Athletic Director Greg McGarity notified David Perno yesterday that he would not be retained as the head baseball coach at the University of Georgia. The firing comes on the heels of a 21-32 season and a conference-worst 7-20 SEC record. Perhaps the most telling statistic is Perno's 57-87 record in SEC games since his team finished national runner-up in 2008. So what is next for the Diamond Dogs?
In selection of a new coach, McGarity must start by choosing someone who can control damage done over the last several years. Perno, despite his success, has earned a reputation of oversigning. In conversations I've had with several successful high school coaches just this season, sentiment had grown that sending a baseball player to UGA was a dicey proposal because of Perno's propensity to make lofty promises to recruits, only to redshirt them and cut them a year later. That reputation is toxic, and that word spreads quickly.
I discussed facilities in depth in a (way-too-long) comment when Kyle made the case for firing Perno last year. While improvements have been made at Foley and more are coming, any highly desirable coach will expect a solid investment and committed effort to improve Foley by McGarity. Additionally, Perno's annual compensation of $425,000 put him in the middle of the pack in the SEC (numbers as of 2010, most recent I could find). To hire the coach fans expect to return Georgia to Omaha, salary will have to be comparable to Perno's current pay rate, dependent upon the experience of whoever the new guy is.
Expect the new coach to have a working knowledge of prep baseball in the Peach State. Ranked as the third best state for high school baseball in the country by USA Today, Georgia is loaded with talent. Though recruiting classes at UGA have consistently been ranked highly, a successful coach will stop the bleeding of prospect to Georgia Tech, Clemson, and even smaller programs like Kennesaw State and Mercer.
Likely candidates for the job:
- College of Charleston Head Coach Monte Lee: The former South Carolina assistant under Ray Tanner is 187-109 in 5 years for the Cougars, with a Southern Conference Championship in 2012 and two NCAA tournament berths.
- Mississippi State Associate Head Coach Butch Thompson: Pitching coach under Perno from 2002-2005, including the CWS team of 2004, he is a highly-regarded recruiter and developer of pitchers, something the Dawgs have lacked for several years.
- Longtime professional and college coach Doug Sisson: The Athens resident was associate head coach under Perno in 2006 and 07, and has been a minor-league manager and field coordinator, and was most recently 1st base coach of the Kansas City Royals under Ned Yost. A "player's coach" who was instrumental in the Dawgs' 2006 CWS season.
- Mercer Head Coach Craig Gibson: Ten years at the helm in Macon, he will likely take the Bears to their second regional in 4 years this season. He knows the state well, and is regarded for his player development skills. He has also notched wins over Georgia Tech and Mississippi State in 2012, and led his team to a school-record 42 wins in 2013. (Incidentally, former UGA standout and assistant coach Justin Holmes is on his Mercer staff--check out Holmes taking out the Arizona catcher in the 2004 CWS).
- Arkansas Associate Head Coach Todd Butler: Dave Van Horn's right-hand-man in Fayetteville, he is a former Alabama assistant and McNeese State head coach. With over 20 years as an assistant or head coach, his teams have made five CWS appearances with him as an assistant, and he advanced to a Regioinal in 2003 as head coach. Widely regarded as one of the best recruiters and hitting coaches in college baseball.
A couple other names you might hear (but probably won't happen):
- Atlanta Braves first-base coach Terry Pendleton: He is rumored to have an interest in the collegiate ranks, but is unproven as a head coach and has no experience at the college level.
- Vanderbilt Head Coach Tim Corbin: This is the biggest long-shot, but would be a huge get for UGA. Corbin is a former assistant under Jack Leggett at Clemson, The man is 459-224 in 11 seasons in Nashville, and he has built the formerly hapless Commodore program into a perennial top 5 program. It's highly doubtful he'd leave, but it would be worth the phone call.
Whoever is hired, the potential is there to return this team to its glory of the last decade. Arms are an immediate need, but a strong nucleus will return from this year's team with a highly regarded freshman class from this past season. Here's hoping Greg gets this hiring right.