Hours after Southern California fired Frank Cruz and elevated Dan Hubbs to head coach, Hubbs spoke with Baseball America about his whirlwind first day as head coach at his alma mater and his vision for the future of USC baseball.
I'm sure this was a strange day for you; can you describe the emotions of becoming head coach at your alma mater, and having to take over for your friend two days before the season starts?
"I told my wife and I've told other people, it's bittersweet. I'd be lying if I didn't say this was a job that I've always dreamed of. I played at SC, I love the school, my wife and I met there. But a really good friend of mine lost his job and I'm taking over. And (Cruz was) someone who gave me an opportunity to come back and coach at my alma mater. So I'm kind of sad in that respect and I'm excited for the opportunity. But he's a great friend—I don't know a better way to put it. I think Frank Cruz is a great person who I respect a ton. I think he's a great coach, I think he's a great person, and I think he's a great friend. I think it's unfortunate and sad, everything that's come about, but I told the team, we have to look forward now. We don't have time for anything other than that. We start our season—against Fullerton of all people—in two days. It's not like it wasn't going to be tough enough."
How did the players react to the news?
"The players have been very receptive. I think they're excited for me. We kind of stopped practice in the middle, when everything went down. They played really hard when we practiced, they were very energetic. So that piece was good. My message to the team was we have to focus forward now." [...] Continue Reading »
UPDATED: Wednesday, 1:49 a.m. ET
Southern California fired head coach Frank Cruz on Wednesday, six days after it suspended him pending an investigation into an NCAA rules infraction. Dan Hubbs, in his second season at USC, has been elevated from associate head coach to head coach.
In a release, the school said it was dismissing Cruz for "knowingly violating NCAA Countable Athletically-Related Activities limitations within his program."
Those CARA rules restrict the number of hours student-athletes can spend in activities directed by or supervised by the coaching staff. USC has also self-imposed a reduction in the number of practice session hours for its baseball team this season and next season.
"Adhering to all NCAA rules is paramount for each one of our coaches, student-athletes and staff members," USC athletic director Pat Haden said in the release. "Those who knowingly break NCAA rules are subject to termination."
Cruz started his college coaching career as an assistant under Mike Gillespie at USC from 1993-96, then spent 12 seasons as the head coach at Loyola Marymount, leading the Lions to three regionals. He joined Chad Kreuter's staff as a volunteer after he was fired from LMU, then became the interim head coach when Kreuter was dismissed in August 2010. [...] Continue Reading »
Longtime Jacksonville University coach Terry Alexander announced Wednesday that the 2013 season will be his last at the school. JU athletic director Brad Edwards also said the school will name pitching coach Tim Montez head coach-in-waiting at the end of the year, the Florida Times-Union reported.
The changes come on the heels of an immensely disappointing 2012 campaign. The Dolphins entered the season as favorites to win the Atlantic Sun Conference and were regarded as a legitimate contender to win a regional. But they finished in last place in the A-Sun and 18-38 overall—the worst season in Alexander's 23 years as head coach.
Alexander's tenure has been overwhelmingly successful. He has been a member of the JU coaching staff since 1980, and since taking over as head coach in 1991 he has led the Dolphins 10 regionals a 713-590-2 record, making him easily the winningest coach in school history. Jacksonville has made four trips to regionals in the last seven years, but 2012 was trying. Even so, the 57-year-old Alexander told reporters that was not the reason for his departure.
"The wheels kind of fell off last year with a lot of injuries and other things that were happening," he said. "I just couldn't walk away then. I had to come back another year and try to go out a winner. I wanted the seniors to go out a winner."
Alexander also indicated he isn't ready for retirement yet. [...] Continue Reading »
Vanderbilt has had plenty of success bringing Northeasterners to Nasvhille—from coach Tim Corbin to players like Pedro Alvarez, Ryan Flaherty and Mike Yastrzemski. Now the Commodores have tapped into their Northeast pipeline again, hiring Scott Brown away from St. John's to be their new pitching coach.
Brown replaces Derek Johnson, who left to become the Cubs' minor league pitching coordinator last month. Like Johnson, Brown has a great baseball mind and has earned the respect of his peers and professional scouts alike.
"Being from the northeast, Scott is someone that I have followed for quite some time," Corbin said. "When you ask about young pitching coaches that have made a difference, Scott's name is widely mentioned . . . He is one of the most respected young coaches in our profession."
Brown spent the last nine seasons as an assistant under Red Storm coach Ed Blankmeyer, helping to lead St. John's to seven regionals and five Big East championships. The Red Storm reached super regionals for the first time this year, losing to eventual national champion Arizona. Before that, Brown coached at Division III power Cortland (N.Y.) State. He also has experience coaching in the New York Collegiate Baseball League and the New England Collegiate Baseball League, where he won the 2004 manager of the year award after guiding the Sanford Mainers to the NECBL title.
There was never any doubt that Vanderbilt would make a strong hire to replace Johnson, and that's just what it did.
Buddy Bolding, who shepherded Longwood from Division III to D-II to D-I during the course of his 35-year tenure, will retire after the 2013 season, the school announced Tuesday.
Bolding coached the Lancers to 26 consecutive winning seasons from 1979-2004, a stretch that included six trips to the D-II NCAA tournament and two appearances in the D-II College World Series. The Lancers completed the transition to D-I in 2008 and have posted four straight winning seasons since then. They have found a home in the Big South Conference, after starting as a D-I independent.
Since taking over as head coach in the fall of 1978, Bolding has led Longwood to a 927-516-4 mark. Nine of his players have been drafted since 1988, most notably Michael Tucker, who spent 12 years in the big leagues as an outfielder.
"We now stand at the threshold of a new day for Longwood's rich athletic history and for Longwood's well-conceived ambitions for a bright future," Bolding said in an uncommonly colorful statement. "The prudent time for me to pass the baseball torch along to another is at hand, and I joyously extend that torch forward while it yet burns bright. Countless professional scouts, opponent coaches, and others have over the years said that Buddy Bolding possessed the greatest batting practice arm known to man; and even I might agree with that assertion; but as that arm is now seven-plus million pitches well-worn, it cannot continue to develop great Lancer batsmen for a successful future in the Big South Conference, as will be needed.
"In short, I cannot be Buddy Bolding forever, and my standard, and the pride I have had in throwing that BP, is such that I cannot suffer to offer my hitters less than they deserve. I, therefore, walk away from the ball yard having given my best and having left nothing on the diamond for the crows to pick over. In scriptural terms, I have fought the good fight."
For the second time this offseason, a Division I baseball coach has died. Virginia Commonwealth announced that coach Paul Keyes, 50, lost his battle with cancer Saturday.
Keyes was diagnosed in April with stage 4 melanoma, the most serious form of skin cancer. He had worked at VCU since 1985 as an assistant and was head coach for the last 18 seasons, compiling a 603-428-1 record (.585 winning percentage). The Rams had 12 straight winning seasons from 1996-2007, including 46 victories in 1998 (with a team led by Brandon Inge) and 2003 (led by future big league pitchers Sean Marshall and Cla Meredith as well as 2004 first-rounder Justin Orenduff). Virginia Commonwealth made eight regional trips and won five Colonial Athletic Association titles in his tenure. [...] Continue Reading »
One of college baseball's most respected and accomplished pitching coaches is leaving for a job in professional ball. Baseball America learned Sunday that Vanderbilt associate head coach Derek Johnson will become the Cubs' minor league pitching coordinator.
Johnson, the 2010 Baseball America/ABCA Assistant Coach of the Year, deserves a great deal of credit for helping Tim Corbin build Vanderbilt into an elite program on the national level. Johnson joined the Vandy staff a year before Corbin was hired as head coach in 2002, and Corbin made the wise decision to keep him on the staff. In the last decade, Johnson has earned a glowing reputation among his peers and the scouting community for his ability to develop power arms, including David Price, Mike Minor, Sonny Gray, Jeremy Sowers and plenty of others.
"He's had as much impact on our program as anyone," Corbin told BA in the fall of 2010. "I think what D.J. has done with these kids is far-reaching. He's kept them healthy, he's made each one of them better. You look at the kids, the pitchers specifically, that have come out of our program, being able to pitch at the next level—it goes without saying . . . We would not have our success without having him on our staff." [...] Continue Reading »
George Washington's coaching hire was worth the long wait.
The Colonials made a splash Thursday, hiring GW alum Gregg Ritchie as their new head coach. Ritchie has spent the last two years as the major league hitting coach for the Pirates, following a five-year stint as the organization's minor league hitting coordinator. It's one thing for minor league instructors to leave for college coaching jobs, but big league coaches very seldom leave for the college ranks.
"Coming back to George Washington brings my career full circle, as in many ways this is where it all started for me," said Ritchie, a 1999 inductee into the school's athletic hall of fame. "I met my wife here at GW, and we both made a lifetime of extraordinary memories going to school and competing in the heart of the nation's capital. To have this opportunity to coach at my alma mater and play our home games in the premier facility in the conference at Barcroft Park is extremely special."
An outfielder and pitcher at GW in the mid-1980s, Ritchie played seven years in the Giants system and another with the Rangers before concluding his playing career in 1995. He began coaching in the White Sox system the following year.
Tom Sheridan, who was leading the program on an interim basis since August 10, will remain on Ritchie's staff as associate head coach. Dave Lorber, who spent last year on the staff at Stony Brook, was hired in September to fill the other full-time assistant role.
With Ritchie's hire, the coaching carousel appears finally to have stopped spinning in 2012. Yesterday, new Western Illinois head coach Ryan Brownlee filled out his coaching staff, hiring former Iowa assistant Dusty Napoleon and retaining WIU pitching coach/recruiting coordinator Shane Davis. The Leathernecks hired Brownlee (who had spent 15 years as an assistant at Iowa) on Sept. 28.
Maryland-Eastern Shore made an intriguing head coaching hire Tuesday, tabbing Pedro Swann to replace Will Gardner, who is gone after going 61-260 in six seasons.
Swann played 17 years of pro ball from 1991-2007, including brief big league stints with the Braves, Blue Jays and Orioles between 2000 and 2003. Like Oregon's George Horton and Texas' Augie Garrido, Swann also has a neat connection to actor Kevin Costner. Swann played the role of Juan Vasquez in Costner's 1998 film "For Love of the Game."
Swann also has Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference experience, playing for Delaware State from 1989-'91. He graduated from Delaware State in 1995, and in 2001 he was inducted into the school's athletic hall of fame. After retiring from playing in 2007, Swann founded and has been president of the Pro Swing Sports Academy in Middletown, Delaware. He served as a hitting instructor as well as head coach of three youth travel teams. He also spent four years as a high school hitting coach.
Swann inherits a UMES program that made progress in 2012, going 11-13 in the MEAC and finishing in third place in the conference tournament. The Hawks finished 14-39 overall—tied for their second-most wins in the last 17 years.
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." [...] Continue Reading »
The coaching carousel hasn't finished spinning yet.
Mike Villano, who has coached Western Illinois for the past three seasons, announced his resignation Wednesday. Assistant coaches Shane Davis and Cooper Stewart (who assisted in running the program in fall 2009 prior to Villano's arrival) will oversee the day-to-day operations until a head coach is named.
Villano is resigning to pursue an opportunity outside of coaching in business sales.
"I've been involved with baseball after college for 18 years, and everyone has to make decisions for different reasons," Villano said in a release. "I'm at a different chapter in my life to go experience a new challenge. I love Western, I love Macomb and I love these players . . . The foundation is here to win some championships and I for one will be their biggest fan."
Villano led the Leathernecks to the Summit League tournament in 2011 for the first time in three years; they went 21-38 overall that season and 13-15 in league play. WIU went 17-35-1 last year. [...] Continue Reading »
As its search for a new head baseball coach approached its third month, George Washington finally made a decision Friday—to delay the search further.
The Colonials hired Tom Sheridan as associate head coach and announced that he will lead the program in an interim capacity into the fall, when the athletics department expects to announce a new full-time head coach.
Sheridan has spent the last 25 years as head coach at the Division III University of Mary Washington (Va.). He led the Eagles to 579 wins, 10 conference championships and 11 NCAA tournament appearances. Before that, he spent six seasons as an assistant at James Madison from 1982-87, helping lead the Dukes to the 1983 College World Series.
GW announced on May 19 that head coach Steve Mrowka would not be returning as head coach next year, ending his eight-year tenure. The Colonials reached the A-10 conference tournament just once in that period, in 2005.
The right candidate was under Middle Tennessee State's nose all along.
The Blue Raiders conducted a national search for their new head baseball coach after Steve Peterson retired on July 5, and today they announced that Peterson's long-time assistant, Jim McGuire, has been elevated to head coach.
MTSU did not handle the end of the search with an abundance of grace. After Liberty's Jim Toman withdrew his name from the mix last week, the Blue Raiders offered the job to Arkansas State coach Tommy Raffo earlier this week. Raffo turned it down, electing to stay put at Arkansas State, so MTSU went back to McGuire, who knows the program inside and out after 20 years on Peterson's staff.
"We had a thorough process that allowed us to talk with some of the most accomplished baseball coaches in the country," MTSU director of athletics Chris Massaro said in a release. "We were able to develop an outstanding pool of candidates that were interested in this job, which is a testimony to the work of Coach Peterson and Coach McGuire.
"From the beginning, I knew the great qualities of Coach McGuire, and he was able to demonstrate them further during the interview process. I am confident he will lead us to national prominence and a trip to Omaha." [...] Continue Reading »
Harvard coach Joe Walsh died Tuesday morning at the age of 58. Walsh coached the Crimson for 17 seasons, posting a 347-388-2 record, and had a 569-564-3 record overall including 15 seasons at Division III Suffolk (Mass.), his alma mater.
Walsh also was the pitching coach for the Wareham Gatemen in the Cape Cod League from 1991-98, where he mentored the likes of Ben Sheets and Barry Zito, both on the '98 club. Former Walsh players such as Peter Woodfork (senior vice president, baseball operations, Major League Baseball), David Forst (assistant general manager, Athletics) and Ben Crockett (farm director, Red Sox) have gone on to front-office positions in professional baseball as well.
Walsh's Crimson teams won five Ivy League championships and made regional trips from 1997-1999 as well as 2002 and 2005.
In a press release, athletic director Bob Scalise said, "This is a tragic day for everyone associated with Harvard athletics, Massachusetts baseball and the larger baseball community. Joe's passion for the game redefined success in the Ivy League and he positively impacted the lives of so many people. To say that he will be missed would be an understatement."
Harvard had not yet named a replacement.
Mark Hogan, the winningest coach in Southeast Missouri State history, is retiring after 18 seasons. Pitching coach and ex-big leaguer Steve Bieser will serve as interim coach for the 2013 season, and a national search will be conducted at the end of the season. Bieser, an alumnus of the school whose son Cole is a rising senior at SEMO, will be a candidate for the permanent job at that time.
Hogan compiled a 526-456-1 record at SEMO, winning the Ohio Valley Conference regular-season title in 2002 and winning the conference tournament in 1998 and '02—the only two trips to regionals in program history. The Redhawks reached the OVC tournament title game seven times and made the tourney in each of Hogan's 18 seasons.
"Coach Hogan has been an extremely successful baseball coach for Southeast Missouri State University for the past 18 years," school president Kenneth W. Dobbins said in a release. "We sincerely appreciate his tenure, the legacy he provided for our baseball program, and most importantly, we thank him for his dedication to the success of our student-athletes. Many young men had great collegiate baseball experiences due to Coach Hogan's expertise, and several have gone on to professional careers. We certainly congratulate him for an outstanding career and wish him the best in his retirement." [...] Continue Reading »
William & Mary hired Jamie Pinzino as its new head coach Monday. Pinzino spent 2012 as the Tribe's pitching coach under Frank Leoni, who resigned after the season.
Pinzino is a proven winner who successfully shepherded Bryant from Division II to D-I during his five seasons as head coach. In Bryan't second season at the D-I level in 2010, Pinzino earned Northeast Conference coach of the year honors after leading the Bulldogs to a 25-7 record in conference play, taking home the NEC regular-season title (they were not yet eligible for the conference tournament).
But he was forced to resign under bizarre circumstances after the season. Following a postseason banquet, Pinzino and assistant Andy Koocher were arrested for fighting with each other on the field in an alcohol-fueled incident. [...] Continue Reading »
Baseball America has learned that Maryland has hired Kansas State associate head coach John Szefc as its new head coach, filling the last remaining vacant head coaching job at a power-conference school this summer. An official announcement could come by Thursday.
During his 22-year coaching career, Szefc has proven himself as a top hitting coach and recruiter, and had success as a head coach. He spent seven years as the head coach at Marist from 1996-2002, leading the Red Foxes to three regionals. From 2003-08 he served as Louisiana-Lafayette's top assistant, running the Cajuns' aggressive offense and leading their recruiting efforts. He spent 2009 and '10 on the coaching staff at Kansas, then joined Brad Hill's staff at Kansas State before the 2011 season.
A native of Middletown, N.Y., Szefc now heads back to the East Coast, where he'll be much closer to his family. He takes over for Erik Bakich, who left Maryland after three seasons to assume the head job at Michigan.
The Terrapins made strides under Bakich, winning 32 games in 2012 (their most since 2002) and finishing 32nd in the RPI. Though Maryland missed the ACC tournament, it broke into Baseball America's Top 25 early in the season for the first time ever, and made a serious run at its first regional since 1971.
With a cash-strapped athletic department, Maryland isn't an easy place to win, as its facilities and operating budget lag way behind the ACC's powers. But Bakich recruited well and left a solid foundation in place for Szefc to work with. And Szefc has proven he knows how to win, even with modest resources.
South Carolina coach Ray Tanner will take over as the school's athletic director, and associate head coach Chad Holbrook will be elevated to head coach. Baseball America has confirmed local media reports that Tanner will be announced as AD on Friday, while Holbrook's announcement is scheduled for Monday.
A strong case can be made that Tanner is the premier coach of his generation, and he is leaving the dugout at the top of his profession. Tanner led the Gamecocks to the College World Series Finals in each of the last three years, taking home the 2010 and '11 national titles and finishing as runner-up this year. That stretch established records with 22 consecutive NCAA tournament wins and 12 straight CWS wins.
In 16 seasons at South Carolina, Tanner led the Gamecocks to six College World Series, three SEC championships, six SEC Eastern Division titles and 13 straight regionals. South Carolina has also won 40 or more games in each of the last 13 years, and is one of just two schools in the nation to make at least 10 super regionals during that stretch.
Tanner is 738-316 in his career at South Carolina, and his .700 winning percentage is second-highest all-time among SEC coaches. In 25 seasons as a head coach (including nine seasons at his alma mater, North Carolina State), Tanner is 1,033-489-3 (.699). [...] Continue Reading »
The last two days have brought a pair of coaching hires as well as the week's second notable coaching retirement. Appalachian State hired former Oklahoma State assistant Billy Jones as its head coach, while Morehead State hired Louisburg (N.C.) head coach Mike McGuire. And Middle Tennessee State coach Steve Peterson retired after 25 years.
Jones has long been considered a standout recruiter and a top up-and-coming head coach prospect in college baseball circles. He has 18 years of coaching experience, including the last eight as Oklahoma State's recruiting coordinator, preceded by three years on the staff at North Carolina State. In Stillwater, he coached the hitters and helped lead the Cowboys to eight straight winning seasons, six regionals, a super regional and a Big 12 tournament title. His work on the recruiting trail helped land 31 players who went on to be drafted. His Division I coaching career began with two seasons at Oregon State in 1999-2000, followed by one year at Arizona State. He also has head coaching experience at Green River (Wash.) CC in 1997-98.
Jones replaces Chris Pollard, who left for the head job at Duke after leading ASU to its first regional this spring. [...] Continue Reading »
San Jose State coach Sam Piraro announced his retirement today after 25 years as the Spartans' head coach. Associate head coach Mark O'Brien, who played for Piraro in 1991-92 and joined Piraro's staff last year after 10 seasons as the head coach at Santa Clara, was elevated to interim head coach while the school conducts a national search.
Piraro, the winningest coach in school history, went 806-632-6 at San Jose State, leading the Spartans to 18 winning seasons, two regionals (2000 and '02) and a trip to the 2000 College World Series. A San Jose native who was an infielder at San Jose State in 1971-72, Piraro began his coaching career in 1974 as SJSU's junior varsity coach. He spent seven seasons at Mission (Calif.) CC before becoming the Spartans' head coach. More than 50 of his former players are baseball coaches at the high school, community college or four-year college levels.
"I have been extremely honors to be the San Jose State University head baseball coach for the past 25 years," Piraro said in a release. "I have been blessed by being associated with wonderful young men and loyal assistant coaches. I have established a lifetime of friendships along the way."
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