Coaches overdue for a breakthrough

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Mon. March 5, 2012 | John C. Cotey | Email

Coaches overdue for a breakthrough

It’s been quite the stretch for high school coaching and program breakthroughs.

Jody Moore won a state softball championship last spring after guiding Canterbury to four previous state final fours. Eric Swensen has a wrestling dynasty at Springstead, with two straight titles following years of state frustration. And Tampa Prep’s Joe Fenlon ended his 0-for-7 streak at state last week, winning his first boys basketball title.

Whatever will we write about now?

Well, how about these coaches? These guys and gals are the among the finest Tampa Bay has ever known and yet are still in search of a first state title after years of near- misses

Tom Shaneyfelt
I would send my two youngsters to play for Clearwater’s girls basketball coach — and they’re boys. That’s how good Shaneyfelt is.

Every season, players talk about winning state, and failing that, “making it to states” is a close second for preseason goals.

Shaneyfelt makes it to state. He has guided the Tornadoes there eight times, playing for the championship in 1997, 2002, ’04 and ’07.

Shaneyfelt is still winning 20 games a season, but he hasn’t fielded a powerhouse team in a while. When you coach like he does, however, that could change any season.

Earl Garcia
One of Tampa Bay’s all-time best football coaches, Garcia took Hillsborough to the 1996 state championship game.

The Terriers also advanced to the region finals in 1999, 2003 and ’04 before the likes of Armwood and Plant caught up to Garcia.

Considering his team has been pretty unlucky with its district and region assignments in recent years, and the aforementioned success at Armwood and Plant, winning a state title has gotten a lot tougher for the veteran coach, but he’s still winning.

Dominick Ciao
The longtime Jesuit coach probably deserved a title in 1992, but lost his best running back (Mo Harris) in the state quarterfinals, then watched as Pasco quarterback Isaac Johnson was bailed out of jail the day of the title game, leading the Pirates to victory.

Ciao made it back to four region finals with Jesuit, and directed Berkeley Prep to the state semifinals in 2011. But his Jesuit staff did produce some guy named Robert Weiner (and a host of other Plant assistants), so he deserves some kind of consolation prize.

Ken Roberts
The Berkeley Prep girls soccer coach has tasted gold on more than one occasion, but it was probably never more flavorful than in 2010, when the Bucs last played for a title.

In that match, arguably the best Bucs team ever played scoreless ball with Plantation American Heritage, but fell on penalty kicks.
Roberts has guided the Bucs to state four times since 1996 and to the region finals three times.

Tom Typrowicz
This is how it seems to go for the Clearwater Central Catholic girls soccer coach: get close to the championship, then run splat! into a state powerhouse.

The Marauders have gone to the state semifinals under Typrowicz six times, losing three times to Plantation American Heritage, once to Delray American Heritage, once to Jacksonville Bolles and once to Lake Highland Prep.

The American Heritages and Bolles have combined for 16 state titles, and LHP has one.

Nick Vandewalle
The St. Petersburg Catholic girls basketball coach just wins, baby. Maybe not the big one, but he’s one of the few coaches around who has never lost a first-round playoff game.

That helps explain why he has guided the Barons to state runnerup finishes in 2000 and 2006, and region final berths in 1999, 2007 and 2012.

No question, Vandewalle is one of the most underrated coaches in Tampa Bay.

Ian O’Neill
The Countryside swim coach has gotten close to winning a state title — with the boys and girls.

In 2006, the Cougar girls were second overall, and followed that up with fourth-, third- and sixth-place finishes. In 2011, the Cougars were sixth again.

In ’09, the Cougar boys were second, and took fifth in ’10 followed by a sixth this past season.
Coaching in an area rich in swimming talent, you can’t help but think that O’Neill is a dominant swimmer or three away from that elusive championship.

Eileen Givens
Okay, so technically Givens isn’t coaching this year, but we don’t think she’s done. She’s only 46. If I’m right, the right situation could land her a first state title.

Givens has been close before. Her Lakewood girls track teams in 1996, ’98 and ’99 were state runners-up. She was fourth in ’97 and sixth in 2000.

Remarkably, Givens won a district championship every year she coached, the first 12 years with Lakewood and the last six with Countryside. She has coached future Olympians. She’s a winner.

Ernie Beck
The River Ridge softball coach is a consistent winner, the kind of guy who eventually wins it all.

He had a great stretch from 2002-04, making the state semifinals every year and twice making the title game before losing.

His teams can always hit. Like every great softball coach, he’s one great pitcher from coaching immortality.

Kaylyn Bayly
Bayly coaches two sports, and does so as well as anyone. But a state title has been elusive.

Bayly is the only coach to take Lakewood volleyball to the state semifinals, in 1993, and the Spartans lost in the 1994 championship match.

In 2000 and ’08, she guided Countryside volleyball to state semifinals and took the 2007 softball team to state, one of the few coaches to do that in two different sports.

With newer schools like East Lake and Palm Harbor University developing into powerhouses, and in many cases benefitting from Countryside transfers, Bayly’s window may be closing, but we wouldn’t count her out just yet.

Mike Moran
The St. Petersburg Catholic boys basketball coach had a great run thanks to Player of the Year Aaron Holmes, losing in the state final in 2004 and going back to state in 2005 and ’06.

The Barons returned to their previous ways this year, making the region semifinals, but next year could be a big one and Moran’s best chance to grab that title since Holmes graduated.

Bonus
Here are some programs that are overdue:

Clearwater boys hoops: Since their 1981 championship, the Tornadoes have been to four final fours with three different coaches but are title-less.

Clearwater volleyball: Region finalists in 2002, ’05, ’06, ’09 and ’11, but unable to duplicate last title in 2000.

Jesuit baseball: The Tigers won a title in 2000, but since have made it back to state with powerhouse teams in ’03, ’04, ’05, ’06, ’10 and ’11 without winning the big one. (We feel pretty strongly that streak ends this season, by the way.)

Shorecrest baseball: The 1980s powerhouse (titles in ’84 and ’89) have made it to the semifinals in 1990 and ’91, the final in 2010 and region finals in 1995, ’98, ’99 and ’11 without adding to its trophy case.

Boca Ciega girls hoops: The Pirates won titles in 1995 and ’96, but have found Lakeland fruitless in four trips since, including a state championship game loss in 2010.

John C. Cotey can be reached at cotey@tampabay.com

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