Doral Academy hired two notable names Wednesday in the hopes of boosting two of its major sports programs.
The Firebirds hired former University of Miami assistant Jorge Fernandez as its new boys’ basketball coach and former Brito Miami Private coach Ralph Suarez as its new baseball coach.
“I’m definitely excited to be back coaching, no matter what level it is,” Fernandez said. “I really needed to get back to doing this, and I’m grateful to Doral for giving me the opportunity.”
Fernandez, a Stetson University and Miami Killian graduate, has 19 seasons of collegiate coaching experience, and coached at the high school level for four years combined at Coral Park and Southridge in the 1990s.
Fernandez spent seven years as an assistant at UM under then-coach Frank Haith and was left without a job when Haith left to coach at Missouri. During his time at UM, the Hurricanes made the NCAA Tournament in 2008 and three NIT appearances. Fernandez also has coached at South Alabama, UCF and Barry University.
Fernandez had most recently been hired as an assistant in 2012 at Marshall University, but resigned for “personal reasons” amid the NCAA’s investigation of UM at the time when he received a two-year penalty requiring any college that employs him to show cause and restricting his responsibilities.
Fernandez chose not to comment on his time at UM, preferring to discuss his new coaching position.
“I’ve always been about helping the kids make it to the next level,” Fernandez said. “I know what kids and parents need to know and what they can expect from colleges. I want kids that play for me to know that while I’m a phone call away with some college coaches and can try to help them get a scholarship. They also need to have the right work ethic in order to succeed.”
Suarez is back to running a baseball team for the first time in more than a decade.
Suarez won four state championships at Brito from 1996 to 2002 and guided the Panthers to another three state runner-up finishes.
Suarez was also an assistant coach on Gulliver’s 2004 state championship baseball team and spent the past nine years as the hitting coach on the Gulliver softball team, where he helped the Raiders win four consecutive state titles and make three other appearances at the state finals.
“I’m excited to get back to coaching baseball for sure,” said Suarez, who has a 394-109-7 career record. “It’s great to be taking over at a good program with good people and trying to get it to that state championship level.”
Suarez takes over a Doral team that went 17-9 and lost in the District 16-6A semifinals to eventual state champion Hialeah Gardens Mater Academy.
During his career, Suarez has had 17 players drafted and 28 players sign with Division I colleges, including Pittsburgh Pirates first baseman Gaby Sanchez and former Washington Nationals pitcher Chris Garcia. In 2003, his Brito team produced six Major League Draft selections, tying a national record for one high school.
“We just finished major renovations to our facilities at our school so we’re fortunate to have coaches like [Fernandez] and [Suarez] join us here,” Doral Academy athletic director Danny Gonzalez said. “They come with the reputations of getting kids into colleges and have winning mentalities.”