Hooper – surprise – and Wichita State

Former Shocker Kevin Hooper played from 1996-99 and earned All-MVC honors at second base and shortstop.

Kevin Hooper played his last game as a Shocker in 1999 and started answering questions about coaching at Wichita State the next day.

It seems that way, at least. It’s probably been five years ago, around the time he took over the Wichita Wingnuts, that fans focused on him as a possible future Shocker coach.

Now WSU has an opening and Hooper is making his interest known.

 

I met Hooper once, when he (and Koyie Hill) spoke at a journalism class I taught many years ago at Newman. People who know him rave about his future in coaching and his personality. The Wichita Eagle’s Bob Lutz is on board with the Hooper era. So is Tom Keegan of the Lawrence Journal-World. Hooper can work with pitching coach Brent Kemnitz. He is on the short list of Shockers most popular with fans. He played magical defense and hit .402 as a senior. He played on the last Shocker team in the College World Series. The fact he is from Lawrence also gives WSU fans satisfaction.

There will be other candidates (and Bob’s column lists several good ones), some of whom will present impressive college coaching credentials. Hooper has not coached in college. That is an issue WSU athletic director Eric Sexton, Kemnitz and others will need to weigh.

My first thought is that if Hooper (or another Shocker) joins Kemnitz, an outsider needs to be strongly considered for the remaining job as assistant coach. The situation seems to call for somebody who brings in a totally fresh way of looking at things and new recruiting areas. That’s not to say all Shockers in coaching think the same way; they’ve traveled different paths, etc. However, as the past five seasons show, there is room for change.

Improving Shocker baseball is mostly about recruiting. By keeping Kemnitz, the message is changing head coaches will inject youth and enthusiasm into the process and help recruiting.

All-MVC teams are not a perfect way to judge talent. The conference season is a small sample size and sometimes votes are hard to explain. It is revealing that in the past two seasons, WSU has three first-team picks (Johnny Coy in 2012, Tyler Baker and Brandon Peterson in 2013). That is fewer than Illinois State (11) and Missouri State (5) and the same as Bradley, Southern Illinois and Indiana State.

WSU needs those numbers to change and every spot on that coaching staff, Shocker family member or not, must be maximized to find talent.