North Florida announced today that longtime coach Dusty Rhodes will retire at the end of the 2010 season, and he will be replaced by former Louisiana State and Louisiana-Monroe coach Raymond "Smoke" Laval.
Rhodes has coached the Ospreys for all 23 years the program has existed, and he has shepherded their successful transition to Division I, which will conclude this season when they become a full-fledged D-I member for the first time. North Florida went 66-54 in Atlantic Sun Conference play over the last four seasons as a provisional member.
"Retiring’s kind of tough, because I really don’t know how it’s going to be, but i’ll find out about it," Rhodes said in a press conference, which was streamed live on the web. "But I’m 63 years old, and I’ve done a lot, and I really couldn’t have done it without the people here."
Laval, 53, has spent the last few years as a scouting adviser with the Blue Jays, but he made his reputation as a college baseball coach. Laval served as an LSU assistant in 1974 and from 1984-’93, then left to become the head coach at ULM, where he went to three regionals. He returned to LSU as Skip Bertman’s administrative assistant in 2001 and was named LSU’s head coach when Bertman retired in 2002. Despite leading the Tigers to the College World Series in 2003 and 2004, Laval resigned under pressure after LSU missed regionals in 2006 for the first time in 18 years.
Now, Laval re-enters college baseball as the successor to Rhodes, whom he called "probably one of my mentors in the game."
"Smoke is a lifelong friend (of Rhodes), they’ve coached together, he knows what it’s all about," North Florida director of athletics Lee Moon said. "He knows what winning championships is all about at the Division I level. He has taken teams to the NCAA tournament, not only at LSU but at Louisiana-Monroe, where he took them to regionals three out of seven years."
Thanks to Rhodes’ work over the years, the infrastructure is in place for Laval to compete for A-Sun titles annually at North Florida.
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