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Prado comes home to stay as USF coach
By GREG AUMAN
Published June 17, 2006
TAMPA - For the past 11 years, as Lelo Prado has made himself the winningest baseball coach in Louisville history, the only vacations he has taken have been home to Tampa to see family.
On Friday, Prado made a proud announcement: He's coming home to stay.
The Tampa Catholic and University of Tampa graduate, who coached two national championship teams at UT and took Louisville to its first NCAA regional appearance, was announced Friday as coach at USF.
"Family's the most important thing in the world, and I think this is a great situation for me," said Prado, 43, who was born in Cuba but grew up in Tampa and has a wife and three children. "I think this baseball program can be one of the best in America. There's no reason why it shouldn't."
Prado takes the reins from Eddie Cardieri, who stepped down last month when his contract wasn't renewed after 21 seasons. Prado, who has a 598-425-2 record in 18 seasons, said Cardieri was the first phone call he got after flying into Tampa on Friday morning.
Family ties will help Prado on the field as well. His brother-in-law, former Yankees and Rays star Tino Martinez, will join the staff as a volunteer assistant.
"He's the absolute, quintessential fit for our baseball program. We couldn't be any more pleased to bring home a local hero that has such a strong track record of success," athletic director Doug Woolard said about Prado.
USF will pay him significantly more than the $63,220 Cardieri was paid this season. Prado signed a five-year contract with a base salary of $95,000, a 50 percent increase from Cardieri. The salary will be evaluated annually, and the deal includes traditional postseason incentives and a buyout clause.
"He's a wonderful ambassador for the university, a class act who's as good off the field as he is on it," Louisville athletic director Tom Jurich said. "There are very few things that are a great fit like this. USF's a big winner here."
In addition to Martinez, Prado will bring his top two assistants from Louisville, pitching coach Lazaro "Lazer" Collazo, who won two national titles in the same role at Miami, and Brian Mundorf, who has been a Prado assistant for 12 seasons, since his final season at UT.
Before joining Prado's staff last summer, Collazo was forced to resign from his two previous jobs amid controversy. He stepped down at Miami in 2003 after a 22-month NCAA investigation that focused mainly on him and a baseball academy he ran. The violations resulted in two years of probation and the loss of four scholarships for the Hurricanes.
Then last spring, Collazo resigned as coach at Miami's Gulliver Prep after a police report showed he had dropped his pants in front of players in a locker room to make a statement after a loss. No charges were filed and several players defended him, as Prado did Friday. Woolard said he was aware of Collazo's past when he allowed Prado to hire him.
"He's been loyal to me. Our families go back to Cuba," Prado said. "He got a raw deal at Miami. He took a hit. I knew him, I knew the family. He's with me because he's a great pitching coach."