The one burning question asked of college coaches each year: “What have you done for us lately?”
For Arizona State’s golf coach of 19 years, Randy Lein, the answer obviously wasn’t good enough to earn him a new contract.
Enter the man with the magic name in the game of golf: Tim Mickelson. The former ASU collegiate golfer and most recently the head coach at the University of San Diego is the brother of Phil, the man affectionately referred to in pro golf circles as ‘Lefty’.
Younger brother Tim was just announced as Lein’s replacement, following a hugely successful eight-year run at USD where he took that program from being a perennial also-ran to a top national contender. The Toreros have finished among the Top 20 teams in the nation each of the past three years and set a school record with five tournament victories during the 2009-10 season.
Mickelson has been named the West Coast Conference Coach of the Year four times.
There have been just 13 men’s coaches in the 80 years of the tradition-rich Sun Devil golf program and, since 1960, most have hung around for at least a decade. Bill Mann had a 13-year run beginning in 1961 and George Boutell took over the reins in 1975 and put in another 11 years. Steve Loy had it for five years in the mid-eighties and Todd Rolfes served as interim coach for one year when Loy left before the 1992 season.
But then Lein stepped in to become the longest-tenured head coach in ASU golf history.
The 2008 Golf Coaches Hall of Fame inductee led the Sun Devil program to 44 tournament victories, including the 1996 NCAA Championship and eight Pac-10 titles. And, like Mickelson’s accomplishment at USD, Lein also set the record for single-season tournament wins, with six in 1995-96.
His 18 NCAA Championship appearances in 19 seasons ties him with Florida for second in the nation behind Oklahoma.
But that was yesterday. The last half-dozen or so years haven’t been as kind.
Even though the Devils have been putting up pretty good finishes in the Pac-10, their success on the national stage has been stagnating.
This past season, the squad finished in ninth place in the conference and then went on to an 18th place nationally. That was a fall-off after reaching a tie for eighth the year before and a fifth-place tie in 2009.
But from 2004 through 2008, the program couldn’t break into the Top 10, fluctuating each year between 11th and 21st.
So late in June, ASU Vice President of Athletics Lisa Love announced that Lein’s contract would not be renewed. His going-away present was the usual accolades offered when someone has done a good job, but not good enough to keep his or her job.
“(Coach Lein) has been an incredible Sun Devil and we fully appreciate his efforts. We will not forget the work ethic, professionalism, and friendly manner that he brought to his position.” That’s the best it got in her comments.
Now Tim Mickelson will get his turn.
When he played for ASU, Mickelson put in just three years and then finished his collegiate career at Oregon State, where he finished second individually at the 2000 Pac-10 Championships and still holds numerous school records.
Love is undoubtedly expecting Mickelson to put in more than three years this time around. And, if you go by his schedule in San Diego, she is probably expecting results sooner rather than later. He took over an underachieving program with minimal talent and led the Toreros to a top-tier conference finish in his first year at the helm.
That kind of performance in Tempe would help ease the transition from a man who left behind really big spikes to fill.
(Photo: ASU Athletics)