So Cool In SoCal

Southern California leads the way in offseason coaching carousel

Jan. 17, 2008

By Douglas Kroll



Doug Kroll is an editor for, focusing on baseball.
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Every offseason brings change. With it come same faces in new places. And while it may take time to get used to seeing someone in a new uniform, eventually it becomes a standard.


For a couple of the nation's top programs, that's the case with their head coach as we head into 2008. Out with the old, and in with the new.


Some teams were looking for a change on the bench. Others certainly were not. But in the end, new hires were made as both players and fans get set for a new era.


While the Southern California coaching carousel was spinning wildly thanks to the domino effect caused by George Horton leaving Fullerton for Oregon, the SEC has two new faces also with head coaching jobs.


Each individual hire has its own intricacies and nuances, but here are the five that everyone should know about as opening day is merely a month away.


Cal State Fullerton

Out: George Horton (to Oregon)

In: Dave Serrano (from UC Irvine)


Fullerton's head coaching tree can be easily traced over the years.


First there was Auggie Garrido. The Texas coach left Fullerton twice during his 21-year tenure with the Titans. Once to coach at Illinois, and the last of course to head to Austin.


Waiting in the wings was George Horton, who picked up right where Garrido left off.


And now there's Dave Serrano.


Serrano is also very familiar with Fullerton. Not just because he coached against them while with UC Irvine the last couple of seasons, but because Serrano not only played there, he coached under Horton for eight seasons.


He takes over a program that he helped guide to four College World Series appearances and Fullerton's fourth national title in 2004. And after the remarkable run he led the Anteaters on in 2007, including a national coach of the year award, there's no telling where he may have the Titans.


But that will be tough considering the level at which Fullerton has been through the last several years. Much like Horton was asked to do, his real good friend Serrano is in a different position than he was when he took over UC Irvine.


The Titans are already a national power, and now it's his job to keep them there.


UC Irvine

Out: Dave Serrano (to Cal State Fullerton)

In: Mike Gillespie


Mike Gillespie left USC after the 2006 season after 20 incredible seasons. He won a national championship in 1998 and guided the Trojans to 15 NCAA Regional appearances.


And now he's back.


A little over a year after announcing his retirement, Gillespie takes over the Anteaters and now forms a family rivalry with son-in-law Chad Kreuter, who took over at USC after Gillespie's departure.


The 67-year old looks to continue building what Dave Serrano started, as he takes over a program that made it to its first ever College World Series in 2007.


He didn't actually retire, either, when he said he had from USC. Only a few months later, he took over the Staten Island Yankees (Single-A affiliate) and coached them this past summer.


The last time Gillespie took over a college program, he stepped in for the legendary Rod Dedeaux. If he passed that test with flying colors, he'll be just fine at Irvine.



Out: Pat McMahon (Fired)

In: Kevin O'Sullivan (from Clemson)


Time had run out in Gainesville for Pat McMahon. And boy, did it go quickly.


McMahon won coach of the year honors in 2005 after leading his Gators to the CWS Finals. But his final two years were nothing to write home about.


Florida finished each of the last two seasons under-.500, going 28-29 in 2006, followed by a 29-30 campaign a year ago. That's just not going to cut it for Athletic Director Jeremy Foley.


So in steps Kevin O'Sullivan, who had been Clemson head coach Jack Leggett's right-hand man for so many years. He's known as one of the top recruiters in the country, and what better place to do that work than in talent-rich Florida.


He should have Florida turned around in no time, especially since he's known for his prowess handling a pitching staff. Something that the Gators could use after posting a 5.27 team ERA in 2007.



Out: Rod Delmonico (Fired)

In: Todd Raleigh (from Western Carolina)


Many kept saying the writing was on the wall for Rod Delmonico all season long in Knoxville, while others didn't want to believe that a coach with 18 years under his belt with the same team would get that treatment.


In the end, he did.


Delmonico finished just one win shy of the 700 mark during his stay, but in the end it was consistency that did him in. And now it's one of the nation's brightest young coaches that takes over the reins.


Todd Raleigh went just 15-38 in his first season at Western Carolina in 2000, but he turned the Catamounts around.


Raleigh's clubs won two regular-season Southern Conference championships, one Southern Conference tournament title, turned in five top-three league finishes and made two NCAA Regional appearances - reaching the Regional final both times. He also was named the 2002 and 2007 Southern Conference Coach of the Year.


The talent is there for the Vols to start winning now. It's just a matter of putting it all together.



Out: Danny Price (Fired)
In: Turtle Thomas (from Arizona State)


Things weren't going to well in Miami for FIU and Danny Price. The Golden Panthers have struggled since last making a Regional appearance in 2002, but nonetheless, Price had been around as the head coach since 1980.


But then when looking at the fine print, the situation becomes a little clearer. FIU finished with the worst APR of any team in the nation in baseball, and of any FIU athletic program. This resulted in a loss of a full scholarship from the baseball program.


In steps one of the most well-known assistant coaches there has been in the last decade, Turtle Thomas. With stops along the way at Georgia Tech, LSU, Miami and Arizona State, that's about as good as a resume as one can make up.


It may take some time to build the Golden Panthers back up, but with Thomas knowing the Miami area well after serving as an assistant for Jim Morris in Coral Gables, the recruiting war may be set to begin in the coming years if Thomas is able to sell the program against one of the nation's premieres.

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