See also: Top 10 College Head Coaches Under Age 40
See also: Finding The Next Coaching Stars
Back in November, we asked current Division I head coaches to list three top coaching prospects among the ranks of current assistants, excluding their own staffs. Seventy coaches responded, and we list the top 10 vote-getters here, as the American Baseball Coaches Convention gets underway in Chicago. We also consulted more than a dozen scouts around the nation, because they make their living observing amateur baseball and offer valuable perspective.
We are excluding assistants with prior Division I head coaching experience from our list of top assistants, which is why Arkansas assistant Todd Butler does not
appear on the list below despite finishing second in our balloting. Rex Peters, Rob Walton, Jerry Meyers, Dan Spencer, Frank Anderson, Tom Holliday—these are coaches with established track records as head coaches. For this exercise, we are looking to identify the next big thing.
1. Kevin McMullan, Virginia
The Skinny: Baseball America’s 2009 Assistant Coach of the Year, McMullan is one of the game’s most accomplished recruiters and respected hitting instructors, and it should be no surprise that he received the most votes in our balloting.
What They’re Saying: “Kevin’s great. I think he’s the complete package. His recruiting ability, his baseball knowledge—he has tremendous resources in terms of contacts. He knows so many people in the game. He really digs. So often I’ll think we’re the first team on a high school junior that impresses me somewhere, and Kevin will already have been in to see the kid. The depth of his experience and his network—those are attributes that make Kevin successful.”
—American League crosschecker
2. Cliff Godwin, Mississippi
The Skinny: Godwin has built a reputation as an offensive guru as an assistant at Notre Dame, Louisiana State, Central Florida and Ole Miss.
What They’re Saying: “Cliff Godwin is without question one of the best offensive coaches and recruiters in the country. Every school he has been at the hitters have flourished. He has a tremendous ability to simply get the most out of every single player he works with. Coaching is largely how kids respond to you, and every player responds and develops under CG. For six years and three different schools, we worked together every day, and I witnessed first-hand why he is one of the best coaches in the country and will be an incredible head coach.”
—Central Florida head coach Terry Rooney
3. Mike Hampton, St. John’s
The Skinny: Like Corbin and O’Sullivan, Hampton is another member of Jack Leggett’s impressive coaching tree (he played at Clemson and started his coaching career as a volunteer assistant under Leggett). He has helped re-establish St. John’s as the premier program in the Northeast during his 11-year stint as recruiting coordinator and hitting coach.
What They’re Saying: “He’s phenomenal. He’s got very good communication skills, and his players obviously love him. Every scout I know likes him a lot and respects him. He’s got constant communication with his players, and he proves there doesn’t need to be a disconnect between college coaches and scouts—we can work together. When we give him a name, the reality is he already knows about this guy, but you’re happy to send guys his way. You can tell parents with complete sincerity, ‘I’d want my son to play for him,’ which is the greatest endorsement you can give anybody.”
—National League area scout
4. Mark Wasikowski, Oregon
The Skinny: After starring for Andy Lopez on Pepperdine’s 1992 national championship team, Wasikowski proved his value over and over again as an assistant under Lopez at Pepperdine, Florida and Arizona, then took a job at Oregon prior to last season.
What They’re Saying: “I think the next guy in line that should get a job should be Wasikowski. He’s relentless in his preparation, and he turns over every stone trying to find a player. He knows what type of player he’s looking for, and he’s done a good job securing those kinds of players. More than anything, he likes baseball players that have solid makeup, and he’s done a good job identifying the guys he can help get better, that might not be great prospects now, but after three years of him coaching them and letting their bodies and minds develop, end up being good drafts. He’s got an eye for talent, period.”
5. Scott Forbes, North Carolina
The Skinny: Forbes has proven himself as an elite developer of pitching talent and has helped the Tar Heels reach the College World Series five times since joining the staff before the 2006 season.
What They’re Saying: “He’s ready to run a program. If one of these jobs opens up, I wouldn’t be surprised if they give him a call. He has a great demeanor—he’s a calming, cerebral-type coach, not a yeller. But when he walks into a room, he’s got that air, that instant respect. He knows what he’s doing; he’s good at what he does. He’s a guy who can walk in and take over a program; from his experience with pitching, obviously, and he was a catcher in college. He’s knowledgeable on both sides of the baseball.”
6. Marty Lees, Oklahoma State
The Skinny: In 11 years as an assistant at Oregon State, Lees played an important role in building two national title teams through his work with the team’s infielders and his efforts on the recruiting trail. He joined the Oklahoma State staff this summer.
What They’re Saying: “I think Marty is overqualified to be a head coach. He’s got national championship experience. He did it at a state university where recruiting and developing players was a must at Oregon State. Darwin Barney and Jacoby Ellsbury were Oregon kids who went there and became winners. He’s a great instructor, he’s very organized, and he’s very well versed in infield play, which is a critical part of a winning team. He’s just a very experienced, savvy coach. He brings the complete package to the table. We’re lucky to have him.”
—Oklahoma State coach Josh Holliday
7. Kevin Schnall, Central Florida
The Skinny: A former standout catcher at Coastal Carolina, Schnall helped lead his alma mater to 11 regionals in 12 years as an assistant under Gary Gilmore before heading to UCF this summer.
What They’re Saying: “He’s a very hard-working, diligent recruiter. He’s a great catching instructor. The teams he put together at Coastal Carolina—Coastal Carolina being a national seed, that’s one of the all-time great accomplishments of a team that is classified as a mid-major, and he was heavily involved in that, recruiting those players. You can’t minimize what he’s done. He’s a very good evaluator of talent, and he’s extremely energetic. When I was out recruiting and I thought nobody was around, I’d turn around, and there’d be Kevin Schnall. He got after it, for sure.”
—South Carolina coach Chad Holbrook
8. Butch Thompson, Mississippi State
The Skinny: Thompson’s gentle demeanor, adaptability and resourcefulness on the recruiting trail have served him well during 11 years as an SEC pitching coach at Georgia, Auburn and Mississippi State.
What They’re Saying: “He’s got a lot of knowledge of the game. I think he’s a guy that does a super job in recruiting with those guys. Butch is a guy that’s been able to work with whatever he’s had from a pitching standpoint. He’s always been creative, willing to try different things. In all the staffs he’s been a part of, he’s always made a difference. And he’s a friend of mine, so I know he’s a guy you’d be comfortable with your son being with him, doing the right things all the time. I think he’s got a deep knowledge of the game as well, and not just on the pitching side.”
—Alabama coach Mitch Gaspard
9. Bradley LeCroy, Clemson
The Skinny: A former Clemson player, LeCroy spent three years as a volunteer assistant for the Tigers and then served as former Jack Leggett assistant Todd Raleigh’s recruiting coordinator at Western Carolina and Tennessee, before returning to his alma mater in the summer of 2010.
What They’re Saying: “He’s an outstanding recruiter—outstanding. He’s got a lot of that Chad Holbrook in him. He’s a tireless recruiter, and he’s good at it, he’s good at what he does. We were at the Tournament of Stars in June, and he’s on call. His wife’s about ready to give birth, and he’s out working. He had to leave because she went into labor. That’s the kind of dedication he has. LeCroy is a recruiter phenomenon, which is going to get him to that next level.”
10. Greg Moore, San Francisco
The Skinny: Moore excels at turning raw, unheralded arms into marquee prospects; he has coached three first-round picks in the last five years at a USF program with modest resources.
What They’re Saying: “He’s diligent in his work, he’s consistent with his players, and the players that he coaches always get better. He’s not an ego guy; he’s not afraid to listen. I think, eventually, when he becomes a leader of his own program, I think he’ll be good. I look at him like a Tim Corbin type of guy: He’s smart, he knows how to deal with people, but he’s relentless. He doesn’t clone guys, he lets them pitch to their strengths.”
OTHER TOP VOTE-GETTERS: Scott Jackson (North Carolina), Chris Lemonis (Louisville), Skip Johnson (Texas), Scott Brown (Vanderbilt), Chris Hart (North Carolina State), Mike Martin Jr. (Florida State), Travis Jewett (Vanderbilt), Jeff Duncan (Purdue), Jeff Palumbo (Virginia Commonwealth), Karl Kuhn (Virginia).