Sizing Up Potential Candidates To Become Penn State’s Next Coach

Image credit: Penn State (Photo by Andy Mead/ISI Photos/Getty Images)

Penn State announced on Friday that Rob Cooper would step down as head coach at the end of the season after 10 years at the program’s helm.

Penn State is not an easy job in college baseball. The Nittany Lions have not made the NCAA Tournament since 2000 and that trip is the program’s lone appearance since 1976. Historically, the program has not been as invested as the Big Ten’s best and unless that changes, expecting the program to make significant strides is asking a lot.

But Penn State has a new athletic administration, as Patrick Kraft was hired 13 months ago as athletic director. This opening will be an early opportunity for him to put a stamp on the department.

How much Penn State wants to commit to baseball will help determine the direction of this search. It’s a big brand and has a good ballpark in Medlar Field. If the Nittany Lions are ready to take the next step, they could have a lot of interest from high-level assistant coaches. Regardless, they’re likely to have a solid pool to draw from as coaches look to make a jump into the head job in a major conference.

Drew Dickinson, pitching coach, Virginia

Dickinson is in his fourth season as pitching coach at Virginia after spending eight years on staff at Illinois, his alma mater. He would bring Big Ten experience and a knowledge of what it takes to win in the conference. His time at Virginia gives him a feel for the Mid-Atlantic region that Penn State must successfully mine for talent. He’s in a good spot in Charlottesville, but Penn State might be the place to jump into the head coaching ranks.

Jeff Duncan, head coach, Kent State

Duncan this year led Kent State to the Mid-American Conference title, its fourth in his nine seasons as head coach. The Golden Flashes will be the favorites at this week’s MAC Tournament (which they’re hosting) and are seeking their third NCAA Tournament trip under Duncan. Prior to taking over Kent State after the 2013 season, he spent four seasons as an assistant coach at Purdue, giving him experience in the Big Ten. Kent State’s last five head coaches (Bob Moran, Bob Todd, Danny Hall, Rick Rembielak and Scott Stricklin) all left for jobs in Power Five conferences. Duncan is on a similar track. Will Penn State be what pulls him away from one of college baseball’s head coaching incubators?

Todd Interdonato, head coach, Wofford

Interdonato has been the head coach at Wofford for 16 years and has built the program into one of the best in the Southern Conference. He last year led the Terriers to a banner season, as they won 40 games and their first-ever regular season conference title. Interdonato runs a very aggressive offensive style and has succeeded despite the challenges of coaching at a selective, private school. That would likely translate well to Penn State, which is not as resourced as the conference’s top programs.

Chuck Ristano, pitching coach, Florida State

Ristano has a long track record of success as a pitching coach, including a 12-year run at Notre Dame prior to a move to Florida State a year ago. He has strong Mid-Atlantic ties, including one season at Temple and a four-year run at Monmouth that included two NCAA Tournament appearances.

Steve Sabins, associate head coach, West Virginia

The Mountaineers have been impressive not just this season, as they shared the Big 12 title, but over the last decade. Sabins has been in Morgantown for eight seasons and West Virginia is closing in on a third NCAA Tournament appearance in that time. His career has been entirely in the Big 12 but his success as a recruiter for West Virginia, which is just a few hours away from State College, makes for an intriguing profile.

John Yurkow, head coach, Pennsylvania

Yurkow has led Penn for a decade and in the last two years has taken the Quakers to another level. They last year reached 30 wins for the first time in program history. This year, they’ve again hit the milestone but taken it to the next level, winning the Ivy League regular season and tournament titles and are headed to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 1995. Penn State would be a new and different challenge for Yurkow and now might be a good time to make such a jump.

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