TAMPA — He is not ill. He is not burned out. Bobby Diez said he is leaving Chamberlain High’s softball program after 28 seasons as coach because it was time. Simple as that.
The announcement came Monday as Diez formally ended an era in which he amassed more than 600 career victories, led the Chiefs to nine final four appearances and two state titles (2003, 2012) and coached five All-Americans, as well as countless other girls who went on to play in college.
“I’ve been doing this long enough,” said Diez, who will turn 72 next week. “I figured it was time to have some new blood and let someone else take over.”
Diez met with the returning players and their parents. Chamberlain is in no rush to find a successor. The school will put together a search committee that will include Diez.
“I’m not just turning in the keys and walking away,” Diez said. “I’ll still be around and give my input. I’ve even offered to continue coaching the girls in fall ball until someone takes over.”
Diez initially became a coach in baseball working with West Tampa little leaguers in 1967. He went on to become an assistant baseball and football coach at Tampa Catholic and Jefferson.
Then he stepped away from athletics to work in real estate and on a sod farm.
But Diez could not stay away from coaching for long. He returned to the high school ranks in 1992 as a driver's education teacher and softball coach at Chamberlain.
He loved the sport — and the players.
“They had so much athleticism and they were like sponges,” Diez said. “They soaked up everything I was telling. It really was a joy to work with them.”
He was critical in his coaching technique, often barking out corrective measures that needed to be taken.
His players loved him for that.
“Coach Diez was tough,” said former Chamberlain standout Maddie Lewis, who now plays for Florida International. “He didn’t accept anything less than your very best, and always put us in a position to win. My best memory of Coach Diez will always be that no matter how hard he was on you, you always knew he was doing it to bring out more from you than you ever knew you had. He had a huge impact on my life, and I will forever be grateful.”
The outpouring of support continued the past few days with current and former players sending congratulatory messages on social media.
“28 years of excellence,” former star Bianka Bell said via Twitter. “This man taught me so much in my 3 years at Chamberlain and I can’t say thank you enough for the impact he had on my life. Happy for you, Coach Diez.”
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Lani Trent, the team’s ace this past season, said her favorite moment was watching Diez dance in the dugout after the Chiefs beat Sickles in extra innings.
“He was the one person I could honestly say never doubted us,” Trent said. “It’s really sad to see him leave the program, but he made a huge impact on every school he coached at and every player he coached. Watching him coach and seeing the drive, passion, and love he has for the game was so inspirational and he will be missed at Chamberlain and Chamberlain softball.”
Diez only plans to stick around until the school finds a replacement. After that, he will step aside.
“I only want to show the new coach around the facilities and what we have,” Diez said. “Then I’ll let whoever it is run the show. They don’t need me looking over their shoulder.”
As for a big retirement party, Diez said nothing is in the works.
“This is Bobby Diez we’re talking about here,” he said. “I’m not Bobby Bowden.”