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David Pierce explains reasoning behind Texas staff changes

The Longhorns head coach now has three new assistants after two departures and a reassignment.

Syndication: The Corpus Christi Caller Times Annie Rice/Caller-Times / USA TODAY NETWORK

Texas Longhorns head coach David Pierce hoped that two longtime assistants — Sean Allen and Philip Miller — would combine with volunteer assistant Troy Tulowitzki to help the Longhorns win their first national title since 2005 with a loaded 2022 team.

In losing both games in Omaha, Texas fell well short of that goal and within 24 hours, Pierce began to make changes, parting ways with Allen after 11 seasons. Shortly thereafter, Tulowitzki stepped away and Miller was reassigned, setting up one of the most crucial periods in Pierce’s seven years on the Forty Acres.

Last week, Pierce officially announced his new staff with former Baylor head coach Steve Rodriguez serving as the hitting coach, infield coach, and recruiting coordinator, former San Jacinto volunteer assistant Woody Williams serving as the pitching coach, and former coordinator of hitting and pitching development Caleb Longley coaching the outfielders and catchers. Meanwhile, Miller is transitioning into a role as the special assistant to the head coach.

In an appearance on 104.9 The Horn, Pierce detailed publicly for the first time why he dismissed Allen and reassigned Miller, two assistants who had been on his staff since his first head coaching job at Sam Houston State more than a decade ago, and discussed the new additions to his staff.

The first decision Pierce made was to dismiss Allen, the pitching coach since Tulowitzki’s addition in 2019, after what Pierce termed a philosophical separation between the two when it came to decision making.

“It’s nothing more than that — there was never any one incident that happened and it was difficult to get off the plane Monday coming back from Omaha,” Pierce said. “In my role you have to make tough decisions and I just felt like I have to make the best decisions for the University of Texas baseball no matter what and that’s what we did.”

For Pierce, it wasn’t a decision that he made lightly or quickly.

“It’s not something where you just wake up and go, ‘I’m gonna let somebody go today,’ because it affects more than just that person that day. It affects everything and it’s a tough thing. It’s a tough decision. It really is. But I have to look at it from a perspective that what I truly feel is the best thing for our program,” Pierce said.

Allen recently joined the Ohio State coaching staff.

While acknowledging that not having Tulowitzki on staff will be a tremendous loss for the program, Pierce also shared some details on his departure.

Before Texas left for Omaha following the Greenville Super Regional, Tulowitzki went into Pierce’s office admitting to the mental impact of USC contacting him about their open head coaching position. “My head’s messed up,” Tulowitzki told Pierce, who advised his assistant to finish the season and then interview for the job. After being offered the role of rebuilding the one of the most storied programs in college baseball, Tulowitzki decided it wasn’t the right timing for him and for his family.

Moving straight into coaching after retiring likely played a role in Tulowitzki’s decision to spend more time with his family while serving as a consultant and assessing the next step in his coaching career. And Pierce said that Tulowitzki will still spend time around the program until determining that next step — he is, after all, a baseball junkie now based in Austin, and still in good standing with Pierce.

“He’ll be around our program,” Pierce said. “He left on a very, very positive note and has been such a contributor and will continue to be a part of our program in a different way, just being there for us.”

Miller, who previously worked with the outfielders and catchers, as well as assisting with hitters and recruiting, is moving into a newly-created position similar to the one on Texas head football coach Steve Sarkisian’s staff held by former TCU head coach Gary Patterson.

“This new role is is actually a kind of a cutting-edge role for us — it’s a special assistant and kind of my right-hand person,” Pierce said. “You see that in basketball, you see it in football, and just the way our sport is growing and our staff is growing, there’s more and more to do behind the scenes in the inner works of the office, in so many things with recruiting and recruiting trips, unofficial, official, how we’ve expanded the scouting reports, so there’s so much to do.”

Pierce cited Miller’s versatility as someone who can throw batting practice, hit fungo, and help in recruiting as reasons why it made sense to get a head start on staff expansion with the move to the SEC looming in several years.

A former standout at Pepperdine who reached the major leagues as a player, Rodriguez is someone Pierce has known since he was the head coach of the Waves. After establishing a California pipeline in recruiting over recent years, the connections that Rodriguez has in the state were appealing to Pierce, in addition to the networking Rodriguez has done in Texas since taking over the Baylor program in 2016.

“This is an experienced guy that gives you another set of eyes on the bench, that gives you another set of eyes, of not necessarily a new set of eyes, but bringing another piece to our foundation, our philosophy, does a great job with infield play, not only teaching how to field it and throw it, but the combination of working with pitchers and infielders in the middle of holding runners. He just brings this overall baseball mind,” Pierce said.

As Rodriguez transitions back into an assistant role for the first time since 2003, Pierce feels confident about the commitment the longtime head coach is bringing to the Longhorns.

“Coach is a guy that’s going to bring a lot of energy, enthusiasm, and I think he’s excited — I don’t think he’s looking for his next head job — I think he’s excited about coming here and trying to win a national championship,” Pierce said.

Like Rodriguez, Pierce has a longstanding relationship with Williams dating back 30 years. Williams moved into coaching after his 15-year Major League career as a pitcher ended and regularly faced off against Texas in fall baseball while serving as the pitching coach at San Jacinto. An avid note taker, Pierce’s respect for Williams deepened during those matchups.

“I’ve noticed over the last few years playing in our fall games when San Jac has came over... this is one of the best baseball minds in the country. And I don’t mean in college baseball, professional baseball, junior college, one of the best baseball minds in the country,” Pierce said.

A shortstop who converted to pitcher while playing at Houston, Williams has an understanding of both sides of the ball beyond simply knowing how to get hitters out or how to attack them, but Pierce also believes that both new paid assistants are more than just good baseball minds.

“With he and Rod, you think of just the baseball piece, but if I’m a family and I’m going to send my son to a program to be mentored and to be coached by certain men, these guys are off the charts and Woody is just a great human being that’s going to be tremendous with our players and gonna be tremendous with just our development,” Pierce said.