The Texas Longhorns baseball program has only been coached by three men since 1940 -- Bibb Falk, Cliff Gustafson, and of course, Augie Garrido, who relinquished his duties on Monday. These three coaches have 35 College World Series appearances between them, and six national championships.
A job opening at the University of Texas truly comes once in a lifetime, but is the position still prestigious enough to sway top coaches? The competition in the Big 12 is surpassed by the ACC and even the SEC, and some potential job candidates may not want to leave their cozy, winning environment to take on a pressure-filled project in a struggling Longhorns team.
And the coaching search may be long and drawn out since the next Texas head coach's current team was likely selected to the NCAA Tournament at the same time the Longhorns announced Garrido's reassignment. In fact, two serious contenders for the job, Dan McDonnell of Louisville and Kevin O'Sullivan of Florida, both coach teams in the top five in the nation. They are going to be focused on a deep run in the College World Series before they even think of heading to Austin.
Though Augie's replacement may not be confirmed for as long as a month from now, we think we have the shortlist down. The Austin American Statesman released a list of job candidates, and their top five was the same names the Burnt Orange writers had come up with. Here's the list, which UCLA coach John Savage unfortunately did not make (no Strong, Smart, and Savage t-shirts will be made):
Kevin O'Sullivan, Florida
Kevin O'Sullivan wasn't an obvious choice for the Longhorns, but rumors have recently circulated that he has emerged as a top candidate for the Texas job. The Florida coach doesn't have ties with Texas, but he does appear to have interest. O'Sullivan has only coached at one school in his career, but he has guided the Gators to remarkable success.
After missing the NCAA tournament in 2006 and 2007, Florida hired O'Sullivan to be the answer and he has never missed the tournament in his nine years since. He hasn't won a championship, but his Gators have been to three College World Series, including a national runner-up finish in 2011. His team is the top overall seed in this season's tournament.
Before Florida, O'Sullivan was a highly regarded pitching coach and recruiting coordinator for Clemson under Jack Leggett. Both pitching and recruiting are a key concern for the Longhorns, so Texas may be a perfect fit.
O'Sullivan was a key candidate for the Clemson job last year, but ultimately Florida athletic director Jeremy Foley was able to keep his head coach. We'll see if Foley can persuade O'Sullivan to stay in Gainesville for another season.
Jim Schlossnagle, TCU
Strong, Smart, and Schlossnagle doesn't exactly have a ring to it, but the current TCU coach has long been someone Texas fans have wanted in burnt orange. Jim Schlossnagle's first head coaching gig was at UNLV in 2002 and 2003, where he won the Mountain West regular season and conference tournament in only his second year.
He then went on to his current position with the Horned Frogs starting with the 2004 season. In his first year at TCU, he broke the school record for wins with 39. Only in one year since (2013) has Schlossnagle won less than 39 games. Though TCU had a down year in 2013, Schlossnagle coached the USA Collegiate National Team that Summer, and led them to a 20-3 record.
As a former pitcher and pitching coach, Schlossnagle could help make Texas baseball a powerhouse on the mound once again. Schlossnagle coached Chicago Cubs star pitcher Jake Arrieta, and top Reds prospect Brandon Finnegan. In total, the Horned Frogs have had four pitchers drafted in the first three rounds of the MLB draft in the last two seasons, while the Longhorns have had none.
Schlossnagle's contract is through 2020, but maybe he feels like his work is done after becoming the winningest coach in TCU history this year. He is currently one of college baseball's highest paid coaches, but he would certainly be in line for a raise at Texas. Schlossnagle's base salary at TCU is $375,000, compared to Augie Garrido's $510,000 base salary and $1.04 million in total earnings. At only 45 years old, Jim Schlossnagle would hopefully be in line for a long, successful tenure. Here's to wishing he is ready to transform from a Horned Frog to a ‘Horn.
Dan Heefner, Dallas Baptist
Dan Heefner coaches by far the smallest school of all potential Texas job candidates, but his resume is perhaps the most impressive. He's been the head coach at Dallas Baptist since 2008 and led the Patriots to their first-ever tournament appearance in his first season. Last year, Dallas Baptist was a 1 seed in the NCAA tournament for the first time in their history. They even beat Texas in the tournament, but did not advance to the Super Regionals. In the tournament again as a two seed, the Patriots are in the midst of another successful year.
Heefner focuses much more on offensive production than Garrido. This season, Dallas Baptist has five players averaging over .300, and 56 home runs. The team is also aggressive on the base paths, stealing more than even a speedy Longhorns team (74 vs. 62 in attempts last year).
Under Heefner, Dallas Baptist built a new 2,000-seat stadium in 2013, and moved to the Missouri Valley Conference from the Western Athletic Conference in 2014. The Patriot baseball team is obviously highly valued by a school with only 3,450 undergraduates. It's the only Division 1 program at Dallas Baptist, so the school would hate to let their head coach go.
Baylor reportedly tried to sway Heefner to coach the Bears last year, but Heefner declined. In total, Heefner has been with the Patriots for 11 years as a coach -- more than a fourth of his 38-year-old life. However, if Heefner comes to Austin, the Longhorns would be invigorated by the youth of a passionate coach less than half of Augie Garrido's age.
David Pierce, Tulane
David Pierce's first coaching job was as the head of Dobie High School in Houston. The school's colors are burnt orange and white, and their mascot is the Longhorn. Pierce began coaching Dobie in 1996, the same year Augie Garrido took over the University of Texas. It could be fate that Pierce once again coaches a Longhorn team.
In fact, it seems like Pierce has coached everywhere in Texas, except Texas. He has been an assistant at Houston and at Rice (under the legendary Wayne Graham), and got his first head coaching gig at Sam Houston State. Pierce left the Bearkats for Tulane two years ago, but maybe he is longing to be in the Lone Star State once again.
Pierce hasn't had to rebuild either Sam Houston State or Tulane, but he has been a winner at both schools. The 53-year-old has made the NCAA tournament in all five of his seasons as a head coach. His Green Wave is 39-19 so far this season, and is the second seed in the Oxford region of the 2016 tourney. Oddly enough, Pierce's best player is University of Texas transfer catcher Jeremy Montalbano.
Tulane faced off against Texas this season in Austin, and Pierce's team beat the Longhorns in two of three games.
Dan McDonnell, Louisville
The city of Louisville may forever have a vendetta against Austin if the Longhorns again steal a Cardinal coach. It's payback for the "Keep Louisville Weird" slogan that was a direct ripoff of Austin.
McDonnell has developed the Louisville program even better than Charlie Strong did for football. In 2015, McDonnell's Louisville team made history for being the No. 3 overall seed in the tournament, the best ever for the school. This year, they topped it by being the No. 2 overall seed.
All in all, McDonnell took a team that wasn't a traditional powerhouse and made it one. Louisville had only two NCAA tournament appearances in history before McDonnell took over. It was his first head coaching job, and he has only missed the NCAA tournament once in his ten years. He has also taken UofL to the College World Series three times, and seamlessly transitioned his team from the American Athletic Conference to the significantly stronger ACC.
McDonnell doesn't have any known personal connections to Texas, so his move would be based largely on prestige alone. His paycheck may not significantly increase at Texas, as UofL athletic director Tom Jurich will do everything he can to keep the coach in town. Jurich recently told Louisville's Courier-Journal that he "will go down fighting" to keep McDonnell from leaving.
These five top candidates all have such incredible resumes that it's hard to even gauge who would be the top guy on Mike Perrin's list. How do you compare Dan Heefner and Kevin O'Sullivan? O'Sullivan righted the ship of an already top program, but Heefner made an invisible school relevant.
All five of these young coaches are in the NCAA Tournament, and all are in nearly perfect situations. Whether their campuses are small or large, they are revered by their schools and would be a great fit at Texas. The question, however, remains: would we be a good fit for them? Will top coaches be fighting for the Texas job, or will Mike Perrin have to fight to land one? Texas will surely land a great new skipper, but it's unknown if the program still shines bright enough to have its pick of anyone.