UCLA took its time replacing Rick Vanderhook on its coaching staff after he left to take the head job at Cal State Fullerton, but the Bruins have finally found their man, and it was worth the wait. Baseball America has learned that UCLA has hired UC Davis head coach Rex Peters as an assistant, though an official announcement is not expected until the middle of August.
Peters, like Vanderhook, played for Cal State Fullerton, where he helped lead the Titans to the College World Series in 1988. After his professional playing career ended, Peters joined the coaching staff at Division III Chapman (Calif.), where he went on to spend nine years as the head coach, leading the Panthers to the D-III College World Series three times. In 2003, he led UC Davis to the Division II postseason for the first time since 1995. And in 2008, Peters guided the Aggies to the Division I NCAA tournament in their first season of eligibility after transitioning from D-II.
Associate head coach Matt Vaughn, a Davis alumnus who has spent 19 years on the coaching staff there, seems like the favorite to succeed Peters as the Aggies' head coach.
Fordham officially announced Monday that it has hired Manhattan coach Kevin Leighton to be its new head coach, replacing Nick Restaino, who resigned after seven seasons in June.
Leighton, who won more than 30 games in each of his six years as head coach with the Jaspers, is coming off one of his most successful seasons, leading Manhattan to its second Metro Atlantic Athletic Association championship and second appearance in the NCAA tournament. The Jaspers finished the season with a 34-19 record with six players earning all-conference honors. Leighton was named MAAC coach of the year after guiding the Jaspers to the regular-season crown with a 20-2 conference record.
“We are excited to find a coach with the experience and accomplishments of Kevin Leighton,” Fordham executive director of athletics Frank McLaughlin said in a release. “We have a proud and successful baseball tradition at Fordham and look to Kevin, with the support of our alumni, to build on that success and the winning traditions.” [...] Continue Reading »
Western Kentucky announced Monday that it has hired Matt Myers as its head coach, replacing Chris Finwood, who left for Old Dominion. Myers spent the last four seasons as an assistant at WKU, including the last two as associate head coach. The Hilltoppers went with Myers over fellow finalist Tom Holliday, North Carolina State's associate head coach.
"As our search unfolded, it became clear that Matt Myers was the ideal person to serve as our next head baseball coach," WKU director of athletics Ross Bjork said in a release. "He clearly demonstrated that he has both the right attitude and the blueprint for success that our program needs moving forward. He has high level experience and a proven record of success at multiple levels as a student-athlete, assistant coach and head coach. He also has the respect of his peers, our student-athletes and our community, and no one knows and understands all facets of the WKU baseball program like Matt does." [...] Continue Reading »
Rick Rembielak, a three-time Mid-American Conference Coach of the Year who has compiled more than 500 career wins at Wake Forest and Kent State, has been hired as the head baseball coach at Akron, director of athletics Tom Wistrcill announced Friday. Rembielak, who spent 2011 as a volunteer assistant at Georgia Tech, is a 1988 Akron graduate.
"Coach Rembielak is the perfect fit for our baseball program," Wistrcill said in a release. "He has extensive experience as a Division I head coach, is a proven winner in the MAC and has local ties to Northeast Ohio. We are pleased to hire someone of his caliber and welcome him and his family back to The University of Akron."
Rembielak, a Cleveland native, won four MAC regular-season championships and three league tournament titles at KSU, where he remains the all-time winningest coach of any sport with a career record of 373-251-1 (.597). [...] Continue Reading »
Santa Clara replaced one O'Brien with another. Mark O'Brien stepped down as the Broncos' head coach after completing his 10th season at the helm, and Thursday the school hired UC San Diego coach Dan O'Brien to fill its head coaching vacancy.
Dan O'Brien turned UCSD into a Division II powerhouse during 14 years as head coach. He led the Tritons their first D-II College World Series in 2009 and steered them to the national championship game in 2010, when they went 54-8. UCSD won its fourth California Collegiate Athletic Association title under O'Brien in 2011, though it was upset before reaching the CWS. In June, righthanders Tim Shibuya and Guido Knudson became UCSD's first two drafted players since 2003.
"We are so pleased to be bringing Dan O'Brien aboard to usher in a new era in Bronco baseball," Santa Clara athletic director Dan Coonan said in a statement. "He is a phenomenal baseball coach, as baseball people will attest to, but an even better person. He embodies the type of values Santa Clara holds so dear, and that manifests itself in his coaching style and philosophy. He is quite accustomed to running a successful baseball program at a top academic institution. He is a perfect fit for Santa Clara and is ready to bring the program to new heights. We can't wait." [...] Continue Reading »
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. [...] Continue Reading »
UC Santa Barbara announced Wednesday that it has hired one of college baseball's top up-and-coming coaches, Andrew Checketts, as its head coach. Baseball America's John Manuel originally reported the Gauchos hired Checketts on Saturday via Twitter.
Checketts has spent the past three seasons as the pitching coach and recruiting coordinator at Oregon. He is a perfect hire for UCSB because he also won in the Big West when he was the pitching coach/recruiting coordinator at UC Riverside, and he continued to mine Southern California for talent after moving on to Oregon.
“UC Santa Barbara has made a great selection in Andrew Checketts as its new baseball coach,” Oregon head coach George Horton said in a statement. “He is an exceptional coach, recruiter and mentor of student-athletes. The job he has done as an assistant here at the University of Oregon is exemplary. He is one of the top coaches in the country, and has a very bright baseball mind."
Checketts is highly regarded in the coaching and scouting communities for his pitching acumen. His staff ranked third in the nation with a 3.29 ERA in 2010 and 18th in the nation with a 2.99 ERA this year. His staff this spring also produced four pitchers drafted in the top seven rounds, led by first-rounder Tyler Anderson and second-rounder Madison Boer. In his coaching career at UC Riverside and Oregon, Checketts has had 36 pitchers drafted or sign pro contracts and he has coached 12 pitchers who were drafted in the top 10 rounds since 2001. Pitchers get better when they work with Checketts.
"Throughout the process, Andrew’s name kept coming up as one of the best recruiters and assistant coaches, not just in the West, but in the country," UCSB director of athletics Mark Massari said. "In only a short time at Oregon, what he and coach George Horton have accomplished has been extremely impressive. Andrew’s future is extremely bright and we’re excited that he decided to make that future at UCSB."
Old Dominion made a splash this week by hiring Chris Finwood away from Western Kentucky to be its head coach. The Virginian-Pilot originally reported the news Tuesday night, and WKU confirmed it in statements issued Wednesday.
Finwood, a native of Hampton, Va., played and coached for three years at Virginia Military Institute, and the opportunity to take a job close to home was too good to pass up.
"This is just a unique opportunity for our family that we cannot turn down," he said in a statement issued by WKU. "I am very proud of all that we accomplished in the last six years. We did some special things, and none of it would have happened without a tremendous assistant coaching staff, players who bought into the right way to do things, and a loyal and hard working support staff." [...] Continue Reading »
The coaching carousel doesn't stop spinning just because the College World Series is about to start. Here's a roundup of some notable coaching developments over the last two days:
• In one of the most stunning coaching moves of the year, Alabama State hired Mervyl Melendez away from Bethune-Cookman, where he played, served as an assistant and has spent the last 12 years as the head coach, winning 11 Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference titles in that period. Melendez has led the Wildcats to six straight regionals, and they currently own a 46-game winning streak in MEAC play after posting their second consecutive 18-0 regular season and perfect run through the conference tournament.
In a release, B-CU director of athletics Lynn Thompson called Melendez "a legend." Landing him is a huge boon for Alabama State, which has never been to regionals.
"I'm proud of every player that has played for me and every coach that has coached for me. They have paved the way for me to move on and get closer to the dream of getting to Omaha," Melendez said in a release. "This leap here is about taking another step in my career in hopes to take it to a new level." [...] Continue Reading »
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. [...] Continue Reading »
Wednesday brought two notable pieces of coaching news: Sam Houston State hired Rice assistant David Pierce as its new head coach, and South Carolina associate head coach Chad Holbrook withdrew his name from consideration for the head job at Tennessee.
Pierce replaces Mark Johnson, who retired as SHSU's head coach at the end of the season. Landing Pierce is a boon for the Bearkats—he has carved out a sterling reputation in the last nine years as Rice's pitching coach and co-recruiting coordinator. The Owls have ranked in the nation's top 30 in ERA each of the last five years, peaking at No. 4 in 2007.
"I received an overwhelming amount of positive feedback from both the baseball and the Sam Houston community about his candidacy for this job," Sam Houston State director of athletics Bobby Williams said. "He is very respected by everyone I talked to, both inside baseball and out."
Pierce has been instrumental in building a consistent winner during his time at Rice. He knows the area well, making him a perfect fit for Sam Houston State. He also has head coaching experience at Pasadena's Dobie High, where he won three district championships in five seasons. Before joining the Rice staff, Pierce served as an assistant at Houston, helping the Cougars reach a regional and a super regional. [...] Continue Reading »
It's been a busy week on the coaching carousel, and one of the season's highest-profile openings was filled Thursday. Here's a roundup:
• Nebraska introduced Darin Erstad as its new head coach in a Thursday afternoon press conference. A two-time major league all-star who spent parts of 14 seasons in the majors—mostly with the Angels—before retiring after the 2009 season, Erstad returned to his alma mater as a volunteer assistant coach under Mike Anderson this season. Erstad starred on the baseball field for the Cornhuskers and won a national championship as the football team's punter under former head coach Tom Osborne, now the Nebraska athletics director. When Anderson was fired at the end of the season, Erstad's name quickly moved to the top of Osborne's list of potential replacements, six of whom interviewed for the position.
"The reason I feel strongly about Darin is I think he is committed for the right reasons," Osborne said in Thursday's press conference. "He obviously cares about Nebraska baseball a great deal. He is interested in developing and serving players . . . I don’t think he is going to do this job to get ready to go to the next job. He’s had a lot of experience at the highest level. He knows what good baseball looks like and he probably knows what bad baseball looks like. Lastly, I did take the time to call quite a few of the players and really didn’t find anybody who was not very supportive and complimentary of Darin. They have a lot of trust in him. They feel that he is somebody who would be a great fit." [...] Continue Reading »
In a much-anticipated move, Tennessee announced Monday that it has fired head coach Todd Raleigh after four disappointing seasons. The Volunteers went 108-113 (.489) overall in the Raleigh era, including a 42-78 (.350) mark in SEC play. They failed to reach a regional or the SEC tournament during Raleigh's tenure.
When Raleigh was hired from Western Carolina in 2007, the Volunteers were hampered by scholarship limitations as a result of low Academic Progress Rate scores, and many of their scholarships were tied up with players who were not contributing for various reasons. But Raleigh was simply never able to get the program—which went to the College World Series in 1995, 2001 and 2005 under Rod Delmonico—going again. This year was rock bottom for Tennessee, which was swept five times and finished just 7-23 in the league, even after winning its final two games of the year against Auburn.
"We feel our baseball program, unfortunately, has not made the progress on the field that it should have over the last four years," director of athletics Mike Hamilton said in a release. "We believe a change in leadership is necessary in order to move the program forward. We appreciate Todd's efforts and wish him the best in all future endeavors." [...] Continue Reading »
A day after Nebraska finished the regular season in last place in the Big 12, the school announced it is parting ways with head coach Mike Anderson after nine seasons.
After sweeping a doubleheader from Missouri on Saturday, the Cornhuskers finished the season 30-25 (9-17 in the Big 12). They will miss regionals this spring for the third straight year, after reaching the NCAA tournament in five of Anderson's first six seasons. In his nine seasons, Anderson guided the Nebraska program to a 337-196-2 record, including two Big 12 titles (2003 and 2005) and the school's third College World Series appearance in 2005. In that season, Nebraska won a school-record 57 games and the Huskers captured the program's first CWS victory.
But the Cornhuskers have not won more than 10 conference games since 2008.
"I appreciate the efforts of Mike Anderson and his coaching staff, but I have made the decision to change the direction of our baseball program," Nebraska athletic director Tom Osborne said in a release. "Mike has done an outstanding job with our baseball program academically, and he enjoyed outstanding success on the field early in his head coaching career here at Nebraska. I want to thank him for all of his hard work and everything he has done for our baseball program." [...] Continue Reading »
Southern California announced Thursday that it has elevated interim head coach Frank Cruz to full-time head coach, removing a major domino from the offseason coaching market.
Cruz was informed he got the job at 7 a.m. Thursday, and athletic director Pat Haden told the team in the locker room later in the morning.
"That might have been the first standing ovation I've gotten ever from a team," an elated Cruz told Baseball America. "It was awesome. It was touching. Whatever happens, we're bonded together, we always will be.
"I had a feeling this might happen, I was hoping like hell it would happen, I was praying it would happen . . . It's a great university, it has all the resources it needs. It's an unbelievable job, I'm telling you—an unbelievable job."
Cruz spent 12 seasons as the head coach at Loyola Marymount, then spent the last two years as a volunteer assistant at USC under Chad Kreuter. When new athletic director Haden ousted Kreuter last August, Cruz was installed as the interim head coach. He inherited a team finished last in the Pacific-10 Conference (7-20) in 2010 and had gone 39-63 in Pac-10 play in the four years since Kreuter took over for Mike Gillespie.
Though they are just 20-28 overall, the Trojans have shown significant improvement this spring, going 10-11 in the Pac-10 and winning series against Stanford, Arizona State, Oregon and Washington over the last five weeks. USC does not have the most talented roster, but it has played hard for Cruz and his staff. [...] Continue Reading »
As expected, Southern Illinois has promoted Ken Henderson from associate head coach to interim head coach for the 2011 season. Henderson, 50, succeeds his longtime friend Dan Callahan, who passed away on Nov. 15. Henderson has spent the last 20 years on the Salukis' coaching staff.
"I'm honored and humbled to be asked to lead the Saluki baseball program," Henderson said in a release. "I'm looking forward to continue working with the team we have this year, as they have a lot of talent and thus far have done everything we have asked of them."
Henderson has once before served as interim head coach for the Salukis. He was appointed that title midway through the 1994 season and led the team to a 12-8 record the rest of the way. Henderson guided Southern Illinois to a winning season after the club started the year winning just 15 of its first 33 games.
In his 26 years at the Division I level, which included three-year stints at Kansas State (1984-86) and Oral Roberts (1987-89), Henderson has helped guide his teams to a 744-711-2 record.
Nicholls State announced Thursday that it has promoted associate head coach Seth Thibodeaux to head coach, replacing Chip Durham, who left to take a job in the private sector last month. Thibodeaux has spent the last three years as the Colonels' recruiting coordinator under Durham.
“Seth has helped recruit every single player on our baseball team and has played a major role in nearly every aspect of the program," athletics director Rob Bernardi said in a release. "His familiarity with the team and the program was a big factor in choosing him as our head coach. We expect that Colonel baseball will continue to advance under his leadership."
Thibodeaux takes over a program that he has helped to steadily improve over the last four years. In 2010, the Colonels made their first postseason appearance in 10 years and earned their first postseason win in 12 years—a 13-2 upset of No. 1 seed Texas State in the opening round of the Southland Conference tournament. The Colonels finished the season 27-29 (15-18 in the Southland)—their first 20-win season since 2005 and first 10-win conference season since 2002. The Colonels finished just three wins shy of their first 30-win season since 1993. [...] Continue Reading »
Cal State Northridge's long coaching search has finally reached its conclusion. Baseball America has learned the Matadors have hired Fresno State assistant Matt Curtis as their new head coach; an official announcement is expected today.
Curtis emerged as one of the favorites for the job shortly after Northridge fired coach Steve Rousey on June 9, but the Matadors inexplicably took two months to make the hire. In the end, they found the right man for the job. Curtis has developed a reputation as one of the top recruiters on the West Coast in his 10 seasons at Fresno, and he played a critical role in assembling Fresno's 2008 national championship team. A former catcher at Fresno, Curtis has experience coaching pitchers, hitters and catchers.
Northridge is not an easy place to win, and many of the top assistants in the West were not interested in the job. The Matadors must upgrade their facility and the administration needs to ramp up its commitment to the program. But the program has won before; under Bill Kernen (now the coach at Cal State Bakersfield), Northridge made a successful transition from Division II to D-I, making regionals in 1991-93. The Matadors also made regionals in 1996 and 2002 under Mike Batesole—Curtis' boss at Fresno State for the last eight years.
The coaching carousel has been busy in the West over the several few days. Here are a few other developments (in addition to Southern California's firing of Chad Kreuter and naming of Frank Cruz as interim head coach): [...] Continue Reading »
Southern California fired head coach Chad Kreuter on Monday after four disappointing seasons. The Trojans also announced that assistant Frank Cruz will serve as interim head coach for the 2011 season.
Kreuter took over as head coach after USC forced out his father-in-law, long-time Trojans coach Mike Gillespie, after the 2006 season. Kreuter had spent 16 years in the big leagues as a catcher and came to USC following a stint as a minor league manager in the Rockies system. His only previous college coaching experience was a season as USC's director of baseball operations.
The Trojans failed to make regionals in his four-year tenure, during which they went 111-117 (.487) overall and 39-63 (.382) in the Pacific-10 Conference. His teams finished no higher than fifth place in the league standings, placing ninth in 2007 and 10th in 2010, when USC went 28-32 overall (7-20 in the Pac-10). And in the Kreuter era, USC won just three of 14 games against crosstown rival UCLA (coached by former Trojan John Savage).
"On my first day on the job at USC last week, I said one of my goals was to return the USC baseball program to national prominence," new athletic director Pat Haden said in a release. "There is no reason we shouldn't be there. [...] Continue Reading »
Fairleigh Dickinson announced today that it has hired Gary Puccio as its new head coach, replacing Jerry DeFabbia, who went 78-224 in six seasons. Puccio has served as the head coach at Briarcliffe (N.Y.) of the USCAA since 2005. He has 17 years of coaching experience—including five years in Division I at Manhattan in the 1990s—and 12 years of experience as an associate scout for the Mariners. He'll have plenty of work to do at FDU, which has not won more than 16 games in a season in the last decade, but he had some success rejuvenating Manhattan's program. His 1998 Jaspers team reached the 20-win plateau for the first time since 1903.
Elsewhere, Texas Tech hired Jim Horner as an assistant coach, replacing Ed Gustafson. Horner, a Washington State product who played nine seasons as a catcher in the Mariners system, spent the last four seasons as a minor league manager in the Seattle organization. Though he replaces Gustafson—the pitching coach—on the staff, Horner will work primarily with the hitters and catchers.
And Murray State hired Chris Cole away from Tennessee Tech to serve as pitching coach and recruiting coordinator. Cole spent four seasons at Tennessee Tech, where his pitching staff ranked 12th nationally in strikeouts in 2010. Cole started his collegiate playing career at Florida State in 2001 before transfering to Stetson for his next two seasons.
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