Another prominent name in the sports world has been added to the Grand Canyon University roster of head coaches.
The last ‘name’ hire in a major program was Russ Pennell, who was hired to take over the reins of the Antelope basketball program before the 2009 season.
Pennell was an assistant coach at Arizona State for nine years, but stepped on the celebrity stage when he took over the head coaching duties as interim coach when Lute Olson stepped down at the University of Arizona. He took that team to the Sweet 16 round of the NCAA Tournament.
Now GCU has picked another former coach from the Arizona State staff to lead its program. Andy Stankiewicz was an assistant coach for the Sun Devils from 2007-09 and helped lead them to three Pac-10 championships and two appearances in the College World Series.
But Stankiewicz earned his name recognition in the big leagues. He was drafted by the New York Yankees and played parts of seven years for the Yanks, the Houston Astros, and the Montreal Expos. Most recently, he was the minor league field coordinator for the Seattle Mariners.
As a star infielder at Pepperdine University, he is still ranked in the top 10 in a number of career categories at that school, including runs scored and stolen bases.
GCU fired its head coach on March 10, just 18 games into the season. Dave Stapleton, who played his college ball at the school and had been with the program for 17 years, was the head coach for the past 10 years.
Stapleton’s assistant coach, Ryan Bethel, took over as interim head coach and got off to a good start by winning five of his first six games. As March closed out and April began, the ‘Lopes were on a seven-game winning streak.
But then they hit a rough spot in the schedule and have dropped eight of the last 11 games. They are 21-23 and 16-16 in conference play going into the final series of the season, which begins Friday against Cal State East Bay.
Bethel, like Stapleton, has deep roots in the GCU baseball program. He played shortstop for the ‘Lopes from 2002-2005, was selected in the MLB draft by the Tampa Bay Devil Rays, and then was on staff at GCU for six years.
But this was Bethel’s first experience as a head coach. And baseball is one of the sports with greatest visibility at the Christian college in west Phoenix. The ‘Lopes don’t field a football team.
Stankiewicz, who is the fourth head baseball coach in program history, brings with him a resume that includes professional coaching. He was the manager for the New York Yankees’ NY-Penn League team in Staten Island, guiding that team to a league championship in 2005.
GCU is a Division II school, but has plans to move up to Division I in the near future. Having a coach with Stankiewicz’s pedigree and name recognition can only help when the recruiting becomes more intense as the program moves up.
But, in the meantime, it remains to be seen whether that will translate into wins at a D-II school.
(Photo: GCU Athletics/Tim Koors)