Northeast ended its three-week search for a football coach by hiring former Leto and Clearwater Central Catholic coach Mike Jalazo on Friday, athletic director Greg Zornes said.
Jalazo replaces Jay Austin, who was dismissed as coach last month. The hiring also marks the end of an era. For the first time in 33 seasons, the Vikings will not be coached by an Austin. Jerry Austin, Jay's father, coached Northeast for 28 seasons and is Pinellas County's all-time leader in wins with 196.
“I’m real excited about the opportunity. The Austin legacy is a lot to live up to,” Jalazo said. “There’s been a lot of history and success at that school. I’m going to try to bring the program to even bigger heights.”
The school had 72 applicants for the position. That list was narrowed down to six finalists who interviewed on Tuesday. Jalazo beat out Canterbury coach Steve Dudley, Lakeland Victory Christian coach Jeff Schaum, Northeast defensive coordinator Kent Nash and former FSU and NFL stars Derrick Alexander and Buster Davis.
"(Jalazo) had some unique ideas that other candidates didn't have," Zornes said. "He lives in the area, is a strong community guy, stresses academics and wants to be here long-term. There were just a lot of things that matched what we were looking for."
Jalazo coached Leto last season and went 1-9. He resigned on Wednesday, though he said it was not because he was a finalist at Northeast. Jalazo previously coached at Clearwater Central Catholic for eight seasons, making the playoffs his first six seasons there. He also was a finalist for the Palm Harbor University job this offseason.
Jalazo works offcampus directing a Pinellas-based program that rehabilitates former prisoners.
"If you don't have someone on campus, you'd like to have someone with a flexible schedule, which Jalazo has," Zornes said. "He'll be able to be here on campus for part of the day."
On Friday, Jalazo took a tour of the campus and facilities. He will meet with the players on Monday.
“I know there’s a lot of work that will need to be done,” Jalazo said. “We’re getting the staff in place and we’re going to try to reach out to the community, such as the youth leagues. We’re going to try to do this from the ground up.”