If you’re wondering why UC Irvine hasn’t announced its hiring of Mike Gillespie as its new head coach and Pat Shine as its associate head coach, look no further than the red tape that is ubiquitous in the UC system. Gillespie today confirmed that Irvine has offered him the post and he has accepted, pending approval by the UC system Board of Regents.
Gillespie was hired on Sept. 24, shortly after the Regents met on Sept. 18-20. According to the Regents website, there isn’t another meeting scheduled until Nov. 13-15. It’s hard to imagine Gillespie having to wait another month and a half to start his new job, particularly since UCI’s fall practice schedule starts next week, but Gillespie said right now he doesn’t know when he’ll get to start working.Shine is in the same situation, but Gillespie said the other assistant post is still wide open. He did say that California’s Dan Hubbs is very happy in Berkeley and would not be a candidate for the job. Gillespie seems to be waiting for a candidate to call him and express interest at this point.
Understandably, Gillespie sounded eager to get the entire process completed so he can begin working with his new players.
"I am really excited," he said. "I had a rare opportunity with the Yankees, and it was a great one, and I really met some of the best human beings and baseball people I’ve ever known. And I would have kept doing that if it was here (in Southern California). To say I was sitting there hating life, missing college baseball would not be accurate–I liked it. But to get one more opportunity in college baseball is great, and I’m fired up about it. There are some issues–we’re light years behind in the recruiting. The guys UCI had lined up are scattered to the four winds now."
One of Irvine’s top 2008 commitments, infielder/righthander Chris Amezquita, has already de-committed in favor of UCLA, according to multiple sources. But Gillespie is excited about many of Irvine’s returning players, particularly on the mound, where All-American righthander Scott Gorgen leads a deep group. Replacing the offensive void created by the departures of stalwarts Cody Cipriano, Matt Morris, Bryan Petersen and Taylor Holiday will be a challenge, but the Anteaters remain strong up the middle thanks to the return of center fielder Ollie Linton, shortstop Ben Orloff and catcher Aaron Lowenstein.
The biggest challenge for Gillespie might be going up against his former employer, Southern California, on the field and on the recruiting trail. The Trojans are now coached by his son-in-law, Chad Kreuter.
"I’m going to be wondering about the wisdom of continuing to play those guys," Gillespie said. "Let’s face it, this can’t be a long-term deal for me. I’m sure we’ll continue to play them, but I have very mixed feelings about that–it’s almost a no-win situation for me. I don’t mind playing (Kreuter), I just don’t want to play against my daughter and my grandson. That’s going to be something to talk about, seriously."
There’s plenty of uncertainty still surrounding this situation, but one certainty is that Mike Gillespie’s return will be a great thing for college baseball, and his peers in California are thrilled to see him back. That is, of course, if the Board of Regents ever gets around to approving it.
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