Former Kent State skipper Scott Stricklin was confirmed as Georgia’s new baseball coach. The case for Stricklin seems to come down to three big selling points:
- He’s made Kent a fairly regular participant in the postseason, building a successful small program in the neighborhood of some larger schools.
- He’s used to providing an environment of academic success, and that should be a strong cultural fit at Georgia.
- The Tech ties might bother some Georgia fans, but let’s give credit where it’s due: Tech knows how to recruit Atlanta, and Stricklin was a big part of that as their recruiting coordinator. Getting an accomplished coach who knows his way around East Cobb and the other youth baseball hotspots is a big plus.
Stricklin is still a risk in terms of major program experience, but he’s no less risky than a top assistant with no head coaching experience. It goes without saying that a coach’s success depends on hiring a solid staff, managing the game, and developing players, but Stricklin has two additional key factors for success. The first is recruiting. There’a a reason why Georgia is considered a top 10 job. Playing in the SEC is part of it, but the amount of home-grown talent makes some very lofty goals achievable.
As little as most of us know about the college baseball coaching scene, I tend to put more stock into what others are saying. I haven’t read much negative about the hire, and a lot of the reaction has been positive to gushing:
“Scott Stricklin is a tremendous hire for the University of Georgia; he is a guy who has had a lot of success as a head coach, taking Kent State to the College World Series and perennially has had one of the best and most talented teams in the Midwest,” said Baseball America executive editor Jim Callis. “He’s got a background coaching in Georgia and in the SEC at Vanderbilt. As a Georgia alum, I was thrilled by the hire as well.”
Mark Fox has announced the promotion of former Bulldog starter Jonas Hayes to assistant coach. Hayes had been serving in an administrative role as Basketball Operations Coordinator, and the departure of Kwanza Johnson for TCU opened up a vacancy.
I have a soft spot for Jonas – not only was he part of some very entertaining teams a decade ago, he also posted his career high of 25 points in that 2004 upset of Tech in Athens, one of the most enjoyable Georgia basketball games I’ve attended. He’s a blank slate though as a coach, and a lot will be expected of him. Fair or not, this opening was a chance for Fox to improve the program’s lackluster recruiting, and he chose an internal promotion. Fox needs to sustain and accelerate the improvement we saw at the end of last season, and he is putting a lot on the line at a moment when his program could benefit from the shot in the arm that comes with a new assistant.
Kwanza Johnson wasn’t an especially strong recruiter of southeastern prospects. Most of his experience was further west. That helped with a player like Cameron Forte, but it didn’t do much to stop the exodus of talent from the state of Georgia. Hayes doesn’t have a strong recruiting resume yet – this is his first major college coaching gig – but hopefully the native Atlantan will help Georgia’s standing among local prospects.
One area where Johnson was strong was as a post coach. Georgia hasn’t had tremendous frontcourts, but with the exception of Thompkins, there hasn’t been a ton of talent to develop. It’s fair to say that Johnson helped Georgia get more with less up front. His departure leaves a need on the coaching staff, and Jonas Hayes will likely have a role continuing the development of the post players.
Fox isn’t done – Hayes’ promotion opens up an administrative position. Will Fox look to another former player, someone from his past, or will he explore the high school and AAU ranks to strengthen the program’s local relationships?