All along, it felt almost inevitable that Thompson was going to end up being the choice, even as other qualified candidates interviewed for the position. He was among the first to interview for the job, he was the foremost name that came to mind for many when the job came open, and he had been arguably the most head coach-ready assistant in college baseball.
As we discussed last week when he interviewed for the job, he checks just about all the boxes that Athletic Director Jay Jacobs could possibly want checked for his next head coach. His experience as an assistant coach all over the SEC will serve him well, as will his ability to recruit and develop talent.
The one reasonable question mark about him is that he has never been a head coach before, but given that lack of experience, he’s stepping into a pretty good situation. Auburn has the talent to get into a regional as they did last season, which should help mitigate any risk of the program spinning its wheels while Thompson learns the ropes as a head coach in the toughest conference in the country.
An interesting side note to Thompson getting the job is the list of candidates that Jacobs and company reportedly interviewed for the opening.
We talked about Jack Leggett’s candidacy last week, and just for my own curiosity, I would have been interested to see how he would do at a different program after all that he accomplished at Clemson. Sure, his last few seasons there weren’t up to the expectations that he had set for the program, but it was easy to envision a scenario where, re-energized by the change of scenery, he would seamlessly lead Auburn to success.
Then again, I’m betting we’ll get the chance to see how he does in a new environment at some point. If Leggett is serious about getting back into the game, and it would appear that he is based on his interest in this opening, someone will bring him in. He’s just been too successful for too long to not get that opportunity.
Beyond that, Aaron Fitt of D1Baseball.com mentioned that Auburn interviewed Houston head coach Todd Whitting, Virginia assistant Karl Kuhn, and Florida State assistant Mike Martin, Jr.
Whitting showing at least a modicum of interest in this position shows you just how alluring head coaching jobs in the SEC are. He has a really good thing going at Houston, particularly with the recent upgrades to Cougar Field, the administration there has been aggressive in raising his pay to keep him, and few doubt that you can win big at UH, but the SEC is the SEC.
Kuhn’s candidacy makes a ton of sense in many of the same ways that Thompson’s did. He has a long history of success as a pitching guru at Virginia, and while he doesn’t have high-level coaching experience in the SEC, he is a Florida alum and he spent a combined ten years as an assistant at Charleston Southern and Arkansas-Little Rock, two programs fighting for recruits and wins right alongside SEC powers. He, too, is a mainstay on lists of assistants who are ready to be a head coach.
Mike Martin, Jr., though, was a bit of a surprise name, at least in my mind. For one, he would seem like a natural successor to his father as the head coach at FSU, and while “11” is still very successful and no one is calling for him to retire at this point, he isn’t going to be the head coach forever. Not only would it seem less than ideal for Mike Martin, Jr. to take a head coaching job at another program if he intends to take over at FSU sooner rather than later, but that wouldn’t seem like a situation that Auburn would be keen on signing up for either.
Certainly, these are names to file away for next offseason when other high-profile jobs come open, particularly Kuhn’s, as it seems like only a matter of time before he gets the call.
But right now it’s Butch Thompson’s time on The Plains, and from where I sit, it’s tough to argue against the hire.