Tuesday, July 06, 2010

Meet Houston's new baseball coach

Although I'm a few days late to the party, I'd like to add my voice to those welcoming Todd Whitting to the University of Houston - or, more accurately, back to UH - as the school's new baseball coach.

Whitting replaces Rayner Noble, who had been at the helm of the University of Houston baseball program for sixteen seasons. Under Noble's leadership, the team reached the NCAA Super Regionals three times. He leaves UH with an overall record of 551-440, making him the winningest coach in the program's history. In recent years, however, Noble and the baseball program had fallen on hard times, including back-to-back losing seasons (27-31 in 2009 and 25-32 in 2010) for the first time since the mid-70s. That led UH Athletics Director Mack Rhoades to decide that it was time for a change. I thank Ranyer Noble for his service and wish him well, and I also hope that Noble's departure means that we will no longer have to endure any more bitter, infantile screeds from the parents of former UH players.

Whitting played for the Cougars in the early 1990s and then served as an assistant from 1995 to 2003. During that time he helped the UH program achieve a 305-195 record and six NCAA postseason appearances including those three Super Regional appearances in 2000, 2002 and 2003. Whitting had spent the last seven season as associate head coach at TCU, where he had similar success; while he was there the Horned Frogs notched an overall record of 305-134, seven NCAA postseason appearances, and, this past season, th program's first appearance at the College World Series in Omaha, Nebraska.

Whitting makes it clear that his goal is getting his alma mater to Omaha as well. As he told the Chronicle's Steve Campbell:
"Our program was on a national level," Whitting said. "But I really felt like there was unfinished business here. When we clinched to go to Omaha at TCU, a lot of the thoughts on my mind were the former players on the 2000, 2002 and 2003 teams. A big motivation for me to take this job is to finish up business we didn't take care of then.

"I want the University of Houston people to have the Omaha experience. It's something that will change your life forever. As an alumni here, as a former coach here, now the head coach here, I want these people to experience what it's like to drive to Omaha. When you land in Omaha and those people are waiting for you, and you get in the bus and you have that police escort to the field every day, and the kids with the autographs, the cameras in your face, and your kids feel like they're rock stars. It's the pinnacle."

"I've been preparing for this for seven years," Whitting said. "I've been waiting for this day for seven years. I have a plan that's ready to go into place. Hopefully I'll have a staff that's as good as anywhere in the country. Because of the commitment of this university, I have the ability to put together a tremendous staff."

For whatever doubts I might have had about the way Mack Rhoades handled the basketball hire, I think he clearly knocked this one out of the park. Feedback about the hire from UH fans on message boards and blogs who follow Cougar Baseball more closely than I do has been uniformly positive. Todd Whitting clearly has the credentials and the motivation to turn UH baseball around and make it the top-tier program it was just a few years ago. So I happily welcome coach Whitting back to Houston and am hoping to see great things for Cougar Baseball.

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