Tulane AD far-sighted in new head coaching hires
Every so often, one of those revealing moments happens. And, for the Tulane University athletic program, that moment came when Director of Athletics Troy Dannen hired Vanderbilt assistant Travis Jewett as the new Green Wave baseball coach.
Jewett may turn out to be an excellent hire. And, he was left a very good nucleus by his successor, David Pierce.
So, Jewett, in his first season, will likely make the NCAA Tournament. And, as Coastal Carolina showed us last month, when you get in, something special can indeed happen.
If I were Dannen, I would have hired two-time Tulane All-America and current LSU recruiting coordinator Andy Cannizaro.
Hire Andy and you likely don’t search for a coach for the next 25 years. He has instant credibility with every baseball coach in this state and in the surrounding ones. He’s a tremendous family man and universally respected.
If not Andy, Matt Riser, a former Tulane player and assistant coach, would have been a terrific option. All Riser did in 2016 was coach Southeastern Louisiana to its first at-large bid in the NCAA Tournament.
When a coach produces “firsts” in the history of the program, it puts some additional shine on a very good resume.
When his search for Pierce’s successor began, Dannen probably tipped his hand. He said the searches for football coach Willie Fritz and men’s basketball coach Mike Dunleavy told him that his search should “cast a wide net.”
At that point, my guess was it was at least 50-50 that he wouldn’t be shopping local, which is his prerogative. He’s the man calling the shots.
The hire tells me he is wielding more power as an athletics director than Rick Dickson ever did working for former Tulane president Scott Cowen. In 1998, Cowen, not director of athletics Sandy Barbour, made the choice to bypass assistant coach Rich Rodriguez as Tommy Bowden’s successor.
The last guy to have this kind of stroke in the Tulane athletic department was former basketball coach Perry Clark. Clark, working for former Tulane president Eamon Kelly, was a lot more than just the men’s basketball coach. He reported to one person, and that person did not reside in the Wilson Center.
Life can be a weird journey. Cannizaro and Riser likely both saw themselves as one day being the head coach at their alma mater.
It could still happen someday, but if it doesn’t, my guess is both will end up as head coaches at power-5 schools.
They are great candidates, and the man who got the job, Jewett appears to fall into that category. We’ll see.
But, in the meantime, the hiring of Jewett and bypassing of Cannizaro and Riser tell Tulane baseball fans one thing: It is Troy Dannen’s olive-and-blue world, and you are living in it.