BRADENTON — Born in Italy and raised primarily in Canada, Carmine Garofalo has done his share of globetrotting.
But Bradenton always owned a piece of his heart.
“This is my home,” he said.
So when Garofalo got his chance to come back home, he took it, and was recently named the new volleyball coach at the State College of Florida.
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He’s no stranger to the area or its volleyball — Garofalo won 66 games in five seasons at Southeast before stepping down after 2008 to coach the men’s and women’s teams at Southern Vermont College.
He made the move so he and his family could be closer to Garofalo’s mother and mother-in-law, who lived in Montreal and Quebec City and were suffering from Parkinson’s disease. They passed away within a few months of each other, however, and because of the wobbly economy, Garofalo’s wife, Sylvie, who was still living in Bradenton, was unable to secure a good job in Vermont.
“We said. ‘We’ve tried for a number of months here, and we can’t get her up here,’” Carmine said. “And she can’t give up a good job (in Florida).”
That’s when a fateful opportunity presented itself. Garofalo was attending a coaches’ conference in Tampa last December when he heard SCF was looking for a coach. And then Sylvie got what Carmine called “her dream job.”
Consequently, there Garofalo was Monday morning, sitting in his office located a few paces away from the Manatees’ home court at Hal Chasey Gymnasium.
“It is a bonus for us,” said SCF athletic director Mike Riley, “to hire a coach with his experience.”
The good vibes seem mutual.
“I really did want to come back,” he said. “I never wanted to really leave Florida in the first place.
“This is really home for me, and it just worked out perfectly, really — my wife got her dream job, my kids can finish school here, I can come back to Florida and then this opened up.”
The Manatees finished 6-29 last season. While Garofalo isn’t putting a number on how many games SCF will win this year, he thinks the program can be competitive beginning this fall.
“There’s no reason why we can’t be one of the best colleges in the state. To me, that has to be a given — that has to be one of our primary goals,” said Garofalo, who has also coached at Vanier College, McGill University and FIU. “One of the things I would love to do is get the community more involved, get more of the local volleyball players to be part of this program, because right now, some of them are going elsewhere.
“We’re going to work hard, like we always do. And we’re going to work smart.”
One way to replenish the program is through recruiting, and Garofalo feels SCF, with its warm weather and proximity to the beach, is quite alluring.
Garofalo, who still has volleyball contacts in Canada, plans on tapping into the international talent pool, as well.
“We’re 15 minutes away from some of the best beaches in the world, we have a great college with great academics,” Garofalo said. “They key is going to be recruiting. And I’m really looking forward to that because I think we have a lot to offer those recruits. It’s just a matter of letting them know what we’ve got to offer.”
Upon getting the job, Garofalo reached out to all the girls on the team by either telephone or email, and plans on finalizing his coaching staff before workouts begin in early August.
It’s a challenge Garofalo appears ready to embrace, especially since he is back in Florida.
“I never do anything half way,” he said. “I want to see this program become one of the top in the country.”