Now that we’ve dissected Tracy Smith’s move to Arizona State, we need to figure out who will replace Smith as skipper here in Bloomington. After Smith left, AD Fred Glass promised a nationwide search for next IU baseball head coach to begin immediately. With a new on-campus stadium, a CWS berth last year, a national seed this year, and two straight Big Ten titles, the IU position should be an attractive opening.
If Kevin Wilson or Tom Crean were to stop being coach tomorrow for whatever reason, I could easily rattle off the names of 5-10 potential candidates for each position. However, this is not the case for baseball. I don’t know the college coaches as well as I would for other major sports. Thus, I reached out on Twitter to Aaron Fitt, the national college baseball writer for Baseball America, to see if he had any insight, and he ran off a list of names:
Let's examine the names on this list. Chris Lemonis is currently the assistant coach at Louisville. The Cardinals have made the College World Series in both of the past two seasons and have won three straight conference tournaments. Since Louisville is two hours down the road from Bloomington, it would be nearby to his current recruiting area. However, hiring the assistant of a team that we swept this season may be reaching too low for this program, unless Lemonis is a home-run hire.
Ty Neal is currently the head coach at Cincinnati. If hired by IU, he would head back to Bloomington, where he was Smith’s right-hand man for eight years as the lead assistant and pitching coach. Neal is off to a rocky start for the Bearcats though, and his team went 22-31 on the season with a 6-18 conference record. Despite this, hiring Neal would provide continuity with the program and keep IU baseball within the Tracy Smith coaching tree.
Travis Jewett has been the assistant coach of Vanderbilt for the past two seasons. As you have likely heard, the Commodores won the College World Series last night, defeating UVA 3-2 in a game that was decided thanks to an eighth-inning Vandy home run (I guess people other than Schwarber can hit homers in Omaha. Who knew?). Thus, Jewett’s stock is incredibly high right now. Before coming to Vandy, Jewett had spent time at Arizona State, so getting a former coach from Smith’s new school would be somewhat ironic.
Scott Googins would be another Cincy-based candidate for the job, as he’s currently the head coach at Xavier. Googins has been coaching the Musketeers for nine seasons, and led them to NCAA Regionals this season (they were in Vanderbilt’s region). Like Neal, Googins does have prior experience under Smith during his days coaching Miami-Ohio, where Googins was the lead assistant before departing to Xavier. In addition, Googins already knows IU, as he spent eight years in Bloomington as an assistant.
Finally, John Szefc may be the most intriguing name on this list. Szfec is currently the head baseball coach at Maryland, where he has coached for two years. This past season, Szfec led the Terrapins to within one game of the CWS, but they lost to eventual CWS runners-up UVA in the Super Regionals. Of course, the Terps will be joining the Big Ten in a scant few days, and were the Hoosiers to hire Szfec away from College Park, it would immediately create a baseball rivalry between the two schools.
Of the aforementioned choices, I think Neal or Googins would make the most sense if Fred Glass decides to stay within the Tracy Smith coaching tree. However, I like what Szfec has done at Maryland, and with the Terps’ recent budget woes we may be able to make him an offer he can’t refuse. With Jewett coming from a team that just won the CWS, he would give the Hoosiers some championship credibility. Thus, these all seem like credible options for the team, but each one would display a different vision for what Glass has for this program.
A few other names also come to mind when thinking of who the next coach could be. Former MLB third baseman Scott Rolen made a major donation to IU baseball last year, lives in Bloomington, and could give a similar big-name baseball presence to what Darin Erstad has right now as coach at Nebraska. However, Rolen has never coached at any level, and he has not given any indication publicly that he’s interested in the job. Ben Greenspan, son of former IU AD Rick Greenspan, is the current top assistant, so if the Hoosiers wanted to promote from within, he’d likely be the choice. Finally, when I did the Q&A with Justin about ASU baseball, he mentioned that College of Charleston coach Monte Lee was a top target for the Sun Devils. I would say that Lee could be a candidate for IU; however, he recently signed an extension with Charleston, so I doubt he moves.
I am curious to see whom the Hoosiers hire as their new coach, and the process should make for an interesting few weeks. Glass hit a home run with the Todd Yeagley hire, and Kevin Wilson has improved year after year, so let’s hope that he can deliver similar success with his eventual choice.