Posted: 3:19 pm Tuesday, June 5th, 2012

Suncoast cuts ties with baseball coach Bobby Gilbert, who claims school has “vendetta” 

By Matt Porter

Former Suncoast baseball coach Bobby Gilbert says he was let go over “a personal vendetta” his former employers have against him. School administrators said Gilbert tested their patience one too many times.

What’s clear: Gilbert, 31, was informed Monday he would not return after four years as Suncoast’s baseball coach.

Both sides agreed Gilbert was let go over multiple issues, but Gilbert claimed the school mostly accused him of mismanaging the funds in his team-operated booster club.

“It wasn’t anything they could get me on as far as misbehaving with the kids, so they got me on paperwork,” Gilbert said. “They said I was missing $15,000 from my booster club. I don’t know what the hell they did with that money.”

Suncoast Principal Linda Cartlidge said school is not accusing him of stealing funds and that Gilbert’s main offense was constantly trying to operate outside of athletic department procedures.

“He’s passionate about his sport. I can go along with that. He just doesn’t want to deal with anything else. It’s a bigger job than that,” Cartlidge said. “We’ve been dealing with it for four years.”

Gilbert, who is not a school employee and like many coaches was given a yearly stipend for their services, was paid about $3,500 a year, Cartlidge said.

The move stung Gilbert, who said Suncoast Athletic Director Kelli Erianne and Cartlidge were making fun of him during the meeting in which he was fired.

“They were actually laughing at me and what I said, when I was trying to defend myself,” Gilbert said. “It wasn’t funny to anyone but them two. It was a personal issue they had with me.”

Both Erianne and Cartlidge denied laughing at Gilbert.

“I have a bunch of coaches in my department. I really don’t have time for personal vendettas,” Erianne said. “We’re all about doing what’s best for the kids.

“I wish Bobby all the luck in his future in coaching. I don’t have anything bad to say about him. I wish him the best.”

Erianne said a coaching search would begin immediately.

Gilbert, a graduate of Lake Worth High and Bethune-Cookman, was 17-35 over the last two seasons, but his team turned heads this spring. In the Class 5A regional quarterfinals, the Chargers (8-18) lost 3-2 to powerful Plantation-American Heritage, which eventually won the 5A state title.