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Dixie caps its busy summer

By JOHN C. COTEY, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times
published July 21, 2002

So much for Walter Weller's summer vacation. The Dixie Hollins principal has been too busy filling out a coaching staff.

In the past month, Weller has hired coach-es for baseball, volleyball and boys and girls basketball to cap one of his busiest summers in six years at Dixie.

He's not complaining, though. In fact, he sounds thrilled.

"I'm excited," Weller said. "On the surface, it may look like serious problems (with so many openings), but boy, have we got some super, great people to replace those that left."

Dixie's athletic program has improved in recent years as the girls basketball, soccer and volleyball teams have all seen marked improvement.

Some circumstances beyond Weller's control have led to openings. Boys basketball coach Tom Topping left for Seminole feeling it was a better job. But volleyball coach Deborah Benson got married and moved to Hawaii, girls basketball coach Gina Wilkerson's husband took a job in New Jersey and others retired, according to Weller.

"We just had some weird cases where coaches got married and moved away, but hey, it's Hawaii," Weller joked.

Coaches Weller has hired recently include some familiar names:

Ron Abernathy will take over as boys basketball coach. Abernathy is no stranger to the Tampa Bay area, serving a two-year stint as coach at River Ridge and compiling a 12-35 record from 1994-96.

Abernathy left River Ridge to become a principal in Tampa.

He was 97-11 from 1972-76 at Shawnee High in Louisville, Ky., and was an assistant at Louisiana State for 13 years under Dale Brown, the last three as associate head coach in charge of recruiting. Abernathy has said he was responsible for recruiting Shaquille O'Neal and Chris Jackson (now Mahmoud Abdul-Raouf) to LSU.

He also was head coach at Tennessee State from 1989-91.

"He brings us some high caliber stuff," Weller said. "This was a perfect fit for him."

Dave Morgan will coach girls basketball. Weller said Morgan is trying to sell his home in South Carolina, where he has been a college assistant and head coach.

Dixie graduate Tim Reynolds takes over the volleyball team.

A longtime coach at Madeira Beach Middle School, Reynolds is also a club coach with Gulf Coast Juniors.

Weller said Reynolds' assistant, Laura Bowditch, also was hired. Bowditch was the coach at Pinellas Park Middle last year.

Brennan Hervey was given the full-time baseball job after serving as interim coach the last month of last season.

Hervey replaced Frank Burke, who resigned, and impressed Weller enough to get the job.

Like Hervey and Reynolds, new boys cross country coach Taylor Henderson is a Dixie grad. Henderson, previously at Boca Ciega, was hired in Arpil.

Pam Madura, a former college basketball player, was hired as a girls soccer assistant coach, and will coach the girls flag football team.

"Overall, I'm happy with the coaches we got," Weller said. "Having so many openings could have been a disaster, but with these coaches, we got people who know what we're doing."

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