Tulane athletic director Troy Dannen was not caught off guard.
The news of Green Wave baseball coach David Pierce departing Tulane for Texas became official Wednesday morning, but Dannen said he was prepared for the possibility even before Pierce initially interviewed with the Longhorns on June 17.
“The length and duration of the search — while in some respects I wanted it to get done and resolved, in other respects it gave me the chance to do a lot of due diligence in the eventuality that David did take the job,” Dannen said. “So, it some ways I’m ahead of the preparation game because of how the timing of all of this has played out.”
Pierce leaves Tulane after two successful seasons, which included a pair of NCAA tournament appearances and the 2016 American Athletic Conference championship. He helped stabilize the program and return it back to national contention, cracking the top 10 of a major poll for the first time in nearly a decade.
Now, Tulane will attempt to use that success as a springboard. Dannen began the nationwide search for Pierce’s replacement immediately after news of his departure trickled out.
“I’m extraordinarily optimistic because I can sell this program to potential coaches as one that can compete for a national championship tomorrow, because we were just competing for one yesterday,” Dannen said. “There aren’t many places in the country where that fact rings true. It just adds to the opportunity. There are a lot of great things about the institution, including the city.
“This is also a place where you can win championships, and Rick Jones proved you can get to the College World Series on more than an isolated basis.”
Opening a coaching search has become a familiar routine for Dannen, who is now conducting his fourth search since taking over the department in December. This time, Dannen said he will not use a search firm to help find candidates.
Tulane is one of just two schools from major conferences with an opening, joining Missouri from the Southeastern Conference. That job has been open since May.
“There will be certain people on campus who will likely meet with candidates in addition to me,” Dannen said. “But right now, this search is resting in my office.”
There were no specific requirements outlined by Dannen, who had little experience with the sport as Northern Iowa’s athletic director from 2008-15 (the school dropped baseball after the 2009 season).
However, Dannen said he’s aware of the challenges presented at an expensive private school, playing in a sport whose roster is made mostly of partial scholarships and walk-ons.
But Tulane also has a history of success in baseball, with only one losing season since 1993 and 13 NCAA tournaments in the past 20 years. It’s a far cry from where the languishing football, men’s basketball and volleyball programs were when Dannen filled their coaching vacancies.
“The program is different than football in basketball in that in it’s a different place than where those hires were made,” Dannen said. “Maybe that means there’s a different pool of candidates and we can look in some different directions than we might have looked with these two searches.
“You can’t base what direction we are going to go in based on what happened in the other sports, because they each have their unique set of circumstances and its own unique place in the paradigm of prosperity.”
Dannen said there is set timetable for filling the position, and the lack of openings in the country calms the typically volatile coaching carousel.
However, the hire is critical for the future of program which has undergone the most coaching volatility in its history. From 1975-2014, Tulane had just two coaches (Joe Brockhoff and Jones), and is now conducting its second search in three years.
“I want somebody whose expectations are to win in everything we do,” Dannen said. “Someone has to convince me that success is nothing less than their full expectation, because it’s mine. It’s an institutional expectation.”