee believes in his squad year in and year out, and coaches them to embrace that belief and transform it into confidence and put it in the spotlight. 

But Coach Lee’s impact on his players extends beyond the hardwood.  Lee’s impact on the lives of students and players alike was shown on full display for his final regular season game as Head Coach, when he had over 200 former players and friends surprise him before tip-off, in what was a truly special moment for all in attendance.

“As a teacher and coach, your role should be to try and mentor people. The most rewarding part of the job is mentoring people and them saying you had a positive impact on their life.” Lee added.

Lee coached with many great assistants throughout the years who went on to have large success as head coaches. One of the notable ones is Paul Martinez, who went on to become the Varsity Baseball coach at Oakmont High and has created a dominant program. 

Mark Lee’s positive impact and success will forever be remembered and his legacy will live on forever at Placer High School.