Multiple sources have confirmed to Baseball America that Tennessee has hired Cal State Fullerton coach Dave Serrano as its new head coach. UPDATE: The school officially announced the Serrano hire later Wednesday afternoon. He replaces Todd Raleigh, who was fired after four disappointing seasons. A press conference has been scheduled for Thursday at 2 p.m.
"Dave is a proven winner and is a perfect fit as the head baseball coach at the University of Tennessee," Tennessee interim vice chancellor for athletics Joan Cronan said in a release. "He has taken two programs to the College World Series as a head coach, and we are confident that he is the right coach to lead our program to national prominence."
Serrano traveled to Knoxville today meeting with the Volunteers, and he told the OC Register on Tuesday that Tennessee would have to knock his socks off to get him to leave Fullerton. But he has long been considered a front-runner for the Tennessee job, thanks to the allure of Southeastern Conference money, facilities, fan support and visibility. A former assistant at Tennessee in 1995-96, Serrano is familiar with Knoxville, and the lone speed bump on the way to his hiring was the resignation of Tennessee athletics director Mike Hamilton last week. But the instability within the athletics program and the baseball team's recent lack of success did not deter Serrano from leaving Fullerton—where he had a position he described as his "dream job" when he accepted it in 2007.
"After an overwhelming 24 hours of events, I have made the decision to leave a great program at Cal State Fullerton to take on the challenge of returning the University of Tennessee to a spot among the nation's elite," Serrano said in the release. "While this decision was not an easy one, it makes it a little easier to say yes when you have an entire family completely in support for you. We hope to be proud and active members of the Knoxville community and will work hard to give Volunteer fans a baseball team that they can cheer on for years to come."
Serrano won Baseball America's Coach of the Year award in 2007, when he led UC Irvine to the College World Series. That September, he left for Fullerton, where he had pitched in 1986 and served as an assistant coach from 1997-2004. In four years as the head coach at Fullerton, Serrano led the Titans to three super regionals and the 2009 College World Series. This spring their season ended in regionals for the first time since 2002, but they still won the Big West Conference and hosted a regional.
Fullerton athletic director Brian Quinn told the OC Register yesterday that he's already putting together a list of potential replacements in case Serrano leaves. Strong candidates include Fresno State's Mike Batesole, Arizona's Andy Lopez and Cal State Bakersfield's Bill Kernen, as well as UCLA associate head coach Rick Vanderhook, a long-time Fullerton assistant who left the school when Serrano got the head job over him in 2007. Loyola Marymount's Jason Gill is another former Titan who figures to get a strong look. And don't be surprised if the Titans reach out to Oregon State's Pat Casey, TCU's Jim Schlossnagle and maybe even former Arizona State coach Pat Murphy, who served on the Division I Baseball Committee with Quinn. But those candidates are long shots.
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