Expansion? Leavitt says UCF not 'a juggernaut'
Speaking publicly for the first time since changing basketball jobs, Tommy Tonelli chose to keep some things private.
Tonelli, who left his job as the Bulls' director of basketball operations to return to his old gig at Wharton High as boys basketball coach and guidance counselor, said Tuesday evening he couldn't imagine coaching at any other area high school.
"I think, no question, when you start a program and build it to the point it was when I left, it was a very difficult decision to leave to begin with," said Tonelli, who compiled 213 wins, three district titles and a region finals berth in his 10 seasons as Wildcats coach.
"I don't regret having done that and the experience at USF will hopefully make me an even better guidance counselor and boys basketball coach."
A former Bulls point guard, Tonelli was believed to be disillusioned at USF when coach Stan Heath didn't promote him after two other Bulls assistants departed.
He wouldn't discuss the situation publicly Tuesday, but indicated the retirement of a Wharton guidance counselor helped pave the way for his return to the New Tampa school.
"I felt like if I didn't seize the day to get back to Wharton," Tonelli said, "I didn't know if it would happen."
Tonelli said one of his former Wharton assistants, Comer Copeland, will re-join him on the bench and coach the Wildcats junior varsity. Copeland got Tonelli's job but was replaced after one year by another ex-Tonelli assistant, Dave Bastian.
Wharton athletic director Mike Rowan said the school chose to move in a new direction after Bastian's lone season, which ended with a 13-11 record. Tonelli said for now that Bastian, also a former USF point guard, likely won't join him on the staff.