With the ever-changing landscape of the college baseball coaching industry, the winter offers a time to take a look at the ‘coaching carousel’ and check in on how some of our game’s new head coaches are doing at their respective programs. Inside Pitch caught up with some of the best and checked in on how they are implementing their philosophy and foundation at their new landing spots:
What are the challenges to moving from one place to another and taking over the reins at a new program?
“Most young coaches want to be a head coach one day, so they’re working towards that goal with everything they do. There are so many good coaches out there nowadays, it’s tough because there are only so many head Division I jobs to go around. So when you do get that opportunity, you have to jump on it. It didn’t come as quick for me as I thought it might, but this is an incredible situation at Sam Houston State; we’re very, very blessed to be here at a proven winner and place you can win at a high, high level. The program that Mark Johnson and David Pierce built here speaks for itself, with six regionals in the last eight years and three straight conference championships. There’s a lot to live up to and there are gigantic shoes to fill.”
“It’s always hard to leave a place. You normally have relationships with players for 2-3 years before they ever step on campus. Then you get to work with them each day. It was really tough to leave the players and the coaching staff at Ole Miss. Coach Bianco, Carl Lafferty, Stephen Head and Andrew Case weren’t just co-workers, they’re friends as well, so it’s hard to leave them. The players and coaches were my family. Ole Miss & Oxford will always have a special place in my heart. It’s my second home.”
“The new job was bittersweet in the fact that Louisville was such a special place. I had a chance to coach with my college teammate and best friend [Dan McDonnell], but our whole staff had been together for eight years, with Roger Williams and Brian Mundorf, all the guys we were there with. We won a lot of games, but we had a lot of fun doing it.
Indiana is a dream job in a lot of ways, and I’m very fortunate to be able to stay in the same part of the country in terms of moving. Tracy Smith has done a great job of building the program and getting it to where it was, and our goal is to move the program forward, to keep Indiana at the top of the Big Ten. I think with the last two years with the College World Series, a number four overall seed, and a brand new ballpark, the program is in a great place.
We also feel very fortunate because Indiana is one of the best states in the country to recruit out of, there’s a lot of talent in our state.”
“The immediate challenge is retention of all our players. The players and the game seem to be the easiest part, the tough part is dealing with all the domestic side of a move. Leaving a good place like SHSU and starting over with moves, selling and buying houses are the biggest challenges. The players have always been very receptive to our staff and I’m thankful for that.”
“The hardest part of leaving Young Harris college after sixteen years wasn’t leaving behind a program that my family and the administration that hired me had put so much time, effort, and resources into. It wasn’t removing myself from the program we had transformed from an obscure, small college in the middle of nowhere into a national power that was recognized in the baseball community as a program that developed young men into major leaguers, as well as quality husbands, fathers, and community leaders. The hardest part was leaving behind a community and church that we invested our lives into, which had, in return, given my wife and I a wonderful place to watch our children grow and mature. The greatest memories are not of the championships we won, but of the relationships we developed over the years in that small town community. That small town community always made this small time coach feel like a big league manager.”
“You just evaluate as a professional whether you want to be comfortable or you want to challenge yourself, and with the two moves [from Miami of Ohio to Indiana and then from Indiana to Arizona State], the opportunities were better, so that’s how I looked at it. Are you wired to be comfortable, or are you wired to challenge yourself? At the end of the day, it was a very simple answer. It’s tough moving away from family and friends, but the bigger regret would’ve been sitting back and wondering what could’ve been.”