In the most surprising coaching move yet this summer, Cal State Northridge opted not to renew Matt Curtis’ contract, ending his three-year tenure as head coach.
The Matadors went 77-89 under Curtis and were clearly moving in the right direction. They went 31-26 this year, reaching the 30-win plateau for the first time since Mike Batesole’s final season as head coach in 2002. They also went 15-12 in the Big West to finish tied with UC Irvine and Long Beach State for fourth place, and they were in the hunt for a regional bid until getting swept in their final two series against Cal Poly and Cal State Fullerton. Before this year, the Matadors hadn’t posted a winning record in conference play since 2002, and they annually finished toward the bottom of the standings before Curtis arrived.
Curtis proved his recruiting chops as an assistant at Fresno State, and he added another outstanding recruiter to his staff last year, hiring former UC Irvine and Cal State Fullerton recruiting coordinator Sergio Brown. Curtis also brought on a well-regarded pitching coach in Sam Peraza.
It’s hard to imagine what the CSUN administration is thinking with this move, unless there is something going on behind the scenes. The Matadors will be hard-pressed to attract a better coaching staff that can do a better job making this program competitive in a league where it has significant resource disadvantages.
The Matadors could try to make a run at another of the region’s top assistants, like San Diego’s Jay Johnson, San Diego State’s Eric Valenzuela, UC Irvine’s Pat Shine (who is perceived as the eventual heir apparent to Mike Gillespie) or UCLA’s T.J. Bruce. It’s hard to imagine UCLA’s top assistant, Rex Peters, leaving for the Northridge job after he gave up a good job at UC Davis to join the Bruins.