MSU Baseball Coaching Search

Are these four coaches the final four candidates for the Mississippi State University head baseball coaching job? So far, these coaches have been the most prominent names mentioned and, more importantly, none are on record as saying they aren't interested in the job. Will the next MSU coach be one of these men or will another coach emerge in the next few days?

The list is in alphabetical order.

John Cohen - Kentucky Head Coach (5 Years from 2004 to present.)

Personal Honors - Named the SEC and National Coach of the Year once.

Players Honors (All-American Only) - He has had 4 All-Americans.

Overall and Conference Record - His overall record at Kentucky is 175-102.

Championships - His teams have won 1 SEC Championship (2006) while his other teams have finished 6th, 6th, 5th and 3rd in the Eastern Division of the SEC.

Postseason Play - His teams have appeared in 2 NCAA regionals (hosted one) and have a 4-4 NCAA postseason record. Neither team advanced to the super regional or the College World Series.

Hitting - His teams averaged .288 his first year, .300 his second, .299 his third and .320 his fourth season. During the last few years, they have been the leader or among the top 2 or 3 in on-base %, walks, hit by pitch, sacrifice bunts and sacrifice flies.The past three years, his teams have averaged 7.1, 8.2 and 8.5 runs per game despite hitting just 39 and 44 home runs in two of those years.

Pitching - Although his pitching staffs of late have been middle of the pack in the SEC ERA-wise after being in the bottom half of the conference (5.86, 5.23, 3.95, 4.56) they have been the best in the SEC when it comes to not giving up walks in 2006, 2007 and 2008.

Fielding - His teams fielding percentages during his first four years have been fairly low at .959, .952, .965 and .960, although there has been dramatic improvement in that category during 2008 with a .974 fielding percentage.

Collegiate Baseball Top 40 Recruiting Rankings 2005-2007 - 2005 - Unranked; 2006 - 21st; 2007 - 31st.

Pro Players - He has had 16 players drafted or signed as free agents by MLB teams.

Misc - He has very strong ties to the south. He played his college baseball at Mississippi State, coached at Northwestern (La) State as head coach, and as an assistant coach at Florida and Missouri. He is from Tuscaloosa, AL, as is his wife.

Four Years at Kentucky Prior To Hiring Him - The overall record was 101-122 with no postseason play.

Current Season - His 2008 team wound up 44-19 (16-14 in SEC play) and ranked as high as 24th in the nation. Thirteen of his team's nineteen losses were by 2 or less runs. The team batting average is .318 (1st in SEC. Scored 8.1 runs per game), the team ERA is 3.71 (1st in SEC), and the fielding percentage is .974 (2nd in SEC). They earned their second NCAA regional invitation in the last three years. They were eliminated in the regional championship game by No. 12 Arizona.

Analysis - In a program not known for success in the SEC, he has now won more than 34 games three times in his first five years, including 44 wins in both 2006 and 2008. He is an exceptional recruiter. Known as a very good hitting coach with an aggressive style of play, he doesn't rely as much on home runs to score runs, but more on getting players on base anyway possible and then moving them over with hits, bunts and sacrifice bunts and flies. His pitching and defense are normally in the middle of the pack of the SEC. He has strong ties to MSU since he was a player there, but has recently signed a new contract with Kentucky. You have to think he's one of the front-runners for the MSU job if he wants it, especially considering the excitement he would bring to the job and fanbase.

Dan McDonnell - Louisville Head Coach (2 from 2007 to present)

Personal Honors - None.

Players Honors (All-American Only) - 3 of his players have been named All-Americans.

Overall and Conference Record - His overall record for his first two years on the job is 88-45. Both teams won 40+ games.

Championships - He has won no overall conference championships.

Postseason Play - His first two years on the job saw his team participate in two regionals, one super regional and one College World Series. Their postseason record was 7-6.

Hitting - His teams have hit .313 and .314 and averaged 7.1 and 7.2 runs per game.

Pitching - His team's ERA for the first two seasons were 3.14 and 4.34.

Fielding - His team's fielding percentages were .971 and .972.

Collegiate Baseball Top 40 Recruiting Rankings 2005-2007 - 2005 - 8th (Ole Miss recruiting coordinator); 2006 - 32nd (Ole Miss); 2007 - 28th (Louisville).

Pro Players - 6 of his players have signed with pro teams.

Misc - He was the assistant coach in charge of the infield and recruiting at Ole Miss for six years. And four of the six recruiting classes were ranked among the top 20 with three in the top ten nationally. Five of the six teams participated in regional action with two going on to play in super regionals. He signed a seven-year contract with Louisville at the conclusion of the 2007 season. He is a Citadel graduate who also coached there for eight years.

Five Years Prior To Hiring Him - 162-124 overall record, 1 Regional.

Current Season - His 2008 team wound up 41-21overall and 16-11 in the Big East conference and unranked. The team batting average is .314, the team ERA is 4.34, and the fielding percentage is .972. With the Big East Tournament championship in hand, his team made its second straight appearance in the NCAA Regionals, going 0-2 in the Athens Regional.

Analysis - Without question a very good recruiter. Going into this season the jury was still out on him due to only being a head coach for a little over a year. He inherited a very, very talented team his first year and did a great job getting it to Omaha. And after losing most of last year's key players (3 position starters, 2 starting pitchers and 1 reliever returned), his 2008 team, as you would expect, struggled early in the season thanks in large part to having to play freshmen, D-I transfers and inexperienced players in starting and backup roles. But his team has come on strong of late, proving that, as a head coach, his stock is on the fast track. He is very much worth looking at and you would think MSU would be a school that he would be very interested in, especially considering the success that he had at Ole Miss, a baseball program in the state of Mississippi that doesn't have the tradition that MSU has .... but will the long-term contract that he has at Louisville stop MSU from getting a chance to look at him?

Tommy Raffo - Mississippi State Assistant Coach (1994 to present. No head coaching experience.)

Based on talking to Tommy Raffo over the years, here are some things I've gotten from him in regard to what I feel is his philosophy as a potential head coach.

Expectations as a Head Coach - His expectations would be the same as the achievements the MSU team had when he was a player in 1987-90 - 50+ win seasons, SEC championships, hosting regionals every year and going to the College World Series with the expectations of winning the national championship.

His Hitting Philosophy - His players would be aggressive at the plate and on the base paths, attacking the first pitch if it's a strike and trying to get on base any way possible, basically trying to find every way possible to create runs. Stealing bases would also be a big priority.

His Pitching Philosophy - Pitching would be a priority in recruiting and high-profile guys like former Bulldog pitchers Jeff Brantley, Paul Maholm, B.J. Wallace, Jay Powell and Eric DuBose being what he would be looking for.

His Recruiting Philosophy - Recruiting would be an extremely high priority. While State would still recruit Mississippi and the southeast heavily, they would also recruit more on the national level and more potential high draft picks would be recruited. One coach would be assigned the job of recruiting coordinator, but the head coach would be on the forefront of recruiting and out on the road as often as possible. Players would be heavily recruited and brought in for unofficial visits as early as possible, and given early offers.

Analysis - Tommy has experienced the winning tradition of Mississippi State first-hand as a player and has seen what it takes to put a team on the field that wins and wins in a big way. While he has learned many things from Ron Polk such as the MSU tradition and organization and done things the way Coach Polk prefers while working under him, he also will be his own coach with his own philosophy, just as the coaches that I have written about in this article have done once they became head coaches. The one thing that is a drawback for Tommy is that he lacks what the other coaches on this page don't and that is head coaching experience. But despite that, I look for him to be one of the prime candidates for the MSU job due to his knowledge and understanding of the MSU tradition and his overall coaching philosophy.

Steve Smith - Baylor Head Coach (14 Years from 1995 to present)

Personal Honors - He has been selected the Big 12 coach of the year four times.

Players Honors (All-American Only) - He has had 12 All-American selections.

Overall and Conference Record - His teams have an overall record of 522-337. Five of his teams have won 41 or more games, including 1 team that won 50.

Championships - His teams have won two Big 12 Conference championships. The other teams have been 2nd two times, 4th two times, 5th four times and 6th three times.

Postseason Play - Nine of his teams have participated in regional play, three going on to super regionals. His teams have hosted 3 regionals and 2 super regionals. One team made it to the College World Series. His teams overall record in NCAA postseason play is 23-19.

Hitting - His last four teams have batted .293, .284, .269 and .299. Prior to that, they were in the .301 to .326 range. Those four teams scored 6.6, 6.3, 5.2 and 6.0 runs per game.

Pitching - His pitching staffs normally have an ERA in the 4+ runs per game range. He's also had 3 staffs average 3+, 2 average 5+ and 1 average 6+ runs per game.

Fielding - There wasn't enough data to determine his teams fielding stats.

Collegiate Baseball Top 40 Recruiting Rankings 2005-2007 - 2005 - 38th; 2006 - 7th; 2007 - 39th.

Pro Players - Smith has had 62 players drafted or signed as free agents by the pros, 5 of whom have played in the Major Leagues.

Misc - Smith was born in Gulfport, MS and played part of his college ball at Mississippi College. He also coached at MSU for current head coach Ron Polk for several years. He graduated from Baylor, as did his wife.

Five Years Prior To Hiring Him - The teams had a 167-112 record and played in 2 regionals.

Current Season - His team wound up 32-26 overall, 11-16 in Big 12 play and not ranked nationally. His team hit .285, the team ERA is 5.24 and they fielded at a .971 clip.

Analysis - He has strong connections to the the state of Mississippi and Mississippi State due to being born in Mississippi and coaching at Mississippi State under current head coach Ron Polk. He's a solid coach and solid recruiter who understands the tradition of Mississippi State baseball. While he's a strong candidate due to those things, he and his wife's ties to Baylor are very strong. And that could be a big factor for both of them ... or it may not be.

Gene Swindoll is the publisher of the website, the source for Mississippi State sports on the sports network. You can contact him by emailing

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