Baseball America periodically surveys college coaches to compile a list of 10 assistants with bright futures as head coaches. The first list, compiled in 2001, included future stars such as Vanderbilt's Tim Corbin, Virginia's Brian O'Connor and Texas Christian's Jim Schlossnagle. Half of the coaches who made the most recent list, compiled in 2012, are now head coaches, including East Carolina's Cliff Godwin and Auburn's Butch Thompson.
It has become increasingly common for top programs to reach into the ranks of assistant coaches when hiring a head coach. In the Southeastern Conference alone, five of the eight head coaches hired in the last two years were assistant coaches at other schools in the conference, including Thompson, who was Mississippi State's pitching coach before he was hired at Auburn.
We once again this fall asked current Division I head coaches from around the country to list three top coaching prospects among the ranks of current assistants, excluding their own staffs. More than 75 coaches responded, and here we list the top 10 vote-getters.
As we have done in the past, assistants with prior Division I head coaching experience were excluded from the list of top assistants. Oklahoma State pitching coach Rob Walton, the 2016 Assistant Coach of the Year, received enough votes to be included, but for this exercise we seek to identify the next big thing in coaching.
Four coaches in the top 10 have made this list before. North Carolina's Scott Forbes, Virginia's Kevin McMullan and Coastal Carolina's Kevin Schnall (then with Central Florida) made the list in 2012. Texas Christian's Bill Mosiello was coaching in pro ball in 2012, but he made the list in 2001, when he was an assistant at Oklahoma.
More than 100 coaches from more than 80 schools received at least one vote. Nineteen schools saw both their full-time assistant coaches receive votes, including Clemson, Georgia and Oregon State, which all also had an additional staff member receive a vote.
1. Kevin McMullan, Virginia
McMullan, the 2009 Assistant Coach of the Year, repeats as No. 1 on this list. Since he last topped the ranking, he helped the Cavaliers win the 2015 national championship, their first in program history, and played a leading role in the recruitment and development of four first round draft picks. The 49-year-old remains one of the most accomplished recruiters and respected hitting coaches in the country as he enters his 15th season on staff with O'Connor and pitching coach Karl Kuhn.
"He's excellent at the development phase," O'Connor said. "The consistent work that he does with our players and taking a player out of high school and continuing to develop their skills so that by the time he leaves here he is ready to have success at the next level is his greatest quality. That, coupled with his keen eye in recruiting to find position players that are athletic and projectable and can develop while they're here is really special."
2. Kirk Saarloos, Texas Christian
Saarloos, 38, has rocketed to the top of the assistant coaching ranks since his playing career, which included seven years in the big leagues, ended. He spent two years on staff at Cal State Fullerton, his alma mater, before moving to TCU after the 2012 season, where he serves as recruiting coordinator and pitching coach. He has landed four Top 25 recruiting classes at TCU and has helped the Horned Frogs reach the College World Series in four straight seasons. He is regarded as one of the best pitching coaches in the country and TCU's 2.93 ERA during his tenure ranks fifth nationally.
"He has a great personality that endears himself to people," Schlossnagle said. "He's very good with relationships. He's got that easy-going, SoCal persona, but he's also a hard worker."
3. Scott Brown, Vanderbilt
Corbin made the original version of this list in 2001 when he was an assistant to Jack Leggett at Clemson and his assistants Erik Bakich, Josh Holliday and Travis Jewett, have all followed his path to jobs as head coaches. Brown, 41, could be the next in line as he enters his sixth season in Nashville. He presides over the Commodores' famous pitching lab and he is renowned for his work with pitchers, helping Vanderbilt to develop four first-round pitchers during his tenure.
"He's defined within our program and outside the program as a pitching coach, but he's got a lot of skills that take him well beyond the realm of pitching," Corbin said. "He's a very clear thinker, a very good teacher. He's a teacher, that's what he is."
4. Scott Forbes, North Carolina
Forbes, who ranked No. 5 on this list in 2012, has long been respected for his teaching ability and demeanor. He added a new wrinkle last season as he showed off his versatility. After 11 seasons as pitching coach at North Carolina, he moved to a new role as recruiting coordinator and hitting coach. Forbes, a former catcher, quickly found success in his new role as the Tar Heels ranked 20th in the country in runs and earned a national seed. The 43-year-old's experience working with both pitchers and hitters will serve him in good stead when he gets the chance to run his own program.
5. Eric Snider, Louisville
Snider, 53, came to Louisville in July 2014 after 16 seasons at Illinois. The Cardinals' hitters have thrived under his tutelage, and five have been drafted in the top two rounds in the last two years. He also has earned a reputation as an excellent recruiter and earns praise for his work ethic and teaching ability.
6. Kevin Schnall, Coastal Carolina
Schnall provided instant impact in 2016 when he returned to his alma mater after three seasons of staff at Central Florida and helped Coastal Carolina to its first national championship. Schnall, who ranked seventh on this list in 2012, was a standout catcher during his playing career with the Chanticleers, earning Big South Conference player of the year honors in 1999. Now, the 40-year-old is regarded as a top-flight recruiter and hitting coach and many see him as the man likely to succeed Gary Gilmore as head coach at Coastal.
7. Dan Fitzgerald, Dallas Baptist
Fitzgerald was head coach at Des Moines Area (Iowa) JC for five years before joining Dan Heefner's staff at DBU for the 2013 season. The 40-year-old may soon be leading a program again, this time at the Division I level. He has proven to be a strong recruiter during his time at DBU, helping the Patriots become one of the top mid-major programs in the country. Already, 15 of Fitzgerald's signees at DBU have gone on to be drafted out of college.
8. Ben Orloff, UC Irvine
Orloff was a star at UCI, helping the Anteaters advance to the 2007 College World Series and finished his college career with several program records, including hits (281) and runs (178). After completing his playing career in 2013, he returned to his alma mater as a coach and helped the Anteaters back to Omaha in 2014, his first season. Orloff, 30, is the youngest coach on this list, but has quickly developed a strong reputation for his coaching and recruiting.
9. Bill Mosiello, Texas Christian
Mosiello, 53, ranked eighth on this list in 2001, one spot behind the man for whom he now serves as associate head coach - Jim Schlossnagle. Mosiello has a lengthy resume that includes time as an assistant coach at schools across the country, from Cal State Fullerton to Tennessee. He also has experience as a junior college head coach and as a minor league manager. He is a well-respected hitting coach and has worked with a plethora of outstanding hitters, including Todd Helton and Mike Trout.
10. Nate Yeskie, Oregon State
Yeskie's reputation was strong before Oregon State's dominant 2017 season, but his work with the pitching staff last spring plainly showed what he is capable of as a pitching coach. The Beavers led the nation with a 1.93 team ERA and a 0.98 team WHIP. Yeskie, 42, and associate head coach Pat Bailey are well-respected across the country and fit in well with the focused, meticulous culture Pat Casey has instilled at Oregon State.
Other top vote-getters: Carl Lafferty (Mississippi), Mike Bell (Florida State), Jeff Palumbo (East Carolina), Chris Hart (North Carolina State), Will Bolt (Texas A&M), Chad Caillet (Southern Mississippi), Chris Prothro (South Alabama), Randy Hood (UNC Wilmington), J-Bob Thomas (Texas Tech).