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Former NFL and college assistant Tony Sorrentino, Jr., who had been named as Verona's new head football coach on Feb. 13, has now decided to return to college coaching leaving the powers-that-be in Hillbilly country with the task of finding yet another replacement for fired 20-year coach Lou Racioppe who was not rehired after two decades at the helm. (photo courtesy of Pinterest)

Verona’s Winter Of Discontent
Now Includes Sorrentino’s Exit
By Steve Tober

The whacky winter of football coaching upheaval at Verona has now taken yet another cruel turn, at least directed toward the school administration in that community, which has wound up in a quandary with the news released Thursday night that recently-appointed coach Tony Sorrentino has decided to instead accept a coaching position back in the college ranks, reportedly either to Tennessee Chattanooga or Florida International University.

After first suspending and then firing 20-year coach Lou Racioppe following an alleged, rough, old-school-like practice session last October, the Verona school powers-that-be may have thought they had a high-profile replacement to step in with the hiring of Sorrentino on Feb. 13.

However, one month later, the former Mountain Lakes standout player and son of longtime North Jersey coach Tony Sorrentino, Sr., is heading back to where he had most recently been – that is coaching college football where he had landed most recently with the University of Tennessee after serving as an assistant coach in the NFL, including with the Jacksonville Jaguars

No one could question Sorrentino Jr.’s football pedigree, being a young coach-on-the-rise who had ascended quickly in the ranks both in college and in the NFL.

Tony Jr.’s sister, Angela Salisbury, is the very successful Verona softball coach, which helped in terms of a Verona connection as well. But, in the sordid aftermath of how Racioppe was removed last winter, it was not a direction with an outsider one might have envisioned for the immediate future of the Hillbillies’ strong Group 1 program especially when it was known that at least one highly-regarded, longtime assistant coach with strong ties to the school from his own playing days there was also among the finalists for the job.

Yet the Verona school administration and Board of Education were intent on cutting ties with the Racioppe staff as well as the man himself, at least when it came to the head coaching position for the Hillbillies in 2018.

Not that Sorrentino might not have been successful at Verona. He was obviously a selection made ‘out of the box’ and could have been considered a novel idea by the powers that be; however, that decision has now backfired as the search for a replacement starts in earnest once again, while at the same time, Verona faces near certain future action in the courts as Racioppe and his legal team continue to build their case against the schools administration and board of education concerning his dismissal.

With the release of the news about Sorrentino’s quick exit from Hillbilly country, Verona Athletic Director Bob Merkler also issued a statement.

"Although we are disappointed with this recent news, we wish him good luck in his future endeavors," he said in a letter to Verona parents and students. "The Verona Public Schools will repost the position and conduct another extensive and thorough search for the best candidate for our students and program."

One North Jersey football coach, speaking on the condition of anonymity, texted Sideline Chatter stating, “Did they really think this guy with his background would want to teach and not go back to a full-time college job?

“These administrators are jokes. No clue!...They don’t know how to lead. They don’t know how to deal with people or how to handle situations. It’s all about them and the cash they can make!”

Sorrentino also released his own statement concerning his exit after one month to return to the college ranks.

“This is a bittersweet time for me. I want to thank everyone for welcoming and embracing my family and me," he said. "I came to Verona because of the rich tradition but also for the people of Verona. I have made some great relationships here in my short time. I have been given an opportunity to pursue my coaching career at the college level. Verona football and lacrosse are on the correct path and I wish both much success. Thank you and good luck on and off the field.”

Time will tell just how ‘correct’ a path the Hillbillies are headed on after this latest dramatic episode created by an overzealous school administration and board of education.

The on-going saga in football coincides with other recent coaching changes in the school's athletic programs as the popular Stiefbold brothers, Jeff and Scott, were not rehired after leading the Verona girls volleyball team to the Group 1 state title and a second straight Essex County Tournament championship this past fall.

Follow Steve Tober on Twitter @Chattermeister


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