FROM CBB NEWS SOURCE
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – After 23 seasons, the University of North Florida baseball team is under new direction as Raymond “Smoke” Laval officially becomes the head coach of the Ospreys. Laval replaces Hall of Fame head baseball coach Dusty Rhodes, who announced his retirement in August effective at the end of the 2010 season.
“Dusty laid a good foundation here,” stated Laval. “I am just going to try to add on to the foundation. As far as the baseball is concerned, I have to do the system that I have been taught. It has worked and it has been successful and I have been able to go to Regionals, Super Regionals and even to Omaha. I am not going to change that. My job is to try to get the team to believe in that part.
“It is the old cliché, winning breeds success,” Laval added. “You want to win, hang around winners. You want to catch the flu, hang around 10 people who have the flu. The blueprint is still the same whether it’s high school, junior college, NAIA, Division I or Division II. I know it can get done and I know it can get done here at UNF.
“We have broadened our recruiting area a bit. We are trying to get more physical. I was a part of ‘gorilla ball’ down at LSU, so I like to see guys that are a little bit bigger and stronger. I know the system works. If I can get the guys to believe in that system then, barring injury, we should be successful. You can’t judge us on the wins and losses initially. Judge us on whether we get better game-by-game, week-by-week. You can play good and win and good and lose or bad and win and bad and lose. I want to play good no matter what the outcome is and keep getting better each game.”
Laval is a 30-year college coaching veteran with 12 years of Division I experience as a head coach.
Laval served as LSU’s head baseball coach for five seasons (2002-2006). In five years at the helm of the LSU program, he guided the Tigers to two College World Series berths (2003 and 2004), two NCAA Super Regional titles, three NCAA Regional championships, one SEC title, two SEC division championships and two Top 10 finishes. Laval, the 2003 SEC Coach of the Year, finished his career at LSU with a 210-109-1 (.658) overall record and the highest winning percentage in SEC regular-season games. He coached two players to SEC Player of the Year accolades and had 23 players drafted by Major League clubs. Laval boasted a school-record 12 SEC Academic Honor Roll members in 2004 and in 2005.
Laval served seven seasons (1994-2000) as the head coach at the University of Louisiana-Monroe. Laval compiled a 241-159 (.603) mark as the head coach at ULM, guiding them to NCAA Regional appearances in 1995, 1999 and 2000. The 2000 club posted a 41-22 mark en route to the Southland Conference title, tying the ULM record for wins. Laval, the 1999 SLC Coach of the Year, also led ULM to the 1999 regular-season title and to the 1995 conference tournament crown. He was voted the 1995 Louisiana Coach of the Year by the Louisiana Sportswriters Association.
Laval began his coaching career in 1977 as an assistant at Jacksonville University before moving to Wolfson High School in Jacksonville as a baseball and football coach. He served as a graduate assistant at LSU in 1979 under former Tiger head coach Jack Lamabe before working two years as an assistant at Gulf Coast Community College in Panama City, Fla.
Laval served as an assistant coach at Florida for two seasons (1982-83) before returning to LSU to work under former coach Skip Bertman. Laval served as the assistant coach for the LSU Tigers from 1984-93 before leaving for ULM. As an assistant at LSU, helped guide the Tigers to two NCAA titles, six College World Series appearances and five SEC Championships. He returned to LSU in 2001 as an administrative assistant and took over for the retired Bertman the next season.
Laval holds a bachelor’s degree (1977) from Jacksonville in physical education and a master’s degree (1979) from LSU in administration. The McDonald, Pa., native played two seasons at Gulf Coast Community College, where he lettered as a catcher. He completed his playing career at JU, where he led the ninth-ranked Dolphins in hitting at the 1976 NCAA South Regional.
Laval and his wife, Pam, are the parents of two children, Brandon and Jamie.
The Smoke Laval File
Full Name: Raymond Peter Laval
Birthdate: December 20, 1955, in McDonald, Pa.
Wife: Former Pam Lewis of Reserve, La.
Children: Jamie and Brandon
1973: High School Diploma, South Fayette HS (McDonald, Pa.)
1977: Bachelor’s in Physical Education, Jacksonville
1979: Master’s in Administration, LSU
1970-73: Catcher, South Fayette High School
1974-75: Catcher, Gulf Coast Community College
1976-77: Catcher, Jacksonville
1977: Assistant Coach, Jacksonville
1978: Assistant Coach, Wolfson High School (Jacksonville, Fla.)
1979: Graduate Assistant Coach, LSU
1980-81: Assistant Coach, Gulf Coast Community College
1982-83: Assistant Coach, Florida
1984-93: Assistant Coach, LSU
1994-00: Head Coach, ULM
2001: Administrative Assistant, LSU
2002-06: Head Coach, LSU
2010: Associate Head Coach, North Florida
3 Conference Championships
ALL-TIME COACHING HONORS & CAREER HIGHLIGHTS
1995: Louisiana Sportswriters Association Coach of the Year
1999: Southland Conference Coach of the Year
2002: Louisiana Sportswriters Association Coach of the Year
2003: SEC Coach of the Year
2003: Louisiana Sportswriters Association Coach of the Year
2004: Louisiana Sportswriters Association Coach of the Year
2 NCAA College World Series Championships
8 NCAA College World Series appearances
17 NCAA Regional berths
10 Conference Championships