Coaching Roundup: Sooners, Hokies Announce New Coaches

Thursday was a busy day on the coaching carousel, as Oklahoma named Virginia Tech’s Pete Hughes as its new head coach, and the Hokies promoted associate head coach Pat Mason to their top job. Elsewhere this week, Kent State officially hired former Purdue assistant Jeff Duncan as its head coach, Nevada hired San Diego’s Jay Johnson, and Longwood promoted Brian McCullough to head coach.

Hughes elevated Virginia Tech’s program in seven years as head coach, leading the Hokies to their first regional in a decade in 2010. Virginia Tech hosted its first regional this year but lost in the regional final to Oklahoma. Before heading to Blacksburg, Hughes spent eight years at Boston College, where he won 30 or more games five times.

Pete Hughes

Pete Hughes

“Pete captured our attention for a variety of reasons,” OU director of athletics Joe Castiglione said during Hughes’ introductory press conference. “He has an extensive track record of building programs, specially programs that faced somewhat of an uphill battle given the stage they were when he became head coach. But they didn’t stay there. They got better and better and better.”

Hughes inherits a program that has been to three super regionals in the last four years. While Virginia Tech made great strides under his leadership, Oklahoma is a more prominent program with an easier path to Omaha. That made the job appealing when the Sooners contacted Hughes about two weeks ago.

“I came here to win championships and go to Omaha on a regular basis and bring a national championship to Oklahoma baseball,” Hughes said.

• The Hokies wasted no time elevating Mason, who has spent the last three years on Hughes’ staff, including last year as the associate head coach. In three seasons as Virginia Tech’s pitching coach, Mason sent 10 pitchers to pro ball and guided the staff to three straight seasons with a lower ERA than the previous year.

“We are very excited about the future leadership of our baseball program under Pat Mason,” director of athletics Jim Weaver said in a press conference. “Pat Mason, in my opinion, is the consummate baseball man, and I am very pleased to introduce Pat as our new head baseball coach.”

Mason was a catcher for Northeastern from 1994-97 and spent stints as an assistant at Boston College (1998-2002) and Northeastern (2005-10) before heading to Blacksburg.

“After being an assistant coach for 14 years, I am ready for the challenge ahead of me as head coach,” Mason said. “You can expect that we will continue to compete at the highest level and continue to chase the ultimate goal, Omaha.”

• Johnson helped San Diego make six trips to regionals in his eight seasons as an assistant under Rich Hill. He proved his mettle as an elite recruiter and hitting coach, reeling in the nation’s top-ranked recruiting class in 2008 and the No. 2 class in 2010. He also helped Kris Bryant develop into the No. 2 overall pick and Baseball America College Player of the Year this spring. Nevada officially announced Friday that Johnson will replace the retired Gary Powers. Former Southern California assistant Dave Lawn will join Johnson’s staff as pitching coach. Johnson should be a great fit in Reno; he called USD a “special place” that he wasn’t going to leave unless it was the right place. “This is absolutely the right place,” he said.

“The same recruiting map that made us successful at San Diego, you can apply it here and hit the ground running,” Johnson told Baseball America on Friday. “I’m excited about all the good contacts we have. I really believe in the college path to Major League Baseball, and I want to make this a training ground for pro baseball. Nevada’s already had success doing that. So every player we recruit dreams about playing in the big leagues some day. This is a place that’s already proven that can happen. We’ll put together a coaching staff that will continue to foster that for them.”

• Kent State named Duncan its head coach on Tuesday. Duncan spent four seasons on Doug Schreiber’s staff at Purdue and was promoted to associate head coach last September. As the recruiting coordinator and hitting coach, he was instrumental in helping to build the 2012 Purdue team that won a school-record 45 games and hosted a regional. Current head coaches and scouts voted him onto Baseball America’s list of top 10 head coaching prospects among the ranks of assistants this past winter.

A former player at Arizona State and in the Mets system, Duncan spent two years as an assistant at Auburn before heading to Purdue.

“In no particular order, we set out looking for someone that could coach and motivate our current players and incoming class, a dynamic recruiter, a person familiar with successful college baseball in the North, a serious commitment to academics and a good role model,” director of athletics Joel Nielsen said. “Needless to say, we’re excited to introduce Jeff Duncan to the Kent State community.”

Long-time Kent State pitching coach Mike Birkbeck will remain on staff as associate head coach; he also served as pitching coach under Scott Stricklin and Rick Rembielak. Alex Marconi has been promoted from volunteer assistant to fill the other full-time assistant role, replacing Scott Daeley, who left for Georgia with Stricklin.

• Longwood elevated McCullough to head coach, replacing Buddy Bolding, who retired after 35 seasons. McCullough is a former Longwood pitcher who spent the last four years on Bolding’s staff, most recently as pitching coach and recruiting coordinator. McCullough, who turns 28 next week, was a four-year starter for the Lancers from 2004-07.

“I am very excited to announce that a former Lancer is going to take the lead of this tradition-rich program,” director of athletics Troy Austin said in a release. “I know Brian has learned a lot from Coach Bolding from his four years as a player and four more years as an assistant coach. The dedication and pride Brian has taken in his role over the past year is encouraging, and I am looking forward to watching the program continue to grow.”

• Finally, we have a number of assistant coaching moves to pass along. Stricklin filled out his staff at Georgia by hiring Fred Corral away from Memphis to be his pitching coach. New Wichita State coach Todd Butler completed his staff by hiring Brian Walker, who spent the last two years as Arkansas’ volunteer assistant. Walker joins long-time Wichita pitching coach Brent Kemnitz on Butler’s full-time staff. The Hogs, meanwhile, hired Tony Vitello away from Texas Christian to be their recruiting coordinator, replacing Butler. Cal State Northridge head coach Greg Moore filled out his full-time staff by hiring Washington’s Jordan Twohig and San Francisco volunteer assistant Chris Hom. And new Auburn coach Sunny Golloway announced that he will retain Scott Foxhall from John Pawlowski’s regime to be his pitching coach.