A man who replaces a coach with more than 500 victories has a tough standard to follow, but Herman Valdes says newly appointed Bayshore Christian basketball coach Sam Lanier has nothing to fear.
Valdes announced Tuesday he was resigning his post after 12 years at Bayshore and 25 as a high school coach in Tampa. Lanier, who played for Valdes at Robinson and has been his assistant at Bayshore for 12 years will take over the reins of one of the state's most successful small-school programs.
"Sam doesn't need to worry about filling my shoes," Valdes said of his longtime assistant. "He needs to walk in his own shoes. We just need to allow Sam the latitude to be Sam. We have a great deal of confidence in Sam."
Valdes, 54, resigned as Bayshore's headmaster last year to take an assistant principal post at Monroe Middle School. The new position allowed him to "get his retirement in order" but the coach found it difficult to handle his job and guide the Faith Warriors, who reached the Class B final before losing Friday to Malone.
"He told us after the game against Malone," said junior guard Beau Hinely. "I was definitely surprised. I had heard rumors, but I didn't think they were true."
The time Valdes spent coaching now will be devoted to his 9-year-old grandson, Matthew Marchito. The job change also will allow Valdes to escape the self-imposed pressures of winning.
"Some times I hated it, and other times I loved it," Valdes said. "I especially hated when we lost. After we lost in (December in Orlando), I called home and left a message saying "I hate this game and I don't care if I ever coach again.'
Although Valdes hated losing, he loved the time he spent with his players. He challenged the players during practice, but on game days he would open up his home to the team for hours of fellowship.
In fact, one of the advantages of his new administration job at Monroe is that it allows him to spend more time with kids.
It was a desire to work with kids that first led Valdes into teaching. He interned for current Plant football coach Roland Acosta at Monroe in 1962. After a year at Buchannan Junior High, he returned to Monroe and started his career with Acosta and current Chamberlain football coach Billy Turner.
In 1970, Valdes began coaching at Robinson. In 1974, the Knights went 16-8, but the next year, the team went 24-4 and reached the state final before losing to an Orlando Evans team led by Darryl Dawkins. Valdes often attributes the turnaround to a renewal of his Christian faith he experienced in the summer of '74.
"That made a big difference," Valdes said last year. "I began coaching differently, treating kids differently. I was a mentor, both on the court and spiritually."
One of his players at Robinson was Lanier, who, after graduating from the University of South Florida, rejoined Valdes in his inaugural year at Bayshore..
"When Sam and I came here in 1982, the basketball uniforms didn't even look like they could fit fourth- and fifth-graders," Valdes said.
The two helped build Bayshore into a program that has reached the state semifinals five times, including three in the last four years.
Lanier, 34, said he's ready to take over.
"It's not something I'm falling into," Lanier said. "I think it's happening at the right time. I would have always wondered what would have happened if I had been a head coach. Now I'll find out."
The leaders at Bayshore seem to have tremendous confidence in Lanier.
"I think we'll be the same if not better," Hinely said. "We have a lot of returning players, a lot of juniors coming back who are going to improve.
"And Coach Sam Lanier has been with Coach Valdes so long, I don't know why we wouldn't get back to state."
The Valdes File
Name: Herman Valdes
Resume: Coached Robinson boys basketball team from 1970-1982, coached Bayshore Christian boys from 1983-1994.
Future: Will continue to serve as assistant principal at Monroe Middle School, a job he took last year after resigning as Bayshore headmaster.
Career highlights: Seven trips to the state boys basketball semifinals. Four runner-up finishes. Compiled record of 314-70. Also coached football, volleyball, swimming, track and golf at the junior high or high school level from 1962 to 1994. Guided Robinson to Class 4A state volleyball championship in 1978.
Feeding the colleges: Derek Smith, Bethune-Cookman; Brian Peterson, Georgia; Kelvin Daniels, FAMU; Herbie Allen, Murray Brown, FSU; Jimmy Martin, Jacksonville; Kenny Gunn, Liberty; Alvin Holder, Roosevlt Brown, Peru State; Clarence James, Tulane; Charlie Bradley, Lewis Shepherd, Cuda Patterson, USF; Anddrikk Frazier, Vanderbilt, Andrea Stevenson, Vermont.
1970: 4-18 1975: 24-4 1980: 29-3
1971: 15-9 1976: 23-2 1981: 24-1
1972: 12-12 1977: 20-5 1982: 13-10
1973: 15-8 1978: 15-9 Total: 235-92
1974: 16-9 1979: 25-3
1983: 22-5 1988: 23-6 1992: 34-2
1984: 22-7 1989: 18-11 1993: 33-6
1985: 17-6 1990: 24-5 1994: 32-6
1986: 19-11 1991: 34-2 Total: 314-70
_ ERNEST HOOPER