Baseball America has learned that UC Irvine will hire former Southern California coach Mike Gillespie as its new head baseball coach, replacing Dave Serrano, who left for Cal State Fullerton. Cal State Los Angeles coach Pat Shine, a former assistant at Irvine, will join Gillespie’s staff, likely as the associate head coach and heir apparent.
Obviously this news adds a little more spice to Southern California’s baseball dynamics. Gillespie retired in 2006–perhaps not entirely of his own choosing–after 20 seasons at USC, where he coached 28 future major leaguers, led the Trojans to four College World Series and the 1998 national championship. He was replaced by his son-in-law, Chad Kreuter, but Gillespie wasn’t finished with baseball, so he took a job as the manager of the short-season Staten Island Yankees in the New York-Penn League. Now, Gillespie will take over a UC Irvine program that is located less than 50 miles from his longtime former employer and his son-in-law.
Shine, who assisted John Savage at UC Irvine from 2002-’04 and then at UCLA from 2005-’06, is regarded as one of the top up-and-coming baseball minds in Southern California. Sources indicate he left his head coaching post at Cal State Los Angeles on the condition that he would be Gillespie’s top lieutenant and likely successor, an arrangement similar to that in Alabama, where former Northwestern State head coach Mitch Gaspard took an assistant position under his former mentor, Jim Wells.
Pepperdine assistant coach Sean Kenny is believed to be the favorite to join Gillespie’s staff as pitching coach and recruiting coordinator.
There was speculation that former Cal State Fullerton associate head coach Rick Vanderhook would join UCI’s staff as an assistant under Gillespie, but that did not materialize. That leaves Vanderhook without a job, after he opted not to join George Horton when he left Fullerton to take the head job at Oregon in August, thinking he would be a leading candidate to succeed Horton at CSF. But the Titans decided not to hire him and tapped Irvine’s Serrano instead, which punched up the CSF-UCI rivalry. What’s next for Vanderhook (who is under contract at Fullerton for the 2007-2008 academic year) is uncertain, but it’s hard to imagine a baseball man as respected as Vanderhook will be unemployed for long.
Irvine, meanwhile, has landed an accomplished, veteran coaching staff that is well-suited to build upon the momentum generated by Serrano’s strong three-year tenure, which culminated in a trip to Omaha this June, where the Anteaters eliminated the Titans. At age 67, Gillespie still has plenty of energy and passion for coaching, though it’s hard to envision him coaching for another decade. But then again, Wayne Graham is still going at Rice at age 71, and there’s no reason to believe Gillespie can’t do the same.
We’ll have more on this story as it develops.
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