Southern California announced last Monday that they fired head coach Chad Kreuter and kept on assistant coach Frank Cruz who will serve as the head coach for the 2011 season. (FULL ARTICLE) USC athletic director Pat Haden stated that the university will do a full search for a head coach after the 2011 season due to the timing of the move. This past season, USC finished with a 28-32 overall record and finished in last place in the Pac-10 with a 7-20 record. The Trojans haven’t appeared in the NCAA Tournament since the 2005 season and last participated in the College World Series in 2001. Here are the top five candidates that I would go after if I was the athletic director.
George Horton (Oregon)
George Horton has a career record of 54-66 at Oregon in two seasons as the school reinstated the sport for the 2009 season. He coached the previous eleven seasons in charge of the Cal-State Fullerton program where he went 490-212-1 with six College World Series appearances including the 2004 National Championship.
Coach Horton has been able to bring up the Oregon program from nothing into being a respectable program as they finished last season second in the 2010 Norwich Regional even though his team struggled at the plate with a team batting average of .292 but the team made up for it on the mound with a team ERA of 3.29.
Chances: I think that the USC job is Coach Horton’s if he wants it but that is a huge if as Oregon made him one of the highest paid coaches in the nation to make him leave Cal-State Fullerton a few years ago.
Dave Serrano (Cal-State Fullerton)
Dave Serrano just finished his third season in charge of the Cal-State Fullerton baseball program where he has a record of 134-56 where he led the Titans to a Super Regional appearance in each season while making it to Omaha in 2009. He came over to Fullerton from UC-Irvine where he led the Anteaters to a CWS appearance in 2007. Including his stop at UC-Irvine, he has a career record of 248-122-1 record.
Dave Serrano is considered one of the top pitching coaches in the entire nation as he spent the summer of 2010 with the USA Collegiate National Team serving as the pitching coach. He helped lead the team to a 16-3 record while having the pitchers hold opponents to a 1.22 ERA including five shutouts.
Chances: I believe Dave Serrano would be an excellent second choice for the Trojans. He is already settled in Southern California being the head coach at Cal-State Fullerton and UC-Irvine for the past five seasons. He also has many connections to high school coaches in the area with his experience as Coach Horton’s pitching coach for eight seasons in the late 1990’s and early 2000’s in addition to his head coaching experience.
Brian O’Connor (Virginia)
Brian O’Connor is currently the head coach of the Virginia baseball program where he has led the Cavaliers to the NCAA Tourney in each of the past seven seasons including appearing in the College World Series in 2009. He has a career record of 316-118-1 (.728) and a 126-71-1 ACC record in his eight seasons in charge of the Virginia program. Before coming to Virginia, he served as an assistant coach under current LSU head coach Paul Mainieri at Notre Dame where he helped bring the Fighting Irish to the College World Series in 2002.
Brian is considered one of the top coaches in the entire nation and has turned one of the weakest ACC programs into one of the best in the country. Before O’Connor came to Virginia, there was talk about dropping the program due to lack of interest as they played second fiddle to the more prestigious lacrosse program.
Chances: Honestly, I think O’Connor is a much better candidate then both Dave Serrano and George Horton but the real question is whether O’Connor would leave Virginia for USC. Right now, Virginia baseball is still second at the university to the lacrosse program but is growing yearly. The nice weather in Southern California could also help the Trojans plus O’Connor has been able to recruit everywhere he has been including at tough academic intuitions at Virginia and Notre Dame.
Mike Batesole (Fresno State)
Mike Batesole completed his eighth season with the Fresno State Bulldogs as they went 38-25 this past year with an appearance in the WAC Championship game narrowly missing out on an NCAA bid. He has a career record of 580-401-1 which includes his eight seasons as the Fresno State coach and his previous coaching stop at Cal-State Northridge.
Batesole is known for leading the Bulldogs to the 2008 College World Series title after being a four seed in the NCAA Regionals and dealing with multiple injuries to his pitching staff.
Chances: I have him as the fourth choice behind Horton, Serrano and Brian O’Connor and think he would do an excellent job with the Trojans if given the chance.
Rich Hill (San Diego)
Rich Hill recently completed his 22nd season as a college head coach and his 12th season in charge of the San Diego Toreros. He has a record of 419-283-3 during his 12 seasons in San Diego while having a career record of 752-503 including stops with Cal-Lutheran and San Francisco. The most interesting stat is that he has had a winning season in 20 out of the 22 seasons as a college head coach.
He has had an impressive run at San Diego but has slacked off the last two seasons with a 66-47 record since he lost the two headed monster of Brian Matusz and Josh Romanski who led the pitching staff for three seasons.
Chances: Coach Hill would fit well into USC system as he has served as a head coach at three private institutions in the past and has been able to have success. This is a major plus for Hill’s candidacy with the NCAA violations by the USC Football and Men’s Basketball program over the last couple of seasons. Even with that, he is clearly a step or two behind Serrano and Horton in the pecking order though.