If you needed any more evidence that Sam Houston State is an up and coming college baseball program, just look at the type of coaches that were interested in their head coach opening after David Pierce left to take the job at Tulane.
There was a little bit of everything. You had blue chip assistant coaches at big programs, experienced head coaches, up and coming, hotshot assistant coaches, and even major league scouts. There were no token names or weak names on the list of candidates. Each is currently or will soon have their chance at being a head coach.
From the start, though, Matt Deggs stood out among the candidates. Other than Mike Taylor, his experience was far and away the most impressive and he seemed the most ready to take over a program immediately. But if I’m being honest, I had a feeling Taylor wasn’t one of the more serious candidates, and that turned out to be the case as he was not among the four finalists SHSU named for the position.
There just wasn’t much else Deggs could prove as an assistant coach.
From 2003 to 2005, he was the hitting coach and recruiting coordinator under Dave Van Horn at Arkansas. With him on staff, the Razorbacks made it to Omaha in 2004 and raised their team average 25 points between the year before he came on staff and his last year on staff.
From there, Deggs moved on to Texas A&M, where he was the team’s associate head coach under Rob Childress from 2006 to 2011. During his time in College Station, Deggs ran the Aggie offense (including coaching third base) and continued to recruit at a high level. In his six seasons, he coached two Big 12 Players of the Year, nine All-Americans, and 15 All-Big 12 first team players. In 2007 and 2008, he helped lead the Aggies to Big 12 championships.
His stint at A&M put him on the short list of assistant coaches on the fast track to being head coaches, but he also gained his fair share of detractors during those six seasons. Deggs is known for an aggressive style of offense that puts pressure on the defense and forces action. When that works out, it’s fun to watch and makes you look like a genius. But when it doesn’t, it can make you look silly and you immediately become public enemy number one, whether the criticism is warranted or not.
When Deggs hastily left the A&M coaching staff after the 2011 season, his aggressive style and his proclivity for running a tight ship were floated as reasons why. The public reason for his departure was that he wanted to spend more time with his family, but when he took a position with Louisiana-Lafayette later that offseason, it cast some doubt on that as the real reason.
But any lingering doubts that situation might have brought upon Deggs’ credentials have dissipated now after his stint at ULL, and rightfully so. His three years with the Ragin’ Cajuns have been incredibly successful. His role on the staff was very similar to the one he held at A&M and he has had similar results. The team improved in each of the three seasons he was on staff, culminating in a 2014 season when the team won 58 games, earned a top-eight national seed in the NCAA tournament, and advanced to the super regionals before falling to Ole Miss.
The beat goes on for SHSU. They continue to be an attractive program for big-name assistant coaches. David Pierce fit that profile when he left Rice for the job and Deggs does as well. Sure, there’s a chance that Deggs leaves for a bigger program after a handful of years, but if he continues to grow the program like Pierce did in his tenure as head coach, I think the Bearkat faithful would take that.