Tim Esmay ‘resigns’ as head baseball coach at ASU

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                </div>  It was the end of March in 2010 and Arizona State baseball was riding high.  The team had just drawn a sell-out crowd for each of its three weekend […]<!-- AddThis Sharing Buttons below -->
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It was the end of March in 2010 and Arizona State baseball was riding high.  The team had just drawn a sell-out crowd for each of its three weekend games against California – the first time all season.

The fans were coming out in droves because their Sun Devils were off to their best start in history, winning their first 24 games to break a record that was set by a Bobby Winkles team back in 1961, and were the No. 1-ranked team in the country.

Players were responding well to their interim head coach, Tim Esmay, who had been elevated to that position following the departure of Pat Murphy, who had resigned under a cloud of NCAA allegations.  An investigation was still underway that year, but Esmay and his players were working through it.

They finished the season with a 47-8 record in the regular season. won the Pac-10 Conference crown, went into the NCAA Tournament as the No. 1 seed, and advanced to the College World Series.

When that weekend in late March wrapped up, the players and coaches had dreams of a conference – and maybe even a national – title.  It was a great time for Esmay and his over-achieving Sun Devils.  The players liked playing under Esmay, whose relaxed style was a welcome departure from the more rigid Murphy.

Now that time seems like light-years ago, as Esmay just turned in his forced resignation after a string of mediocre seasons weren’t good enough for the school’s new athletic director, Ray Anderson.

That trip to the 2010 College World Series was the team’s last.  And that’s the barometer by which ASU baseball coaches are measured.  The decline since that season has been gradual, but consistent.

In June of 2010, the “interim” tag was removed from Esmay’s job title and he officially took the reins of one of college baseball’s most storied programs.   The next year, the team won 43 games, finished second in the conference, and advanced to the super regionals.

But that turned out to be the last hurrah, even though Esmay continued to win.  Thirty-win seasons aren’t accepted as an indicator of success at ASU.

The program finished 36-20 in 2012, but the team was banned from post-season play, the final lingering effects of the Pat Murphy mess.  The Devils posted a 37-22-1 mark the next year, and went 33-24 this past season.  They made it to the regionals each year, but no further.

Not good enough for a program that has every intention of getting back to its glory days.  It has been a long dry spell since the 1981 national championship, and it evidently didn’t appear to Anderson that the situation was going to change under Esmay.

“We want to see a culture that is going to reinvigorate and recapture the elite status that this Arizona State University program had back in the championship era,” said Anderson in addressing his expectations in a new head coach.  “That’s what we have promised and that is what we intend to deliver.”

ASU won five national titles during the “championship era” that Anderson referenced, from the mid-60’s into the late 80’s.

Looking ahead, Anderson says he is going to keep his options open when considering the new coaching candidates: “It’s going to be an exhaustive search.  Very frankly, it’s not going to be very limited.  We won’t necessarily be limited to looking at current collegiate coaches.  There are some great coaches and potential coaches, in a variety of places, including Major League Baseball and the minor leagues.

“We think this is one of the top four or five elite programs and destinations for college baseball, and we anticipate very sincere and aggressive interest in this position.”

Tim Esmay, too, felt that way about the ASU program when he was given the job.  He called it his “dream job.”

The next guy will likely refer to it as his dream job as well.  They all do, it seems.

But there is one thing that makes the job special for the coach that replaces Esmay.  He will be coming in on the ground floor of a new tradition as the Sun Devils make the move to Phoenix Municipal Stadium next season, beginning a new era after spending almost 40 years calling Packard Stadium their home on campus.  Packard is being razed for future development (4/14/13 phxfan article).

ASU has a 25-year arrangement to use Phoenix Muni.  But their next head coach, who will become the fifth in school history, may, or may not, be around that long.

That will depend on his ability to breathe new life into a proud program that wants to return to the good ol’ days.

(Photo: ASU Athletics)