Posted: 7:51 pm Tuesday, January 4th, 2011
By Matt Porter
With three football state championships on his resume, Willie Bueno is undaunted about taking over a struggling Royal Palm Beach program.
On Tuesday, Royal Palm named Bueno its fourth head football coach in five seasons, ending a search that began after Frank Kunf resigned Nov. 15.
Bueno, a Wellington resident, has a sparkling career record (80-21) and has won three state crowns in eight seasons as a head coach. He said he wants to establish the Wildcats as a powerhouse in their own right.
“I think it could be a great football program,” said Bueno, adding that success in athletics “can transform a school.”
“I saw it happen at Glades Central,” he said. “I think that’s what Royal Palm needs, and I want to be a part of that.”
Stability — and winning — has been scarce at Royal Palm in the past few years.
Kunf was a dismal 1-9 last year and 6-15 in his two seasons. He took over for Darren Studstill, who went 11-2 in his lone year, 2008, but was fired over a money dispute. Prior to that, Eric Patterson led the Wildcats to two district titles and a 31-17 mark in five years.
“We’re going to start acting like a championship football team from Day 1,” Bueno said.
Bueno, 42, had a 33-5 record in three years at Glades Central. He won a state title in 2000, his first year as a head coach. In 2002, he was not retained amid a housecleaning at the school.
He was 47-16 in five seasons at American Heritage and led the Stallions to a state title in 2007. After winning another one in 2009, he left, declining to say whether he had been pushed out.
“I just felt like it was time for me to go,” he said Monday. “I was there five years. I felt like we’d done everything we could do.”
Before he was hired by American Heritage, Bueno was assistant headmaster and an assistant football coach at Glades Day, his alma mater. He did not coach last year.
“In everything you look at with his career and his resume, he’s been successful, he’s done things the right way, and I feel very confident that he’s the person we want to lead the program,” Royal Palm Beach principal Jesus Armas said.
Armas said Bueno, who was hired from a pool of 40 applicants and will begin teaching social studies at the school this month, would be given full support from the administration.
“We want the football program to be the cornerstone for the school, and we want the school to be a beacon for the community, and he shares that same vision,” he said.
Armas would not discuss applicants for the position, but Cardinal Newman assistant Kevin Fleury put his name in the hat. Ex-Glades Central coach Jessie Hester, who lives in Wellington, would not say whether he had applied for the job.