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Pirates tap Vasquez to guide girls

Tony Vasquez always wanted to be a head coach.

His wish has come true _ twice.

Vasquez, 41, who was named Pasco boys golf coach this fall, will also coach the girls basketball team in the winter.

He replaces longtime coach John Edwards, who stepped down during the summer to take a position as assistant women's basketball coach at Saint Leo University.

Vasquez takes over one of Pasco County's most successful programs, which has produced some of the area's top basketball standouts: Jackie Pugh, now at Auburn; Shantelle Coleman; Adrienne Adams; Catrina Ceazer; and Ebony Adams, now a senior and the Times 1999 Pasco County player of the year.

Along with Adams, standout Shamara "Shorty" Craig also returns for the Pirates this season. Vasquez like the nucleus of players he'll be taking over.

"It's just a chance for me to take over a group of girls who I feel have a really good amount of talent," he said, "and I've been itching to get back into basketball. The opportunity to take over your own program doesn't present itself to everybody."

But Vasquez, who accepted the girls coaching position on Thursday, has done it twice now. He said this is by far the most challenging of his new coaching duties. Before he took over the golf program from ailing coach Bobby Jordan, Vasquez had already been working with the golfers.

Now he must start from scratch.

"I'm very excited," he said. "I'm telling you, I was excited with the golf program, because I've worked with those kids unofficially for a couple of years. This is going to be a challenge. I've seen the team from a distance, watching basketball games in the shadows of the gym.

"I missed it so much, I want to get back into it."

Vasquez was an assistant varsity and head junior varsity boys basketball coach at River Ridge from 1992-96. Then he worked as an unofficial assistant coach at Hernando after that.

The new coach said he will stress defense first with his new team.

"I'm a defensive coach," he said. "With the amount of talent and quickness that we have, I think it would be a perfect fit."

Vasquez's first order of business has been conducting interviews for an assistant varsity and head junior varsity coach. He plans on meeting with the players this week to talk about his philosophy and off-season workouts.

"I can't wait to get started, it's that simple," he said. "I need to meet with them and try and get them acclimated with my philosophies and get them to do some preseason conditioning on their own and take it from there.

"I'm ready to start right now."