Former Clearwater Central Catholic football coach Mike Jalazo has been hired to take over the long-struggling Leto football program.
Jalazo said he would be introduced as the new Falcons coach at a school assembly Friday afternoon.
"It's a huge challenge filled with a lot of adversity," Jalazo said. "That's what fascinates me about it. I know it will be difficult but I think you can build something there."
Leto hasn't had a winning season since 1999, when the Falcons were 8-4 and earned the only playoff win in school history.
Jalazo coached at CCC for eight seasons, compiling a 55-37 record there. His seven playoff wins are second most in Pinellas County behing Largo's Rick Rodriguez. Jalazo's teams made the playoffs his first six years (2002-'07), but the Marauders didn't reach the postseason the past two and he was fired in mid-December. Before his time at CCC, he also coached at Admiral Farragut, so this will be Jalazo's first public-school coaching job.
He had also applied for the Jesuit, Tarpon Springs and Countryside openings.
Jalazo will replace Hugh Dehnert, who resigned this offseason after leading the program for four years. Dehnert was 10-29 with the Falcons and was coming off a 2-7 season despite having top recruit Jeremy Deering, a Rutgers signee, in the linep.
"The principal and the athletic director here want to build something with the football program," Jalazo said. "They're excited about it and that's what got me excited too."
Jalazo said he will begin meeting with players and start assembling a staff next week.
-- EDUARDO A. ENCINA and BOB PUTNAM, Times staff writers