San Jose State passed over interim coach Mark O'Brien and hired longtime Pacific-12 Conference assistant Dave Nakama as its head coach Wednesday, replacing the retired Sam Piraro.
Athletic director Gene Bleymaier, in his first coaching hire after arriving from Boise State, chose Nakama, who most recently was an assistant for three seasons at Washington after working as an assistant at Stanford (1997-98, 2002-2009). Nakama has previous head-coaching experience at Division II San Francisco State (55-109 from 1999-2001) and Mission JC in San Jose (1992-96). His Mission teams made a pair of California state JC playoff trips, and he coached Gary Matthews Jr. there.
"San Jose State always has had a very good baseball reputation," Nakama said in a statement released by the school. "I'm excited to continue this tradition and return to the Bay Area—a great place to work and live."
O'Brien, who filled Nakama's spot on Mark Marquess' Stanford staff while Nakama was at San Francisco State, had been the interim coach for the Spartans and had served as an assistant to Piraro for the previous season; he also is an alumnus of the school. O'Brien has more head coaching experience, having led Santa Clara for 10 seasons (2001-2011; 258-289, .472 winning percentage), and was considered the front-runner for the position. The Broncos program never quite broke though during O'Brien's tenure despite a new on-campus ballpark (site of California's 2011 super regional) and suffered from transfers (such as present big leaguer Jared Hughes) and turnover among his assistant coaches early in his tenure.
"It was a surprise," O'Brien said when contacted Thursday. "School started Aug. 22. The guys had started lifting; we'd had some team meetings, the normal start-of-the-year deal. It if had happened two months ago, I could understand more."
San Jose State stumbled to a 22-29 season in 2012, and the slow turnover of the coaching staff does not seem likely to help recruiting in the short term. Nakama's recruiting track record at Stanford and Washington was referenced heavily in San Jose State's official press release, but O'Brien also was involved heavily in recruiting at Santa Clara as a head coach.
Now that job falls to Nakama, who will have to hire a completely new staff as he tries to get San Jose State back to the College World Series since its surprising 2000 run.
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