The College Baseball Blog continues our series of interviews with head coaches checking in with Northeastern Head Coach Neil McPhee who is entering his 23rd season in charge of the team. Last year, his squad finished with an overall record of 24-22 and 12-17 in the CAA which was good enough for eighth place but did not qualify for the CAA tournament. This was the first time in 15 years that the Huskies missed out on their conference tournament.
1. Northeastern returns their top three starting pitchers and Ryan Quigley who led your team in saves. Are you expecting big things from this staff?
Our staff this season is deeper than it has been in many years. Although not the high end quality of the Ottavino, Pellegrini staff in ’06, we have a staff that includes middle relief and potential closers that are flexible and should allow us in-game options that we have not had recently. The one big question is the readiness of Trevor Smith, who is coming off labrum surgery. He was in the rotation last year and is projected to be back at full velocity by our first CAA weekend. However, his role most likely will not be as a starter at this time.
2. Dan Milano graduated after a stellar career. Who do you expect to become your primary catcher?
Frank Pessanello, was back up catcher and DH last year and will move into the starting role this year. He has very good potential defensively and strong arm, but lacks experience. Offensively, if he can cut down his Ks, he has the talent and power to be a major force.
3. Do you see any freshman breaking into the starting line-up or getting quality time on the mound in 2008?
Leslie Williams is a freshman, RHP/OF, who has a chance to be a weekend dual position player. He played on the Jr. Canadian National Team last summer. As a Pitcher he has, high 80′s velocity and a plus Slider at the college level, as well as a pretty good change. His best chance at this time is on the mound. Offensively he is “raw” but has very good bat speed; needs at bats to develop.
4. How has the move from America East to CAA affected your program in terms of Recruiting and how much better of a conference it is week in and week out?
The CAA has been a terrific move for our program. HS players do all their “homework” and they realize that the competitive level of the CAA is at least a level up from America East and we are getting an increase in interest from top level players, from as far south as MD and VA and of course New England. However, our record of making 15 consecutive conference tournaments was broken last year, and we must prove we are competitive at this level and not “one year wonders.” We did prove to ourselves that we are able to compete at the upper end of the CAA with the ’06 team, and we have to develop a consistency that keeps us in the upper half of the conference. Our staff, players, and myself absolutely love playing against teams that are on the national level of college baseball.
5. The NCAA has implemented many new rules for college baseball for the 2008 season and the future. This season we see the implementation of the uniform start date. Do you think this is a good move for college baseball?
I believe the new rules were very much needed for the future of DI college baseball. The new start date and transfer rules were much needed, but I have reservations about the scholarship constrictions.
6. The NCAA has implemented many new rules for college baseball for the 2008 season and the future. This season we see the implementation of the uniform start date. Do you think this is a good move for college baseball?
Every school and program in the country is dealing with young men who are “coming of age” and we all face the issues that go with the adjustments they are making. Same problems, but different times, which does seem to compound what we face in coaching. However, I have said for many years that the college athletes of today are terrific young adults in general. Standing in the 3rd base coaching box gives me a chance to “know” a few other players and I am always impressed!! It keeps me “young!!”
8. Final question, who has been your biggest influence on your coaching philosophy or career?
Like coaches at my age and stage in careers, many people have influenced my coaching and handling of young men. My initial years in coaching at Newton South HS in Newton, MA affected me the most. The Athletic Director / Football Coach, George Winkler, was an excellent administrator and coach. He was very wise and got his messages across in like manner, to a very volatile new coach. And the Principals during my time there, were also at the very high end of their profession, who influenced everyone they came in contact with. And at Northeastern, our President Jack Curry when I arrived in 1986, , had great foresight and wisdom at the college level. And lastly, NU VP and University Counsel, Vin Lembo, has become one of my closest friends and advisers, and he is a “Baseball Addict!!” All Great people!!
The CBB would like to thank Neil for taking some time out of his schedule to answer a few questions for us. A special thanks goes out to Northeastern Media Relations staff member Jake Strickland who set up the interview.