PAWTUCKET – Leave it to Tom “Saar” Sorrentine for already making definitive plans for the next basketball season.
Here’s the catch: it won’t include the popular coach who’s also renowned for his shoulder-length hair and trademark sideburns on the sidelines with the St. Raphael boys basketball team.
The school announced Tuesday that Sorrentine has stepped down from a coaching post he’s held for the past 34 seasons. He will continue to serve at the helm of the SRA baseball team that’s coming off a strong season.
As for the SRA hoops universe that has flourished under Sorrentine’s watch, it would seem that even coaching legends have expiration dates. All told, as the basketball head coach, he led the Saints to six state titles – the most recent coming in 2011 with four rattled off in a row from 1998-2002 – but the program finds itself in the midst of a downward spiral since 2017, a season that included a spot in the Division I title game and a berth in the open state tournament’s Final Four.
Over the past two seasons, the Saints have struggled immensely, winning just four league games compared to 32 defeats. An old-school coach who demands a certain type of work ethic from his players, Sorrentine admitted when reached Tuesday that it’s been tough to get his message across at a time when the Saints have been rocked hard by the transfer bug.
“They need somebody else to come in and see if they can turn it around,” said Sorrentine, now in his late 60s and with 45 years of teaching/coaching expertise at St. Raphael. “We haven’t been able to get it done the last couple of years. It’s time to get out, but it’s been a great ride.”
While the final few seasons were anything but pleasant, Sorrentine’s body of work is a testament to going strong over the last three decades after he succeeded the late Dennis M. Lynch Jr. in the late 1980s. Sorrentine did things his way, his methods paving the way for his two sons – T.J. and James – to earn college scholarships after starring under their dad’s tutelage at St. Raphael.
Still, even old-school types can feel like they’re running smack dab into a brick wall when trying to make sense of a basketball culture where it’s here today, gone tomorrow.
“He’s done a lot of great things, but the time has come,” said St. Raphael athletic director Ray Tanguay. “He holds kids to a very high standard, both on and off the court. If you make a mistake under Saar’s watch, you have to be willing to accept the consequences. The youth of today, it’s always someone else’s fault.
“He’s been frustrated and I feel it,” Tanguay added. “I didn’t want to see his career go down in flames because he hung on just a little bit too long.”
Tanguay says he’s in no hurry to name a successor to Sorrentine.
“We’ll advertise the position and see what we get for applications,” said Tanguay, who will huddle up with St. Raphael principal Dan Richard and plans to enlist the services of SRA girls’ basketball head coach Tammy Drape.
“Ideally, it would be nice to have someone in place for summer league, but I don’t want to rush the process,” said Tanguay.
As for those definitive plans that were referenced earlier, Sorrentine will fulfill one of his bucket-list items when Brown – where son T.J. is an associate head coach – travels to Cameron Indoor Stadium to face Duke next season.
“It’s a place I have always wanted to check out,” said Sorrentine.
Follow Brendan McGair on Twitter @BWMcGair03