Mississippi State's top aide, and one of the nation's recognized masters of developing college pitchers, has accepted Auburn's offer to become head coach. Thompson is returning to a program he served as assistant in 2006-08 before joining Coach John Cohen at Mississippi State for the past seven seasons.
"This is like leaving home," said Thompson. "And that is literal. To be from the state of Mississippi and to be somewhere for 7 and a half years .... I think it is around 2,700 days that Robin, the girls and I have had the chance to be at Mississippi State. It has been the highlight of my coaching career. I would say that one of my first goals was to always be the pitching coach at Mississippi State. To have accomplished that has been amazing. To play for a national championship, play in Super Regionals, the SEC Tournament championship, all of that has been great. But at the end of the day what made this decision so hard are the relationships that I have made at Mississippi State. And those relationships will be there forever. Mississippi State has defined family as well as anywhere that I have ever been. What Scott Stricklin, John Cohen and everybody else at Mississippi State has invested in me, I will walk away receiving so much more than I could have given to that baseball program. I will forever be proud and grateful to say that I got to be the pitching coach at Mississippi State."
Five of his Diamond Dog hurlers have been voted to various All-America teams.
Thompson, 45, takes over at Auburn after the sudden firing of Tiger coach Sunny Galloway in September. Galloway held the job only two seasons, and after a 28-28 first year he took Auburn to a 35-24 record in 2015. Auburn appeared in the Tallahassee Regional, the program's first NCAA Tournament berth since 2010.
Mississippi State missed the post-season in 2015. But prior to this year's lapse the Bulldogs had made four-straight NCAA trips, including two super regional appearances and a run to the 2013 College World Series. That year showed Thompson's prowess at its best as a cobbled-together rotation backed up by a brilliant bullpen took the Diamond Dogs to the national championship finals.
In Thompson' s seven seasons no less than 15 primary as well as one secondary pitcher he tutored have been drafted, though none were taken in the 2015 draft. Chris Stratton was a first-round pick in 2012, and Jacob Lindgren taken in the second round of 2014.
Graveman became Thompson's first Bulldog to reach the big leagues when he was called up by Toronto in September 2014. He threw in five games with the Blue Jays, then was traded to Oakland. He pitched two tours this past season with the A's.
Lindgren was called up to the Major Leagues in 2015 with the New York Yankees, throwing in 14 games. Stratton has reached the AAA-level this year. In all ten Thompson protégés have reached the Major League level.
Thompson coached at Georgia in 2002-05. He was Baseball America's and ABCA Assistant Coach of the Year in 2014. He is a Amory, Miss., native.
The announcement from Auburn was expected this week, as Mississippi State concluded fall practices Wednesday evening.
Gene Swindoll is the publisher of the GenesPage.com website, the source for Mississippi State sports on Scout.com sports network.