By Preston Williams
Tuesday, August 3, 2010; 6:56 PM
Westfield football Coach Tom Verbanic told his players Tuesday morning that the upcoming season would be his last at the school, and Tuesday night he was scheduled to be introduced as the new baseball coach at private school Flint Hill.
Verbanic, who will turn 53 before the end of the school year and thus be eligible for retirement benefits from Fairfax County Public Schools, will coach football this fall and finish the school year at Westfield while guiding the Flint Hill baseball team this spring.
Starting next July, Verbanic will become director of athletic operations at Flint Hill.
Verbanic started the Westfield football program in 2000. His teams the past eight seasons have gone 84-14, including unbeaten marks in 2003 and 2007, when the Bulldogs won Virginia AAA Division 6 championships.
Verbanic said the decision to leave Westfield was a difficult one and that his announcement to the team after a running workout Tuesday morning - the Bulldogs officially begin practice Aug. 10 - came as a surprise to many players.
"It's been a very emotional day," Verbanic said. "There were a lot of kids who came up and shook hands and hugged at the end, mostly seniors. I know there are some juniors I need to get on the phone with in the next couple hours because I think it's harder on those kids."
Prior to helping to open Westfield, Verbanic coached baseball and football at Fairfax, leading the football team to three unbeaten regular seasons and a Division 5 state semifinal berth from 1989 to '99, and coaching baseball from 1985 until 2000, winning seven district titles. Verbanic was also the head baseball coach at Langley in 1984 and has been an assistant baseball coach at Westfield since the school opened.
Verbanic and Flint Hill Athletic Director Steve Henry were coaching colleagues for about 20 years at Fairfax. Henry was to introduce Verbanic to the Flint Hill baseball parents in the school gymnasium Tuesday night.
"It will mean a lot for our baseball program and community to have someone like him," Henry said. "My son played for him in the early 90s, and teaching and coaching with Tom, I appreciate his low-key approach and how he cares about kids and relates to kids. This is a great opportunity for the Flint Hill community, and a great opportunity for him."
Rick Freeman, the Flint Hill baseball coach who led the Huskies to the past three Mid-Atlantic Conference titles, is leaving the school to become baseball coach at Fairfax, where he played for Verbanic. It will be Freeman's second stint at his alma mater. He coached the Rebels from 2001 until 2007 - succeeding Verbanic in that position.
Henry said that Verbanic might help with the Flint Hill football program beginning with the 2011 season. The Huskies have won the past four MAC titles under Coach Michael Wright.
For now, Verbanic said he wants to make sure that his pending departure does not affect preparations for Westfield's season. The Bulldogs went 6-5 last year, including 5-0 in the Concorde District.
"My whole concern right now is just making sure everybody's attitude is ready to go," he said. "We want to make this season the way it's supposed to be for the kids. We always say that not one person in the program is more important than anybody else."