Shortly after Auburn was omitted from the 2013 NCAA tournament field, the school announced that coach John Pawlowski has been been fired. The Tigers went 167-126 in Pawlowski’s five-year tenure, making just one regional—in 2010, when they won the SEC West.
“Coach Pawlowski worked extremely hard throughout his time here, and he has been a great representative for Auburn University,” director of athletics Jay Jacobs said in a release. “I have concluded it is time for our baseball program to move in a new direction. We have a rich baseball heritage and our goal is to compete for championships. I believe a change is necessary to help us achieve that goal, and I look forward to finding a coach who can get us there.”
Pawlowski is a good coach—he proved that during his strong nine-year stint at College of Charleston. He took the Cougars to three straight regionals, culminating in a trip to super regionals in 2006. But winning in the Southeastern Conferene is difficult, plain and simple. Many good coaches have tried and failed in that intensely competitive league. Pawlowski posted a 71-79 record in SEC play during his tenure.
Baseball people in the Southeast have speculated for some time that Samford coach Casey Dunn, 36, was destined to become the head coach at Auburn the next time the job opened up. A former catcher at Auburn and in the Royals system, Dunn was just 27 when he took over as Samford’s head coach in 2004, and he has gradually built the Bulldogs into a Southern Conference power, culminating in their first-ever trip to regionals in 2012.
“Casey Dunn is special; he’s really good,” a National League crosschecker said in December, when Dunn ranked No. 2 on our list of top head coaches under age 40. “His dad was a (high school) coaching legend, he played really well at Auburn, played pro ball. He knows how to get it out of them. He’s tough, but tough in the right way.”
The Tigers should also look hard at Troy coach Bobby Pierce, who has led the Trojans to four regionals in the last eight years. And top SEC assistants like Mississippi State’s Butch Thompson (a former pitching coach at Auburn), Arkansas’ Todd Butler and Mississippi’s Cliff Godwin could also be intriguing targets.