LAKEWOOD RANCH -- Mike Mullen is the new assistant principal at Lakewood Ranch High School.
He's also now the school's former head baseball coach.
Mullen announced Monday he is leaving the program after landing the administrative position.
"As far as growing as an educator and a professional, this is what I wanted to do," he said. "Baseball is a passion of mine, and I'm going to find my fix.
"I was hoping there was a shot we could work something out where I could do both, but that wasn't a question I was going ask before the end of the interview."
While there are some exceptions, Mullen said administrators can't serve as head coaches. And while he it wasn't easy walking away from the team he guided into the Class 6A state semifinals in May, Mullen said the opportunity to become an assistant principal was one he couldn't turn down.
"That's kind of always been my career goal, to grow in education," said Mullen, who taught economics at Lakewood Ranch and became the school's testing coordinator following the holiday break. "I'm going to miss teaching the kids in the classroom, but this has always been kind of what I wanted to do when I got older."
Mullen took over the Mustangs in 2007 and helped the
team to three consecutive regional tournaments. Last year's final four appearance was the program's first since the 2003 team won the state championship.
"Obviously, there's a ton of baseball talent out here," he said. "I work alongside Dave Moates every day, and he was the coach before me, and I have nothing negative to say about him. In fact, it's admiration -- he won a state championship, I didn't, so what can I say? But I feel like I put a little different culture in out here."
Mullen served as Southeast's baseball coach from 1998-2000 after working as the baseball coach and athletic director at Fort Meade High in Polk County.
Consequently, he said he isn't ready to completely quit on baseball.
"First off, I need to fulfill my responsibility (as an assistant principal)," Mullen said. "But if the new coach is interested in having me, I may find my way over to the baseball field and throw a little BP or be an assistant or find my way inside the dugout."
It was a tough decision. But Mullen, who went back to school and earned a master's degree from Nova Southeastern University, said he is happy how with his new situation.
"When the opportunity presented itself, it felt right," he said. "I jumped on the opportunity and was fortunate it worked out because a lot of qualified people applied."