One thing you have to respect about the new Arizona State athletic director… he has no trouble making major decisions.
And he doesn’t waste any time doing it.
Ray Anderson, who was introduced as ASU’s new Vice President for University Athletics in January, just pulled the trigger on his second major coaching hire. Anderson announced yesterday that Tracy Smith has been hired to fill the vacancy left by the resignation of Tim Esmay (see 6/10/14 phxfan article) and will be formally introduced at a Thursday press conference.
His first hire after assuming his new post was Zeke Jones, who replaced Shawn Charles as the new head coach for the wrestling program. That took one week following Charles’ resignation.
The decision to put Smith in charge of the storied Sun Devils baseball program took two weeks.
Anderson’s apparent decision-making aptitude probably comes from his background as a sports agent and, most recently, as executive vice president for football operations at the NFL. More a corporate man than a product of academia, he has no doubt been faced with making important decisions his entire career.
Only time will tell how well these two work out. But Jones, a former Olympian and huge presence in the sport, seems to be a safe bet. And Smith’s hire could also be seen as something akin to a no-brainer.
The 48-year-old former college and professional player is a national Coach of the Year and two-time Big Ten Coach of the Year.
He has spent 18 years as a college head coach, split evenly between Miami of Ohio (his alma mater) and most recently Indiana University, where he took that program to heights it has never been. Under his guidance, the Hoosiers won consecutive Big Ten conference titles for the first time in school history. The 2013 regular-season championship was the first since 1949 and the trip to the College World Series that year was the school’s only appearance in the CWS.
Last year, Indiana’s 21 conference wins were the most in program history.
The guy’s on a roll, and ASU is jumping on the bandwagon at the right time.
And he was also successful at Miami, where he was a pitcher and infielder during his college career, posting eight 30-win seasons during his nine years as head coach there. The RedHawks made two NCAA regional appearances and advanced to the Mid-American Conference tournament finals six times.
The college game is where Smith built his reputation, but he also played three seasons in the minor leagues, with the Chicago Cubs organization.
He’s recognized as one of the better coaches when it comes to evaluating and developing talent. In his 18 years as head coach, 54 of his players have been selected in the MLB draft. Last year, four of his players at Indiana were named All-Americans – the most in one season in program history.
But the deciding factor for the ASU administration in this hire might have been Smith’s skills off the field. He is a proven fund-raiser, having been involved in major building projects and facilities upgrades at both Miami and Indiana.
And that’s the kind of track record that really gets the attention of today’s college administrators.