Another day, another turn of the assistant coaching carousel. New Long Beach State head coach Troy Buckley announced Friday that he is hiring Cal Poly hitting coach/recruiting coordinator to fill the same position at LBSU. Zepeda, who played in the College World Series with Oklahoma in 1995 and played four years in pro ball, has spent the last seven years at Poly.
“Jesse is a great addition to our staff,” Buckley said in a release. “His experience and knowledge of the Big West Conference and collegiate baseball on the West Coast is a tremendous asset in the recruiting and coaching arenas. He is an outstanding fit both professionally and personally, and we are excited for him and his family to join the Dirtbag family.”
On the opposite coast, Virginia Tech assistant coach Mike Gambino has emerged as the favorite to succeed Mik Aoki as the head coach at Boston College, once Notre Dame makes its hire of Aoki official this week. Gambino played for BC under former Eagles coach Pete Hughes (now his boss at Virginia Tech) from 1995-2000, then spent time playing and scouting in pro ball and serving as a volunteer assistant under Hughes at BC. In 2006 he joined Hughes' staff at Virginia Tech.
With BC assistant Joe Hastings expected to join Aoki's staff at Notre Dame, Gambino has the inside track at the head job in Chestnut Hill, but he is not a lock. Jayson King, coach of Division II power Franklin Pierce (N.H.), has entered the picture as a darkhorse candidate. In 12 years at Franklin Pierce, King has developed a reputation as one of the best coaches in the Northeast, adept at identifying and nurturing talent. If the Eagles opt to make a hire from outside the Hughes coaching tree, King is the strongest and likeliest candidate.
Elsewhere, South Carolina assistant coach Chad Holbrook appears to be a leading candidate for the Winthrop job, if the Eagles want to make a strong push and make a splash. Holbrook is simply one of the very best recruiters and hitting coaches in college baseball—he has played a central role in building teams at North Carolina and South Carolina that reached the College World Series each of the last five years—and landing him would be a coup for the Eagles, if he's willing to leave Columbia. But getting him to leave will not be easy.
North Carolina assistant Scott Forbes, a former assistant under recently fired Joe Hudak at Winthrop, would also make plenty of sense, but it will take a lot to get Forbes to leave UNC. He is in the picture, however, if Winthrop is willing to make a very big commitment.
South Carolina's other full-time assistant, Mark Calvi, is a top contender to replace Steve Kittrell at South Alabama (Kittrell has announced he will retire at the end of the 2011 season). Calvi's stock is soaring after his stellar pitching staff led the Gamecocks to their first national title, and he would be a strong hire. His primary competition for the South Alabama job appears to be Chipola (Fla.) JC coach Jeff Johnson, who has coached 26 players who went on to pro ball during his 15-year tenure, including big leaguers Jose Bautista and Russell Martin. Johnson is one of the premier junior-college coaches in the country, and like CC of Southern Nevada coach Tim Chambers (who took over as head coach at Nevada-Las Vegas this offseason), Johnson might be ready to make the jump to Division I in the right situation. South Alabama would be that situation. Stay tuned.
Saturday Update: Cal State Northridge, like Winthrop, has a chance to land a big-name assistant as its new head coach if it is willing to significantly elevate its commitment to its baseball program. If the Matadors decide to invest in making their baseball program a consistent winner, they have a shot to land San Diego State's Eric Valenzuela or Fresno State's Matt Curtis, who have both proven their recruiting mettle. That's exactly the kind of hire CSUN should make if it's serious about baseball—a young, up-and-comer with energy and a recruiting track record. But I'm not sure Northridge is serious about baseball yet.
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