The College Baseball Blog continues our series of interviews with coaches around the nation today with Pittsburgh head coach Joe Jordano. He is entering his 13th year in charge of the Panthers program where he has an overall record of 328-292-2. Before taking over the Pittsburgh program, he coached Mercyhurst for ten seasons bringing them to an NCAA Regional on five occasions.
1. Pitt is coming off a 28-21 overall record while going 13-13 in Big East play. What are your expectations for the 2010 team?
I am pleased with where we are at this point. I very much liked how our fall segment and the effort produced by our club as it was very productive. Over the past 12 seasons, for the most part, we have been very consistent with our level of success. We have finished in the top half of the conference in most years and look forward to the challenge of competing for the big east championship this season as we did in 2005.
2. Chris Sedon departs the program after having one the best seasons in the history of the program. Who do you expect to fill his spot as the top hitter and leader on the Panthers during the 2010 season?
Chris was off-the-charts for us last season. It was certainly one of the most productive individual seasons that this program has ever had. You really can’t replace performances like that. We are going to have to spread that productivity out among a few players. I like our options at 2nd base and feel we will be fine; however, if Chris was a part of this lineup – it would be one of the best we have ever had. Even with his departure, I like our lineup.
3. Pitt loses only one of their starting pitchers from the 2009 team with Corey Baker and David Kaye returning. Who do you see filling the other spot in the rotation?
We have several options on the mound. Although we do not have a so-called power arm I believe we have a consistent staff. It is going to be interesting to see how the rotation evolves. We have some arms that pitched short innings last year that may transition into a starter role this year. It is our goal to have a solid rotation set by the start of big east play.
4. The Panthers last season saw six different pitchers record at least one save. Is the plan to continue with the “closer by committee” philosophy or to settle on one guy this season?
It is our philosophy to prepare each pitcher in the pre-season, with a few exceptions, as starters. Our objectives are the same for each pitcher once he toes the rubber. This gives us the opportunity to allow the staff to evolve as the season progresses. We are going to use all available arms on a given day. Our objective is for our starters to get us to or through the 7th. If our pen can be in 1-2 inning games, we have a shot.
5. Have any of the incoming freshmen impressed you during Fall Workouts? Do you expect any of them to break into the starting lineup/rotation this spring?
We had a solid class. I am certain that both on the mound as well as position players we will have some of our freshmen gaining valuable experience. We also have a few JC players that will definitely impact the lineup.
6. The Big East is getting stronger every year with the improvements to facilities and programs becoming fully funded. What team is going to be the biggest challenge to winning the 2010 Big East title?
I believe strongly that the big east is very much under-rated. For us, to have only one team in the tournament last year was simply wrong. From top to bottom, each weekend is a battle as there are no easy weekends. I believe, Villanova, Georgetown and us are the only teams not fully funded. The facilities are very solid and our teams have done a great job in NCAA play, including Louisville’s great run to Omaha two years ago. All of the coaches are fantastic and the teams play a very solid brand of baseball and play hard every weekend. I can only envision the league gaining more ground in the future. It is exciting to be apart of the big east conference.
7. During this past offseason, it was announced that the University of Pittsburgh was building a new athletic complex which includes a new baseball stadium. How important will this new facility be in making Pittsburgh a perennial power in the Big East Conference?
I cannot tell you how important this was, not only to our program, but for our soccer, softball and track programs as well. The Petersen sports complex will be one of the finest in the region. Coupling it with our other facilities, the University of Pittsburgh will be well-positioned against anyone.
Specifically for baseball, we will have a phenomenal complex. Nearly 1000 chairback seats, state-of-the art lighting, press box, scoreboard, field turf (with the exception of the mound), cages, heated dugouts, etc. This past fall signing period, we signed , arguably on paper, the most-talented group in my 12 years at Pitt. This signifies what will come in the future. Great days lie ahead of us.
8. We have now been through two seasons with the Uniform Start Date being in effect. What is your early opinion on the rule change?
I like the uniform start date. It is neat that we all have an opening weekend – similar to MLB – anticipation grows for opening day. Even though it is unlikely we will ever play an opening weekend at home, it puts all of us on the same page. The one flaw I see is the relatively short time to prepare as a team. The Feb. 1st practice start date puts some pressure, especially northern teams that are likely indoors, to get everything rolling in less than 3 weeks.
9. With the removal of the one-time transfer exemption that allowed student-athletes to change schools once without having to sit out a red-shirt year, do you feel that there is more pressure on a coach to recruit with responsibility or for the student-athlete to be aware of what programs are the best fit for them?
Both. It is critical that as a staff you target student-athletes that will be a good fit for your program. There is no questions that there are times when we make mistakes and/or a player makes a mistake or circumstances occur that warrants a change of schools; however, when we make a commitment to a young man, we fully expect to do everything in our power to make that decision one that neither of us will regret.
10. Final question, who has been your biggest influence on your coaching philosophy or career?
Early in my career it was Joe Cook, my legion coach, Guy Conti of the New York Mets and Dave Wallace with the Seattle Mariners. Joe taught me tenacity and hard work. Guy and Dave are two of the best pitching guys in all of baseball. I had the opportunity to shadow both of them in different baseball environments, and those lessons were invaluable – for that i will always be grateful to both of them.
More recently, my good friend Paul Mainieri of LSU. We became close when he did such a great job at Notre Dame and now creating the same magic at LSU. His guidance has been great.