Henderson, who resigned June 1 as head Kentucky coach, jumps right back into the SEC arena with this move to Mississippi State. In the process Coach John Cohen re-teams with his former pitching coach at Kentucky from 2004-08, on a staff that produced the program’s first-ever SEC championship in 2006 with two NCAA Regional appearances.
In their final season together, Cohen and Henderson directed the SEC’s top pitching staff as graded by earned run average. When Cohen was hired to take over his alma mater in June 2008, Henderson was promptly promoted.
“It’s a privilege to have the opportunity to be a part of such a storied program like Mississippi State, Henderson said in a provided statement. “John’s teams have always been synonymous with success and outstanding competitive spirit.”
For his eight seasons as Kentucky head coach Henderson was 258-199 with two more NCAA Tournament berths. Henderson was SEC Coach of the Year in 2012. At last count thirty of his Wildcat moundsmen had been drafted by Major League clubs.
Henderson is a 1984 alumnus of San Diego State. He coached as an assistant at his alma mater before coaching pitchers at Cal State Fullerton, Pepperdine, Florida, and Oregon State. In 1996 Collegiate Baseball named him their assistant coach of the year.
He spent last summer coaching the pitchers for Team USA baseball.
Henderson takes over for Wes Johnson, who spent one season at Mississippi State before taking the pitching coach post at Arkansas this week. The move did not surprise his Bulldog boss as Cohen had time to contact his long-time former aide and keep Henderson coaching in the conference.
In moving to Mississippi State, Henderson has an interesting mix of challenge and opportunity. Last week’s draft took all three pitchers who started games in both the SEC Tournament and Starkville Regional. Also gone are the top left-handed reliever and right-handed closer.
The six total pitchers drafted accounted for 44 starts, 63% of strikeouts and 62% of innings from 2016.
On the plus-side of the roster ledger though, Henderson inherits one tested SEC starter in LHP Konnor Pilkington; the top-two righthanded middle relievers in Ryan Rigby and Blake Smith; and a number of younger arms on both sides of the mound who got various experiences this past year to build on.
The pitching staff is also healthy with all moundsmen cleared to throw in summer league ball. This will give Henderson advance-information on what he has to work with come August and small group workouts ahead of fall scrimmaging.
Also, Mississippi State confirmed the promotion of baseball camps coordinator Will Coggin to the staff position held by Nick Mingione. He will now be assistant coach and coordinator of recruiting.
Mingione in quite the twist has replaced Henderson as Kentucky head coach, returning to the program he was an assistant at—to Cohen and Henderson—in 2006-07.
Coggin is a former Bulldog player 2005-06 and student assistant from 2009-12. He returned to Dudy Noble Field last summer after a season at St. John’s River State College in Florida.
“We are excited to have Gary join the Bulldog family and are thrilled to have Will as an assistant coach,” Cohen said in a provided statement. “Gary’s resume speaks for itself in what he has accomplished from developing Major League arms to his success in the Southeastern Conference. The staff we have assembled will be tremendous in developing our players and will help us continue in our quest of winning championships.”
Mississippi State did just that in 2016, winning the program’s first SEC Championship since 1989 and 11th overall.
Counting Henderson, Mingione, and Butch Thompson at Auburn, three former Cohen aides now have become head coaches at SEC programs.