Speaking publicly to the St. Petersburg Times for the first time since changing basketball jobs, Tommy Tonelli chose to keep some things private, such as his departure from USF.
Tonelli, who left his job as the Bulls' director of basketball operations to return to his old gig at Wharton High as boys basketball coach and guidance counselor, said Tuesday evening he couldn't imagine coaching at any other area high school.
"I think, no question, when you start a program and build it to the point it was when I left, it was a very difficult decision to leave to begin with," said Tonelli, who compiled 213 wins, three district titles and a region finals berth in his 10 seasons as Wildcats coach.
"I don't regret having done that and the experience at USF will hopefully make me an even better guidance counselor and boys basketball coach."
A former Bulls point guard, Tonelli was believed to be disillusioned at USF when coach Stan Heath didn't promote him after two other Bulls assistants departed. He wouldn't discuss the situation publicly, but indicated the retirement of a Wharton guidance counselor helped pave the way for his return to the New Tampa school.
Tonelli said one of his former Wharton assistants, Comer Copeland, will rejoin him on the bench and coach the Wildcats JV. Copeland got Tonelli's job but was replaced after one year by another ex-Tonelli assistant, Dave Bastian.
Wharton athletic director Mike Rowan said the school chose to move in a new direction after Bastian's lone season, which ended with a 13-11 record. Tonelli said for now that Bastian, also a former USF point guard, likely won't join him on the staff.
Durant hoops coach steps aside: Durant boys basketball coach Jeff Shotwell, who guided the Cougars to a 21-6 record last season, has decided to step away from coaching.
Shotwell, who has been coaching basketball for 12 years, including the past five as the Cougars boys coach, resigned late last month to spend more time at home with his 1-year-old son.
"It had really been weighing on my mind the past few months," Shotwell said. "Basketball is a year-round sport and the season is long. There would be stretches of two or three days where I'd seen my son for about an hour. There's never really a good time for change, especially with your seniors. I prayed a lot about it, and it seemed like everything came into place."
He said his coaching career isn't over, but he doesn't plan on returning to the bench until his son can "come to practice, sit on the bench and get the water."
Shotwell said JV coach Trent Tice, his assistant the past four seasons, will take over the varsity. "He's worked with every kid in the program," Shotwell said.
This year's team figures to be one of the county's best, with senior guards Jeffrey Thomas and Jordan Mitchell returning, as well as junior Andre Nation, last year's leading scorer.
Shotwell will remain on Durant's staff as a teacher and said he will try to attend as many basketball games as he can.