JOHN C. COTEY
Bob Marinak, with an endorsement from Gators coach Billy Donovan, takes over Countryside's basketball program.
Bob Marinak, a longtime central Florida coach with ties to the University of Florida, and middle school coach Mike Fresia have been hired to fill the basketball coaching vacancies at Countryside.
Marinak has the bigger shoes to fill, replacing 6-foot-9 Randall Leath, who resurrected the boys program when he took over, winning 45 games the past three years and making the playoffs once.
Marinak, a manager on the University of Florida team that Leath played on in 1984-85, has been a head coach at Williston and North Marion.
"Bob Marinak came with an awful lot of support from collegiate coaches," Countryside assistant principal of athletics Liz Collins said. "He was very highly recommended. And he really kind of fit into a teaching slot, which was important."
Marinak's ties to Florida are strong. According to Countryside assistant coach David Thorpe, Gators head coach Billy Donovan called on Marinak's behalf.
"I think it's a good hire," said Thorpe, who hopes to remain with the Cougars on a limited basis.
According to the Vero Beach Press Journal, Marinak, 38, was fired from his last job after two years at North Marion despite improving the team's record from 6-20 in 2001-02 to 14-15 last season, including a win over Countryside.
Though he was coaching a basketball camp in Gainesville and unavailable for comment, Marinak told the Press Journal, "It caught me totally off guard."
Marinak said a change in principal prompted the firing.
Thorpe, a friend of Marinak's, said he was under the impression the termination was related to Marinak's resistance to coaching football and basketball. Collins said she had not heard that Marinak had been fired.
Marinak coached at Williston in 1995, leading that school to its first district title since 1978. He has been active in AAU basketball and Gators basketball camps since '84. Thorpe said he also has been credited, as a student manager, with recruiting Gators standout Craig Brown. The two both hail from Pennsylvania.
He will teach physical education at Countryside. Marinak, who favors an upbeat style and zone defense, also was one of two finalists for the Vero Beach job and a finalist for the Sebastian River job and applied at Wesley Chapel.
He was chosen over one of the most interesting applicants: Steve Culp, a top assistant with Lebron James' St. Vincent-St. Mary.
Fresia, a former middle school coach, was an assistant on the Cougars girls team in 2001-02.