If Wells Doesn't Stay

College Baseball is getting national attention from televised super regional series' on ESPN and a job opening at one of the most famous college baseball institutions in the land have a lot of people buzzing, including many right here in Tuscaloosa.

That's because Alabama's Jim Wells has been listed prominently as a candidate for the vacant LSU position. The last Wells said he hasn't talked to LSU athletics director Skip Bertman. Wells has been at Alabama for 12 years, taking the Crimson Tide to the College World Series in 1996, 1997 and 1999.

He called this year's team, which lost in dramatic fashion to North Carolina, one of the best experiences he's ever had with a team. He said it was like the good ol' days. It was a fairly emotional setting for the generally unaffected coach. But was it a farewell?

Alabama fans should hope not. In addition to being the winningest coach in Alabama baseball history, Wells is known for running a tight disciplinary ship, producing successful young men and being a low-maintenance pleasure to work with for administrators and media.

The LSU search will likely speed up with Ole Miss's ouster by Miami from the NCAA tournament on Monday night. The leading candidates for the LSU job appear to be Wells, Mississippi Head Coach Mike Bianco and Vanderbilt's Tim Corbin. Recent rumblings have included Baylor's Steve Smith, who has been with the Bears for 12 years, and is a former assistant to Mississippi State's Ron Polk among other stops.

And the 68-year-old LSU athletics director Skip Bertman hasn't ruled out a possible return to the dugout for himself.

But what if Wells leaves? Who would be in line for the Alabama job then? In a move unrelated to Wells' future, his longtime Alabama assistant Jim Gatewood has already taken a job coaching at a high school in Texas. Alabama's other assistant, Joe Raccuia, has been praised heavily for the job he's done in his first year at Alabama, but a leap up so fast would be potentially DuBosian.

One of the first names that might surface if the Alabama job came open would be that of Bobby Pierce, who was here just over a week ago showing everyone the impressive job he has done with his Troy team. Alabama beat Troy twice to advance to the Super Regional, but Pierce fielded easily the second best team, and his guys could hit.

Pierce, of course, if a former Alabama player and a for Tide assistant immediately before Wells arrived at The Capstone. Pierce is well-liked in Troy, and he had nothing but complimentary things to say about the University of Alabama. There would almost certainly be mutual interest if the Alabama job were to come open.

Another familiar name might be that of Mitch Gaspard. Gaspard was popular as an assistant at Alabama before leaving to take over the program at Northwestern State in 2002. His team this season made the championship game of the Southland Conference tourney but its season ended in losing the conference championship game.

And undoubtedly, John Cohen would raise a lot of eyebrows in Tuscaloosa if a coaching position came open. Cohen is a Tuscaloosa Academy (Tuscaloosa) graduate, but he played college ball at Mississippi State. Cohen also coached at Northwestern State, but he's most well known for taking Kentucky to a share of the Southeastern Conference regular season title. Cohen was the SEC Coach of the Year.

This trio of coaches stand out among many who would like to pick up on Wells' success at Alabama, and any would be a great candidate to fill an open spot. But each would have great shoes to fill if Wells should decide to go. Here's hoping he stays.


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