Indiana baseball did not take long to find its replacement for Tracy Smith. Only a week after Smith announced he was taking the ASU job, the Hoosiers hired Chris Lemonis today as their new skipper.
Lemonis has an outstanding track record at Louisville, where he has been an assistant for eight years. During his stint in Louisville, the Cardinals made the College World Series three times (2007, 2013, 2014). In 2013, Lemonis was even named the Assistant Coach of the Year by the ABCA and Baseball America. Before moving to Louisville, Lemonis was an assistant for 12 years at his alma mater, The Citadel.
While serving as the top assistant under Dan McDonnell at Louisville, Lemonis developed a reputation for being a great recruiter. Being at a school two hours down the road from Bloomington, he already knows the area well, and his recruiting classes have continually ranked in the Top 25 in the nation. This year alone, the Cards produced eight players into the 2014 MLB Draft, including the 46th-overall pick, Nick Burdi. Unlike Smith, who was originally a pitching coach, Lemonis has a background as a hitting coach, and according to his Louisville bio, he "employs an aggressive hitting philosophy."
Last week, I expressed some concerns about hiring the top assistant from Louisville. Well, I'd like to apologize for that, and say I've come around and that I'm fully on board with this decision. When I learned more about Lemonis as a candidate, I realized that he has the strengths that we were looking for in a coach at IU. He knows how to recruit this region, he's been with a CWS-bound program, and has been nationally recognized in his role. He seems like a great fit for a program with both the resources to recruit and terrific new facilities.
Regardless, Lemonis has his work cut out for him. Smith laid the groundwork for what baseball could be at IU, so replacing him will be no easy task. In addition, the Hoosiers have lost the core of their team from the past two seasons, including Kyle Schwarber, Joey DeNato, Sam Travis, and Dustin DeMuth, so Lemonis will have to replace some top players as well. I'm excited to see what Lemonis brings to Bloomington, and hope that he can continue to keep Hoosier baseball playing at a high level for years to come. Finally, I think the hire could continue to build a local rivalry with the Cards, and I look forward to the Hoosiers sweeping Louisville again in a future season, and beating them again in a future CWS.