Duke coach Sean McNally resigned after seven seasons at his alma mater, where he posted a 192-198-1 mark (.491).
The Blue Devils' program had a highwater mark of 35-24 under McNally in 2009, going 15-15 in the Atlantic Coast Conference, falling on the wrong side of the NCAA tournament bubble. Righthander Marcus Stroman also should become the school's first first-round pick in a June draft next week, and McNally-coached players such as Alex Hassan (Red Sox) and Jake Lemmerman (Dodgers) are closing in on the big leagues.
However, McNally's teams just didn't win enough the last couple of years and were hurt by losing top recruits such as Steven Baron and Cameron Coffey to the draft in '09. This year's team went just 21-34, 9-21 ACC, and the Blue Devils went just 63-145-1 (.301) in ACC play in his seven seasons. The 2012 team lacked physicality and athletic ability even by its own modest standards—and a rash of injuries ruined any hopes Duke had of making a run in the ACC.
The Duke program has foundered since Steve Traylor was fired by then-athletic director Joe Alleva after the 1999 season. His replacement, Bill Hillier, never won more than 25 games; McNally dug the program out of that hole but couldn't get over the hump. In the meantime the program made modest renovations to Jack Coombs Field on campus (adding AstroTurf and adjusting the playing field) and moved many of its ACC series off-campus to downtown Durham Bulls Athletic Park, a Triple-A ballpark with plenty of empty seats.
In other words, the Duke job is a challenge. Is it one for an assistant at a successful private-school program such as Vanderbilt's Derek Johnson, or a mid-major private coach such as Samford's Casey Dunn, Elon's Mike Kennedy or Illinois State's Mark Kingston, who was an assistant at Tulane. Could Durham resident Mike Rikard, the Red Sox's national crosschecker, be lured back to college baseball? Or is it the landing spot for Pat Murphy, who had a good relationship with current Duke athletic director Kevin White when they were together at Arizona State?
The caliber of applicants for the Duke position will be determined by how much White is willing to spend to make the program more competitive. The Duke brand is strong thanks to its basketball program; the baseball program at least is in a better state than when McNally took over. But it's easier to want to be the next Vanderbilt than it is to be the next Vanderbilt.
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