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Weiner returns home to coach Plant

South Tampa native leaves Crystal River to become head football coach.

Published May 13, 2004

The rumors have been flying almost since Bob Weiner arrived in Crystal River in August.

He was there as baseball coach, but that was just until he became football coach. He was leaving Crystal River to become football coach at rival Citrus High. Someone even called and congratulated him on becoming the new coach at a small college in Alabama. A job in Mississippi was bandied about.

Weiner shook his head and denied all of them. Since February, there was one place he was headed and one place only: home.

The south Tampa native and longtime Jesuit football and baseball assistant ended his 10-month Citrus County stint Wednesday when he resigned as head coach of Pirates baseball. Shortly thereafter he announced he was returning to Tampa to take over as coach of the Plant football team.

His move into the job vacated by Darlee Nelson after six seasons was one of the worst-kept secrets throughout the Tampa sports community but one Weiner refused to confirm until after Crystal River's baseball season ended Tuesday night with a loss in the region quarterfinals.

Weiner said he notified the Plant administration Wednesday morning of his intentions to inform his Crystal River players of his new job that afternoon. He had originally requested an announcement date of June 2 to allow for a possible trip to the state baseball tournament.

Plant athletic director Laura Figueredo could not be reached for comment Wednesday night.

"All along I tried to do whatever was best for my kids up here," Weiner said. "I wanted to be the least amount of distraction and not take away from what they were trying to do. Tampa is my home and that never changed.

"I did not regret one minute of my decision being up here. It was a great, great, great experience. This decision has nothing to do with the River and definitely nothing to do with the kids, my English students or my baseball players. This has to do with me getting in a comfortable situation and this was an offer for me, in my career, that I could not refuse."

Weiner said one of his first plans is to be at Saturday's intrasquad game at Dads Stadium, checking out his new team. Mike McWilliams, one of Nelson's assistants, was named interim coach and has been leading the team during spring workouts.

Weiner said he and McWilliams, who could not be reached for comment, had lunch together a couple weeks ago to discuss the transition.

"It was just to make sure we were on the same page," Weiner said. "I wanted him to have an understanding of my expectations and which direction we wanted to head with the kids and stuff like that. Mike is definitely going to stick around. He will have a spot on our staff."

Weiner took the job at Crystal River in July, hoping to bring some stability to a Pirates program that was placed on administrative probation by the Florida High School Athletic Association for this season.

One day after the Pirates finished a 17-12 season, Weiner talked to every player on his freshman, junior varsity and varsity teams individually and then announced to the group his intentions to leave.

"I told my team it was one of most difficult things I've ever had to do in 16 years of coaching," Weiner said. "When I left Jesuit it was hard to leave, but those kids pretty much knew I was on my way out. When I took the job at Plant a couple of months ago I had no indication the emotional attachment up here would be so great."

The trip north was a chance for a new beginning for Weiner, a 1983 Jesuit graduate. He served as an assistant baseball coach from 1996-2003, becoming a part of three state title teams. He also was an assistant football coach from 1988-2002.

When Dominic Ciao stepped down as football coach at Jesuit last summer, Weiner was thought to be a front-runner to take over, but the Tigers hired Bill Schmitz, a coach with vast college experience but little history at the high school ranks.

Now Weiner takes over a program that has seen the tutelage of such legendary coaches as Roland Acosta, Nelson and one of Weiner's heroes, Bill Minahan. Minahan was a longtime coach at Jesuit but began his career at Plant.

Crystal River athletic director Earl Bramlett was one of Minahan's interns at Plant.

"It's exciting for me," Weiner said. "To be considered and given the trust by the administration at Plant and to be able to kind of rekindle the tradition they've had at Plant. I'm very excited. I wouldn't leave my kids at Crystal River for just any program."

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