Prep boys basketball: Barron Collier, Golden Gate coaching icon Joe Consolino retiring

Golden Gate head coach Joe Consolino and the Titans break from a huddle during a Class 5A-District 14 boys basketball quarterfinal against Lehigh on Feb. 7, 2012 at Lehigh Senior High School in Lehigh Acres. Lehigh advanced with an 86-81 win in overtime. Kevin Johnson/Staff

Photo by KEVIN JOHNSON // Buy this photo

Golden Gate head coach Joe Consolino and the Titans break from a huddle during a Class 5A-District 14 boys basketball quarterfinal against Lehigh on Feb. 7, 2012 at Lehigh Senior High School in Lehigh Acres. Lehigh advanced with an 86-81 win in overtime. Kevin Johnson/Staff

Age: 64

From: Rushville, Ind.

Education: Rushville High School, 1966; Ball State University, 1970 (undergrad) and 1974 (master’s)

Family: Wife: Sandy, married 43 years. Children: Joe, 38; Tony, 34; Kristin, 29. Grandchildren: Joseph, 12; Michael, 9; Peytin, 7 months.

Varsity record: 384-302

District titles: Barron Collier — 3; Golden Gate — 2

Playoff appearances: 13

Playoff record: 3-15

Collier County coaching experience: Everglades City, girls volunteer, 1981-82; Barron Collier, junior varsity coach, 1982-1987; Barron Collier, head coach, 1987-2002; Golden Gate, head coach, 2004-2013.

Collier County teaching experience: Everglades City School, guidance counselor, 1981-82; East Naples Middle School, guidance counselor, 1982-87; Barron Collier High School, guidance counselor, 1987-2004; Golden Gate High School, guidance counselor, 2004-2013

Even after more than three decades in education, as a guidance counselor and a basketball coach, Joe Consolino says he’ll never lose his passion for teaching kids.

Consolino, 64, still has the desire and the ability to coach. He just knows he can’t do it forever. So while he still has the health to enjoy it, the Golden Gate boys basketball coach is going into retirement.

A coaching icon at two Collier County high schools, Consolino is retiring after 24 seasons on the bench. He spent 15 years at Barron Collier and is the only coach Golden Gate’s program has ever had, but now he’s ready to move on.

“Every coach comes to a position where they know, ‘It’s time to turn this over to somebody else,’” Consolino said. “I think I could have kept going. It’s more about when it’s time to hand it over. This is the time.”

Consolino has been a coach in Naples since 1982, the year after he moved to town from Muncie, Ind. He spent five years as a junior varsity coach at Barron Collier before winning 257 games and three district titles for the Cougars.

After leaving Barron, Consolino started the Titans program when Golden Gate opened in the fall of 2004. He won another 127 games and two district championships with the Titans, and retires with a 384-302 varsity record, all in Collier County.

Since turning 60, Consolino has considered retirement at the end of every season. Each time he came back for the love of his players. Consolino nearly returned again, but knew if he didn’t retire this year he might never walk away.

“It’s never had anything to do with team performance,” Consolino said. “None of that ever concerned me as a coach. I always approached coaching as an extension of the teaching job. I always felt my role was to teach kids about the game of basketball and also about skills to use later in life.”

He and his wife, Sandy, also will retire from their jobs as Golden Gate guidance counselors at the end of the academic year. Consolino spent 32 years as a guidance counselor in Collier County Public Schools.

Consolino coached Barron Collier from 1987 to 2002. He took the Cougars to the regional playoffs seven times in final nine seasons.

Battles with another local legend, Lely coach Don Stewart, highlighted Consolino’s time at Barron. Prior to 1998, their teams and Naples were the only public high schools in town. Consolino said he also enjoyed coaching against Naples’ Tommy Smith and, later, former Gulf Coast coach Jose Arias.

“I would call them epic high school basketball games,” said Stewart, who retired from Lely in 2009 after 26 seasons. “Joe will certainly leave a legacy with the community and the students and people he came in touch with. Joe and I certainly were ambassadors for basketball in Southwest Florida.”

Despite still being the winningest and longest-tenured coach since Barron Collier opened in 1978, Consolino was forced to resign in the spring of 2002. Consolino said he still has never received an explanation, but he assumes a group of parents were upset with him. The coach said he has no hard feelings toward the Cougars or then-principal Ray Baker.

Two years later, Consolino became the first coach at Golden Gate. He has been a guidance counselor there since, and all nine seasons he’s coached with his oldest son, also named Joe.

“It’s with mixed emotions he’s retiring,” said the younger Consolino, 38, who played for his dad at Barron and also was an assistant there for four years. “He really gave kids chances to be successful. He never gave up on kids, even when they made mistakes. That was important for him over the years.”

Consolino got his start in Collier County helping out Becky Welch’s girls basketball team in Everglades City in 1981. He was a guidance counselor at the school after former Naples High principal and district administrator Gary Brown helped bring Consolino to town. Brown was Consolino’s senior English teacher at Rushville (Ind.) High School.

After becoming a head coach, Consolino led his teams to the playoffs 13 times in his 24 seasons. Not bad for someone who never played varsity basketball.

Standing just 4-foot-11 as a freshman at Rushville, Consolino never got his shot in high school. Instead, Consolino played four years for the Boys Club. After getting his teaching degree from Ball State and serving two years in the military, Consolino, now 5-8, became a middle school coach in Brooksville, Ohio, when he took his first job as a math teacher.

In his time, Consolino has had a far-reaching effect across the local basketball landscape. His former assistant coaches include district athletic director Joe Kemper, Seacrest athletic director and baseball coach Mark Marsala, Community School two-time state champion girls coach Mitch Woods, current Barron Collier coach Joe Rader and former Lely coach Ryan Bowen.

Consolino also founded the Gulfshore Shootout, which brought teams from all over the state and some from out of state to Naples each winter. Consolino ran the Shootout for 15 years before he turned control over to Andrew Getta this year, and it eventually failed.

“In today’s world, with all the things teachers have to do in the classroom, the burnout rate is much quicker,” said Pete Seitz, the Golden Gate AD the past seven years who worked as a referee during Consolino’s time at Barron Collier. “For Joe to be around this long is special. He’ll be hard to replace.”

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