Tonelli Returns to Coach Wharton High School Boys Basketball

August 10, 2009
J. Meric

TAMPA - After serving two seasons as the Director of Basketball Operations at the University of South Florida, Tommy Tonelli will return to Wharton High School to coach the boys basketball team, head coach Stan Heath announced today.

"I feel fortunate over the last two years to have Tommy Tonelli as a part of our program," said Heath. "His relationship to USF goes way back, and he has been a vital part of our coaching staff as well as the future success of our program. I wish him nothing but the best. His contributions have been significant and he will be missed, even though he won't be too far away."

Tonelli, a former USF player and assistant coach, served a pair of terms as the Director of Operations and remains the only person in USF history to play and coach for a postseason team at the school. He has been affiliated as either a coach or player for six of USF's nine postseason teams.

"I really appreciate the opportunity Stan gave me to be back at USF. I enjoyed it and it was a learning experience," said Tonelli. "The opportunity came about for me to go back to Wharton and I just felt like it was an opportunity for me, the sake of my family and professionally, that I couldn't pass up."

Before returning to USF in 2007, the Chicago native spent 10 highly successful seasons as the head coach at Wharton High in Tampa. At that time, he was the only coach in the 10-year history of the Wildcats and helped make the program one of the best in the state. He posted a 10-year record of 213-73 that included one Elite 8, three Sweet 16 and six regional state playoff appearances. Wharton also captured three district championships and had three district runner-up finishes. Tonelli was named St. Petersburg Times "Coach of the Year" three times.

Tonelli was a three-year starter at USF during his playing career (1982-86). He earned the Sun Belt Conference Jerry D. Young Memorial Award in 1986 for "exemplifying sportsmanship, scholarship, leadership and athletic ability," and was named USF's Outstanding Senior at 1986 Commencement Ceremonies. Tonelli was also a two-time GTE District III Academic All-American and twice named Academic All-Sun Belt Conference.

He served as a team captain for USF during the 1984-85 and 1985-86 seasons and his 1982-83 squad still holds the school record for wins with 22. Tonelli led the team for three years in assists and still ranks fourth all-time on the career assist list with 480. He also ranks eighth all-time for career steals with 138.

Tonelli began his coaching career at USF in 1986 as a graduate assistant, and was promoted to part-time assistant in 1988, holding that position until 1991. He was a full-time assistant coach from 1991-96.

During his coaching tenure at USF, he helped guide the Bulls to the NCAA Tournament in 1989-90 and 1991-92 and the NIT Tournament in 1990-91 and 1994-95. The 1991-92 team finished in second place in the Metro Conference and claimed wins over nationally ranked Florida State, Iowa, Louisville and Tulane. The 1989-90 squad was the first in USF history to reach the NCAA Tournament after claiming a Sun Belt Conference Tournament Championship.  The squad was the most improved in Division I that season, going from 7-21 the previous year to 20-11.

Tonelli earned his high school diploma from Loyola Academy in Wilmette, Ill., and he was inducted into the high school's hall of fame in 1998. He has a master's degree from USF in counselor education and a Bachelor of Arts with distinction in American studies.

Tonelli and his wife, Kristin, have two sons, Thomas and Matthew; and a daughter, Allie.


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