After guiding the Tampa Catholic baseball team deep into the Class 3A playoffs in his first two seasons, Pat Russo is out as Crusaders coach.
Albeit sudden, Russo said his departure was "peaceful on both sides." He said the school was not able to offer him a full-time faculty position next year and he could not continue coaching on a stipend-only basis.
"I'm a single father of two and I just couldn't do it any more," Russo said. "Tampa Catholic is a great program and I enjoyed my time here. I think we did more in two years than in the last 10."
In a release issued by the school, TC principal Thomas J. Reidy also stated the school was not able to offer Russo a full-time position.
Russo, who had an overall record of 33-26 at Tampa Catholic, guided the Crusaders to the Class 3A state tournament last season and was one win short of a repeat trip this season.
Russo said he expected a position to open, and he had expressed his excitement for TC's future in the days leading up to the Crusaders' season-ending 12-1 loss to Fort Myers Bishop Verot on Friday.
Russo said he would be open to returning to coaching if a faculty position is involved.
After leading Hillsborough to the Class 5A state title game in 2006, Russo was unceremoniously fired amidst an investigation into the program for possible recruiting violations. He was equally successful at Plant before that, compiling a 94-47 record in six seasons there, but his contract wasn't extended after the 2001 season.
Russo insists he most recent departure is unlike the others.
"After Hillsborough and Plant, there was a lot of back and forth," Russo said. "I'm telling you, there was none of that this time."
-- EDUARDO A. ENCINA (firstname.lastname@example.org; Twitter: @EddieHometeam)