More on him to come. Disregard previous post.
More on him to come. Disregard previous post.
One of the biggest cliches in sports writing is to get indignant when a coaching search doesn’t proceed as quickly as we believe it should. On Tuesday, Wichita State will be two weeks into its search for a baseball coach and it’s easy to run out of patience.
Is that warranted? No way to know. The search could be influenced by many circumstances still quiet. It’s possible WSU athletic director Eric Sexton talked to candidates while in Orlando this week for a convention. It’s possible WSU is waiting on a candidate still coaching. Or, it’s possible that the new guy comes from this list and we knew the name all along.
It’s also possible WSU is scrambling after Dallas Baptist coach Dan Heefner, who interviewed with family in tow, didn’t work out. Heefner made a lot of sense, with his coaching experience and relationship with pitching coach Brent Kemnitz, and was the person I bet on from the start. Other jobs, such as the brand-new opening at Oklahoma, may also muck up the plan with Arkansas assistant Todd Butler, who interviewed, or others.
Kemnitz, who is helping with the search, did not sound like a man who is scrambling on Friday, when he said it will be over soon. Kemnitz is recruiting in Texas, a place he wants to hit harder than in past seasons, and Oklahoma. That alleviates the time crunch a little. He can continue the work and tell recruits that a new coach is on the way. Then it’s up to the new guy to close.
Does it matter if the new guy is hired Monday or Friday? The most important thing is to get the hire right, regardless of the timetable. In two years, few will remember that it took more than 10 days to find a coach – as long as the coach is winning big.
I’m on furlough next week, so I will follow the fun from afar. If WSU is still looking for a coach when I get back to work on June 24, I will be surprised and join the ranks of the concerned. The next big date is July 1, when coaches can call players entering their senior years. Those players made unofficial visits as juniors and are looking to commit over the summer and early fall before signing in November. The coaching uncertainty hurt WSU’s efforts with the class of 2014, but there is time to make up ground. That ground is easier to cover with a head coach.
The Shockers are off for the summer to places such as the Northwoods League and the Jayhawk League. Most notably, Casey Gillaspie and Kris Gardner are headed to the Cape Cod League.
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.
Hooper said WSU is his “dream job” and “I want to be (there) 30 years.” He had a brief convo with Sexton and is going after the job hard.
— Jeffrey Lutz (@JLutzICTEagle) June 7, 2013
Among Kevin Hooper’s advocates who have reached out to Eric Sexton is Tigers manager Jim Leyland. Thinking that carries some weight.
— Jeffrey Lutz (@JLutzICTEagle) June 7, 2013
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.
A loyal Wichita State fan, and a loyal Gene Stephenson fan, e-mailed me the resume of Mike Gillespie, the coach at Cal Irvine.
Stephenson might want to give him a call.
Gillespie coached Southern Cal from 1987-2006. He “retired” shortly after Wichita State swept the Trojans in a three-game series at Eck Stadium near the end of the 2006 season. While the Trojans played in a super regional in 2005, they missed out on NCAA play in three of his final four seasons.
Gillespie took a season off and took over at Cal Irvine (one year removed from beating WSU in the 2007 super regional) in 2008. He got Irvine back to a super regional that season, and again in 2011. The Anteaters posted winning seasons in 2012 and 2013, but didn’t make a regional. In six seasons, Gillespie is 233-119 with four NCAA trips.
Not too bad for a guy Southern Cal didn’t want. The Trojans are on their third coach since pushing Gillespie out and have yet to return to an NCAA regional.
The Beatles didn’t last. One Direction can’t go on forever. Even Bruce Springsteen needed time away from the air-conditioner-shaking, history-making, legendary E Street Band. Stephenson, 67, says he wants to coach again. Maybe getting out of WSU and finding one or two new assistants coaches to work with will provide a good change. Maybe he finds a school with good weather, plenty of local talent and a conference schedule that doesn’t require eight-hour bus trips. Maybe it energizes him and he finds the right place and the right people to work with and revives his hall-of-fame career.
It won’t be easy. He will most likely take a step back in prestige and salary. Not every school wants to take on a 67-year-old with big ideas and high standards. He must convince somebody he still has the energy and want-to to ride buses, recruit and deal with players. Gillespie proved it’s possible.
As the story of Gene Stephenson’s final season unfolded over the past four months, my overwhelming emotion was sadness. In February, I wrote a story about the school’s unwillingness to offer him an extension and it became clear that things were headed this way.
Well before WSU won the MVC Tournament last month, athletic director Eric Sexton looked Read More »
Not much. Like everybody else, they are playing a waiting game.
Wichita State signed 10 players in November and I talked to four on Tuesday, none of whom had been contacted by anyone from WSU. All indications, following a Monday meeting, are that coach Gene Stephenson is on his way out after 36 seasons. Pitcher Reagan Biechler, from Colorado Springs, talked to a current Shocker, who told him to hang tight and see how things worked out. Read More »
Scores: Kansas State 20, WSU 11; Arkansas 3, WSU 1
Record: WSU 39-28
Coverage from The Wichita Eagle/Kansas.com
Video interview with Gene Stephenson, Brad Hill and Johnny Coy
Scores: Southern Illinois 5, Wichita State 1; WSU 11, Creighton 4; WSU 15, SIU 0 (7); WSU 5, Indiana State 0; WSU 5, Indiana State 4; WSU 5, Illinois State 2
Key stats: The two shutouts on Thursday (by Garrett Brummett/Zach Beringer against SIU and Kris Gardner against Indiana State) made everything possible. The Shockers totaled 24 straight scoreless innings by Friday and still had plenty of pitching left for Saturday. College baseball, with the BBCOR bats, rewards teams that don’t make mistakes and the Shockers played flawless, sometimes spectacular defense and didn’t commit an error. Meanwhile, DH Johnny Coy hit .391, homered and drove in eight runs to supply punch in the middle of the order missing much of the season. The starters, with top-shelf efforts from A.J. Ladwig, Brummett, Gardner and Albert Minnis, handed it back to Elam on Saturday for his seven strong innings.
Record: WSU 39-26
Next up: NCAA selection show, 11 a.m. Monday (ESPNU)
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