Josh Jordan Named 2018 Baseball America/ABCA Assistant Coach Of The Year
Josh Jordan’s playing career at Catawba (N.C.), a Division II school, had ended and he was doing his student teaching to finish up his degree in history and education when Jim Gant, his former coach, called him to ask him to come back to the team as a volunteer assistant coach.
Jordan hadn’t really thought about coaching before. He had planned to be a social studies teacher and maybe one day go to law school.
But he decided to accept the invitation and spent the spring of 2003 as an assistant coach at Catawba. And that spring, the coaching bug hit him, and Jordan was off on a new career path, one that has taken him from Catawba to Fort Hays (Kan.), another Division II school, to Young Harris (Ga.) JC, where he coached future big leaguers Charlie Blackmon and Cory Gearrin, to Appalachian State, where he linked up with head coach Chris Pollard, who he followed to Duke six years ago. He was promoted to associate head coach following the 2015 season.
That winding road through several levels of college baseball, from Division II to junior college to a mid-major Division I state school to a private school in one of the best baseball conferences in the country has taught Jordan a lot. Most importantly, he learned that you can find great baseball nearly anywhere you look.
“There’s great baseball at every level,” Jordan said. “The thing I would want other coaches to take away from this is it doesn’t matter where you’re at. You can be around great players, provide great leadership for them as a coach and excel for them in that."
Since Pollard hired Jordan at Appalachian State in 2007 the pair have won a lot at two schools that are not steeped in baseball tradition. They led the Mountaineers to the Southern Conference title and an NCAA Tournament appearance in 2012, two things the program had not accomplished since 1987. They then helped Duke snap a 55-year NCAA Tournament drought in 2016.
This year, Jordan helped Duke reach even greater heights. The Blue Devils went 45-18, set the program record for wins, reached a super regional for the first time ever and came within a victory of advancing to the College World Series. Jordan, who is responsible for coaching the outfielders and catchers, saw three of his proteges drafted, including outfielders Griffin Conine and Jimmy Herron, who both were selected in the top 100 picks. Jordan also holds the title of recruiting coordinator and, after bringing in just the second Top 25 class in program history in 2016, this year nearly landed another.
For those reasons and more, Jordan is the 2018 Baseball America/American Baseball Coaches Association Assistant Coach of the Year.
Jordan and Pollard have worked together for 12 years — six at Appalachian State and six at Duke — but their relationship goes back to Jordan’s playing days at Catawba. At the time, Pollard was the head coach at Pfeiffer (N.C.), another Division II school about 20 miles down the road. Because of the programs’ proximity and the respect Pollard had for Catawba head coach Jim Gant, he would sometimes invite some of his players to work at his camp and Jordan was one of those players.
“There was this young second baseman who played the game the right way, with a lot of toughness, the way Jim Gant taught it,” Pollard said. “Josh made tremendous impression on me with his work ethic and passion for the game.”
That impression was so strong that as Jordan progressed in his coaching career, Pollard offered him a job multiple times. It wasn’t until after the 2006 season that he finally got his man, hiring Jordan at Appalachian State as his recruiting coordinator.
It was the beginning of a strong and fruitful partnership. Jordan said he’s had three key mentors in his coaching career — Gant, former Young Harris JC head coach Rick Robinson and Pollard. His relationship with Pollard is a bit different, however, because of how long they have spent working together and their relatively similar ages.
“He’s a friend first and foremost,” Jordan said. “We’ve been together so long. He’s my boss and, yes, I respect him, I’m yes sir, no sir to him just like I would be to any other coach, but there’s a big brother aspect to him to where I can go to him with a lot of problems.”
Pollard said Jordan is the hardest working person he’s ever been around, a trait that has served him well throughout his career. At Appalachian State, Jordan let his work ethic run wild. He was single and had no kids, so when the job demanded it, he would take a nap in the office and work through the night. He still works very hard — he wakes up every day at 4 a.m. — but with a wife and two kids, his days of sleep in the office are over. Instead, he’s learned to work smarter. His day is heavily regimented to allow him to split his time between recruiting and coaching — his two main duties. Mornings and evenings are set aside for recruiting, while the afternoon is for coaching.
“You still work just as hard, you just do it in a different manner,” Jordan said. “I look back and say I squandered time. I could have had time to sleep.”
The Blue Devils players also appreciate how hard Jordan works. Senior center fielder Kennie Taylor said he’s always coming up with new drills at practice and knows how to engage players with different learning styles.
But the Blue Devils know Jordan’s value goes beyond his day-to-day work on the field. Taylor said he is a players’ coach and works to make everyone feel comfortable in the program.
“He’s a good person to go to talk to about regular stuff, stuff going on in school,” Taylor said. “He’s always in the weight room and he’ll come up and give us some words of encouragement or talk about the music playing in the weight room to lighten the mood. I like his presence on the team. It makes it feel like home.”
Jordan never became the social studies teacher that he though he would be when his playing career finished. But he still views himself as a teacher and is surrounded by teachers in his family — his two sisters teach and his wife is a former teacher.
Jordan carries to the diamond a mentality that is a cross between a teacher and a parent. He has no favorites and he’s more likely to appreciate a player’s personality or off-field talents than his raw tools.
“I appreciate and love the player for who he is,” Jordan said. “I don’t think Charlie Blackmon is any different from Chris Proctor in my eyes or any of them. They’re players and they all have things I like about them.”
Jordan’s ability to connect with so many players across all levels of college baseball have helped him rise through the industry, winning at places where success is uncommon. It is an authentic desire to help his players reach their full potential on and off the field and rooted in his dedication to put in whatever work is required to succeed.
That energy, which initially caught Pollard’s eye when Jordan was still in college, remains today. And it is continuing to draw people in.
“He has such a level of credibility with everyone around him because they see how invested he is,” Pollard said. “Players, administrators gravitate towards that because they see how much skin he’s got in the game.”