Bob Henriquez was sworn in as Hillsborough County property appraiser on Jan. 8, and the fifth-generation Tampa native called it one of the best days of his life. • He's tried to make a career out of giving back to the community, as a county planner and state representative, but also as a football coach at his alma mater, Tampa Catholic High School. • Henriquez resigned from his job as head coach when he was elected to the appraiser's office in November. He started coaching in 1986 after graduating from Princeton University, and was an assistant coach at Tampa Catholic until serving as head coach from 1990 until 1999. He was elected as a state representative in 1998, serving for eight years, and resumed as head coach again at Tampa Catholic in 2005. • "I'd always wanted to go away to school, but always wanted to come home to give back to the community and the institutions and the people who have been kind to me, and the opportunities I think were very important," he said. • He recalled the big games, like winning the 2009 semifinal game 7-6 against an undefeated team, and the players he's gotten to know over the years, like the former linebacker coming home from Tennessee who stopped at Henriquez's home to introduce him to his wife and new baby before even going to see his mother. • Henriquez recently spoke with Times staff writer Keeley Sheehan about what he'll miss about the game, his best memories from Tampa Catholic and the coaching lessons he takes with him to his new job.
Was it hard for you to walk away from coaching?
It's been a long-time labor of love for me. Being a graduate of Tampa Catholic, I often say I bleed green and white. But really those players, the interpersonal relationships you form, the opportunity to mentor those young men and teach them lessons outside of football—people say, 'Gosh, thank you for your service that you gave,' but I gained more in return than I ever gave. I felt that I was in a really good place with the program. We had a fairly successful season, we were set in a position where I thought the program could continue on to be successful. I'm not going to say it was easy to walk away, but under the circumstances it was time.
How did you tell your players?
We had a team meeting after school and I just told them. They understood what I had been through, they had followed and were proud of the fact that coach had prevailed, and I had been straight forward with them that until that point when the decision was made that they would be the first ones to know. A lot of them were disappointed but for the most part they were very supportive and appreciate. It's just a bunch of great guys and great kids, and parents and administration has been supportive of me. I told them I'm not going any where, I'm not passing away, I live across the street from the school. I will be around, whether its coming out watching practice a little bit or on Friday nights. I'm sure I'll be around the games. I'll find a way to be there.
Had you thought about doing both?
Yes I had, but it became clear to me, the people of Hillsborough County entrusted me with an incredible honor and basically gave me a four-year contract to run this very important office. It's a daunting task and obviously a very important one so the only way I could have considered both was to really be more of a figure head from the coaching standpoint. At least in theory I could have tried to do both, but it wasn't right from a professional stand point and not fair to the voters who gave me this opportunity. The flip side of that is it wouldn't have been fair to those coaches, players and parents for me just to be a figure head. I don't want to stand there on Fridays and take the glory, or conversely see things that I want to change and I wasn't there to be part of that.
How do you think your experience as a coach will help you in your new role?
The coaching aspect of my life has allowed me to be a better manager of people. Every year we had a budget, we had a staff who were a direct reflection of my leadership style. We had a team we had to set goals for, individuals within that team that you had to mentor and at times discipline and try to get the best out of them. So all those things that come to bear when you're a coach in terms of motivational skills, people skills, work ethic, all those things to be successful, certainly there's a direct correlation. But when you're running a large government agency the difference is this is not a game. When we lose on Friday night, you give a tough speech at the end and you get ready to go back the next day and go back at it. If you fail in this job then real people's lives are affected.
What are some of your best memories of football at Tampa Catholic?
The greatest moments I've had or the greatest memories, and some of them come as a result of me resigning, are just the outpouring of love and emotion that I received, and people calling me and recalling the influences and impacts that I've made on their lives outside of just the Xs and Os of football. That's really what defines a coach. I can say without a doubt the interpersonal memories are every bit as special as the football part of it. I would tell young coaches out there, if you're deriving your pleasure from coaching in wins and loses, your coaching career won't be long and you're not in it for the right reasons.
What are you most looking forward to with your new role?
It's one thing from the outside looking in and campaigning and making promises, and then trying to make those things reality. Up until Tuesday I hadn't really had a chance to meet the rank-and-file employees at large. They've done a remarkable job in this office for many years, through some tough times, downsizing, a tough economy. I respect and value the leadership that's been here over the years, but again from my coaching perspective, its about taking it to another level. When you have an off season you have an opportunity to put together a plan for the year and assess your strengths and weaknesses. I really look forward to that part of it, getting to know the office, getting to know the operations and taking what is a very successful office to being one of the iconic property appraisal offices, not only in the state but nationwide. We have a four-year contract from the people, this office belongs to the people of Hillsborough County. They deserve the best costumer service, the best office they can have.
Sunday Conversation is edited for brevity and clarity.