As expected, Cal State Fullerton officially announced Friday that it has hired Rick Vanderhook as its new head coach, replacing Dave Serrano, who left for Tennessee. Vanderhook spent the last three years as the top assistant at UCLA, where he helped the Bruins reach the College World Series Finals in 2010.
Now he returns to Fullerton, where he'll begin his 22nd season as a member of the Titans' coaching staff. A player on Fullerton's 1984 national championship team, Vanderhook started his coaching career as an assistant to Augie Garrido in 1985. He spent two seasons on Bill Kernen's staff at Cal State Northridge in 1989-90 before returning to Fullerton from 1991-2007. He left for UCLA on rocky terms after he was passed over for the head coaching job when George Horton left for Oregon.
But Vanderhook is a Titan through and through. He continued to commute to UCLA from his home in Yorba Linda, and it's hard to imagine him ever leaving Fullerton for another job the way Horton, Serrano and Garrido did.
"I have never met anyone with more passion for Titan baseball than Rick, and I couldn't be happier to bring him home where he belongs," said Fullerton athletic director Brian Quinn, who awarded Vanderhook a three-year contract through the 2014 season.
Vanderhook is well known for his hard-nosed, in-your-face coaching style, and his teams tend to adopt his toughness. A product of the Cerritos JC program—where he played for Horton before transferring to Fullerton in 1983—Vanderhook is a devotee of the Wally Kincaid brand of pressure West Coast offense.
Now the assistant coaching carousel will really start whirling in the West. Vanderhook and new UC Santa Barbara head coach Andrew Checketts both need two full-time assistants, while UCLA needs a new hitting coach/recruiting coordinator. Santa Clara still needs an entire coaching staff (and is expected to interview California pitching coach Dan Hubbs for its head coaching job). If Hubbs winds up at Santa Clara, four teams in the West will need pitching coaches: Cal, Fullerton, Southern California and Oregon (assuming Checketts oversees the pitching at UCSB). Horton could also hire a recruiter without a pitching background and oversee the pitching himself, as he has done in the past at Fullerton. There's also some talk that Horton's other assistant, Mike Kirby, could be in the mix for a job on the Fullerton staff, which would leave two openings at Oregon.
Former Titan great Kirk Saarloos, who spent this year as a volunteer assistant at Fullerton, is high on the wish list at USC, Oregon and Fullerton. Hubbs and San Diego State assistant Eric Valenzuela were also on USC's short list. Former Titan assistant Sergio Brown is one of the most dogged recruiters in the West and would be a strong hire for Fullerton, UCLA or even UCSB. Highly regarded San Diego recruiting coordinator/hitting coach Jay Johnson would also be a great fit at UCLA.
Once the dominoes start falling, who knows when they'll stop?
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