Arrest of Esperanza Basketball Coach Shocks Players, Parents

Times Staff Writer

Esperanza High School coaches, parents, and players reacted with shock Wednesday to the news that Chris Lee, the boys' varsity basketball coach, was arrested on suspicion of having sex with two female students over the past year.

Lee, 41, a first-year varsity coach, was described as a respected teacher by parents and school officials. Lee, who has been placed in a non-teaching assignment, had been an English teacher at the school for three years.

"We are very concerned with the basketball players, and we are very concerned with Chris Lee," said Tom Nay, president of the Esperanza basketball booster club. "It's just (a feeling) of disbelief. How do we as a booster club and a team go on?

"I've known Chris for three years. I've known him very well. He's a very good teacher. I've very actively supported him since he's been the varsity coach."

Many parents at Esperanza's Empire League game Wednesday at Loara did not know the full extent of the charges.

"All we knew was that he was in trouble," said Rick Pullen, a parent of a junior varsity player, when he learned of the charges Wednesday night.

"I heard about it when my son got home from school," Pullen said. "He had an extremely fine reputation. He was an excellent coach. He was really turning the program around."

Jim Patterson, athletic director, and Mike Moore, a former varsity coach at Esperanza, will coach the team the remainder of the season.

Moore coached for three seasons, leading the Aztecs to the Empire League championship in 1982 with a 21-5 record. He resigned in 1983 because he was disappointed that he could not attract enough top-flight players to establish a strong program.

Said Patterson: "It's in the police's hands now. I've been told by my principal not to say anything."

George Allen, Esperanza principal, said he was notified by the Placentia Unified School District personnel office Tuesday night of Lee's arrest.

Allen gathered the Aztec players Wednesday morning at 10 a.m. and informed them of the arrest.

"There was very little that could be said," Allen said of the team meeting.

Rob Nay, a senior forward and son of Tom Nay, said the whole team was shocked.

Outwardly, the Aztecs appeared unaffected by the news during Wednesday's game against Loara, which they won, 55-44, in overtime. They smiled and congratulated each other after the victory.

Nay scored eight of Esperanza's 13 points in overtime as the Aztecs overcame a stubborn Loara team.

Players were asked by the coaches not to comment on Lee's arrest.

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