It’s fair to say that it’s been a tough couple of weeks for Sam Houston State. First, they played pretty well in the Ft. Worth regional, but were ultimately left thinking about what might have been after that marathon 22-inning game on Saturday against TCU. Had they won that game, and there were a couple of calls that easily could have been made to make that a reality, that regional would have gotten really interesting. Instead, they were sent packing the next day.
Just days after that disappointment, they learned that their head coach, David Pierce, was leaving to become the head coach at Tulane. As if that wasn’t enough, Pierce’s top assistant Sean Allen, who many assumed would be the top candidate for the job, declined to interview for the position and followed Pierce to New Orleans.
So now the Bearkats are looking for a coach from scratch. Based on various reports across college baseball, including those of Kendall Rogers of Perfect Game, it appears that three primary candidates have emerged. More candidates could be named in the coming days, but let’s break down the three names being discussed.
Matt Deggs- Louisiana-Lafeyette assistant coach
Deggs’ name has attracted some attention lately because he is the hitting coach for a team that hit 68 home runs and had an OPS of over .900 in 2014. And there’s something to that. Whether it’s his coaching or that the program is just bringing in better players, there’s no doubting that the offense has grown leaps and bounds in the time Deggs has been on the staff.
But what he did before that is just as important. From 2006-2011, he was an assistant on Rob Childress’ staff at Texas A&M. Although his style was somewhat grating to some of the Aggie faithful, and it’s worth noting that many in Aggieland weren’t disappointed that he stepped away from the A&M coaching staff after 2011, he was known for an aggressive style of offense that created a lot of action. During his time in College Station, Deggs coached two Big 12 Players of the Year, nine All-Americans, and 15 All-Big 12 First Team players. Since his departure the A&M offense hasn’t quite been the same.
And prior to that, he was the hitting coach and recruiting coordinator for Dave Van Horn at Arkansas. Before that, he was the head coach at Texarkana Junior College.
The one concern with Deggs is that he hasn’t been a head coach at the DI level before. He was a head coach at the JUCO level and has been a top assistant at some huge college programs, but there are things that go with being a head coach that you just can’t simulate until you are in that position yourself. How well he deals with those things will have a lot to do with how successful he is.
Deggs has been waiting for the call to run his own program for several years now, and this job might be his chance.
Reggie Christiansen- Sacramento State head coach
Christiansen’s name has popped up on the strength of the season his Sacramento State Hornets had in 2014. His team won the WAC tournament, won a game as a four seed in the San Luis Obispo regional (against historical college baseball power Arizona State, no less), and finished with a fantastic 40-24 record.
But the Hornets are no overnight success. Christiansen has done a great job of building the program from the ground up. Since taking over, his teams have posted records of 19-39, 31-28, and 34-25, leading up to their 40-win 2014 season. SHSU also certainly has to like his ability to recruit talented players in the shadow of much larger, and more successful, programs in the state of California. That’s something that the Bearkats have to deal with as well in Texas.
The drawbacks with Christiansen are easy to spot, however. For starters, his track record of success isn’t lengthy. Yes, he has done a great job of building up the Sacramento State program, but the 2014 season is the only season that he has led a team to the NCAA Tournament. He also doesn’t have any real experience recruiting Texas. He has been a head coach at Sacramento State and South Dakota State and he has been an assistant at Kansas. Not a ton of Texas recruiting in those programs. A third concern is that he has proven he can build up a program, but can he sustain a program at a high level? That’s where SHSU is as a program now and it’s a different animal for a head coach.
If the Hornets continue to take steps forward under Christiansen, he’ll have his own program in due time. I just can’t help but feel like this job isn’t the one for him.
Scott Malone- Texas A&M- Corpus Christi head coach
The Bearkats missed out on the candidate that would have the most intimate knowledge of the program in former assistant coach Sean Allen, but in Malone, they would have the next-best thing. For the last seven seasons, he has been the head coach at Texas A&M- Corpus Christi, a conference foe of SHSU.
Like Christiansen at Sacramento State, Malone has slowly been building his program. The Islanders have won 30 or more games three of the last four seasons and they have methodically made their way up the Southland Conference standings under his watchful eye. The program is just on the cusp of its first trip to the NCAA Tournament.
Prior to coming to Corpus, he was an assistant to Buddy Gouldsmith at UNLV. There, he helped the team to a regular season Mountain West Conference championship in 2005. And before that, he had stints as an assistant coach at both UT- San Antonio and UT-Arlington, two other SLC teams.
Malone won’t get people excited the way Deggs likely will, but he is a solid low-risk option. He knows the conference, he knows the recruiting landscape, he has good head coaching experience, and with his time at UNLV, he has also tasted some success on a national level.
As a program that simply needs to continue the success on top of the foundation laid by Pierce and Mark Johnson before him, low-risk might be the way to go.