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Baseball: Richie Warren leaves state champion Jesuit for Berkeley Prep

Less than a week after leading Jesuit High to the school's first state baseball championship in 14 years, Richie Warren resigned as coach Tuesday. He takes over the same position at Berkeley Prep.

Warren won a state baseball championship as a player in 2000 and as a coach Thursday in the Tigers' 5-2 Class 5A triumph over Green Cove Springs Clay.

"I went to Jesuit and I love that place and always will,'' Warren said. "I hope I can carry that same tradition over to Berkeley Prep."

Warren was only 23 when Jesuit hired him as head baseball coach. In eight seasons at his alma mater, Warren was 206-39 — an .840 winning percentage and average of 26 wins a season.

The school administration had originally scheduled a meeting with Warren on Friday to discuss his future, but the Tigers' championship delayed it. Before another could be scheduled, Warren decided to accept an offer from Berkeley Prep.

Warren had preliminary talks — "nothing too grand" — with Berkeley Prep late in the season after Justin Houston's resignation became official, but said there was no offer prior to Jesuit capturing a state championship. Houston coached the Bucs eight seasons, leading them to the Class 4A region finals this year.

"The first thing that attracted me to it is the headmaster (Joseph W. Seivold) and athletic director (Bobby Reinhart) are great people,'' Warren said. "They treated me with nothing but respect during this process and wanted nothing but the best for my (Jesuit) team and its success. They were rooting for us. That was important."

Despite Warren's success — he won 25 or more games the past six seasons and advanced to the state semifinals in five of them — rumors had swirled in the past few years that it wasn't enough.

Those rumors picked up steam this year when Jesuit kicked nine players — including a handful of college signees and commitments — off the team during a March road trip.

On March 13, the Tigers beat Pensacola Catholic, snapping the Crusaders' 43-game win streak, at the time the longest in the country.

Two days later, the roster had been significantly trimmed after an incident at the team hotel in New Orleans. The school has only said school rules were violated, offering no other details.

"It was hard,'' Warren said. "I think a lot of the credit goes to my coaching staff. The assistants did a real good job of rallying the team. And the players did a great job responding."

But the relationship between the Jesuit administration and Warren may have grown acrimonious. The school did not renew his year-to-year contract before the end of the season in March or April, as it had every other year Warren had been the coach, electing to wait until the end of the baseball campaign to decide.

Warren said he did not know if the players' suspensions and his contract were related, and said he tried not to think about it for the rest of the season.

"My job was to go out and win as many baseball games as possible,'' he said. "I did not let that distract me."

Warren called up a handful of junior varsity players to fill the holes and turned some reserves into starters, and guided the Tigers to a 16-4 record the rest of way, including a five-game run through the state playoffs. It was the finest job of his career, as the Tigers outscored the opposition 16-4 in the postseason, culminating in the state championship win.

"I think obviously the ultimate goal of any coach or player is to win a state championship, so that makes this a little easier,'' he said. "I was telling them today, this is something no one can ever take away from you, no matter what happens.

"But it's sad, too. I'm sad that I'm leaving these guys."

It is unclear what will happen to his staff, which includes former Jesuit first-round draft pick and 1997 state champion Geoff Goetz and Warren's teammates on the 2000 state championship team, Chris Whitney and Tim Nalls.

John C. Cotey can be reached at cotey@tampabay.com or on Twitter @JohnnyHomeTeam.

Baseball: Richie Warren leaves state champion Jesuit for Berkeley Prep 05/27/14 [Last modified: Tuesday, May 27, 2014 6:39pm]
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