After resurrecting Tulane baseball in two years, coach David Pierce resigned Wednesday and returned to his Texas roots.
Texas ended a laborious, month-long search to replace all-time NCAA wins leader Augie Garrido by hiring Pierce, who interviewed for the position on June 18 but had to wait another week and a half before the Longhorns finally gave up on attracting someone with College World Series experience as a head coach.
Pierce, a Houston native and lifelong Texas resident before taking the Tulane job, inherits a program that has been to the College World Series 35 times — 10 more than any other school — and won six national championships, trailing only USC in that category. The Longhorns were an inning away from the championship round in Omaha as recently as 2014, losing in 10 innings to Vanderbilt. They also fell to LSU in the 2009 championship round and won it all in 2002 and 2005 under Garrido.
Texas has had only two baseball coaches since 1968 (Cliff Gustafson, Garrido).
Pierce is the first coach in a revenue sport to leave Tulane for another school since former basketball coach Perry Clark went to Miami in 2000.
“I knew where Texas stood on his radar screen should that opportunity ever come along,” Tulane athletic director Troy Dannen said. “I’ve long understood Texas was his dream job and wish him and his family a great future in Austin.”
Pierce did not return calls after the announcement, but Tulane issued a statement from him in a university release acknowledging his departure.
“The city of New Orleans and the Tulane community have been incredible supporters of my family over the past two years,” he said.
“I want to especially thank our baseball coaches, support staff and teams for the great memories that we have shared together. My family will always be grateful to Tulane University, and we will cherish the last two years we spent here.
“I know we are leaving the baseball program in great shape. I am proud of the accomplishments of our players, and I know they will continue to strive for excellence. Roll Wave!”
Pierce, 53, went 76-46 with two regional appearances at Tulane. He ended the Wave’s six-year postseason drought in 2015, guiding it to the Baton Rouge regional. He then led the Wave to the American Athletic Conference regular-season championship this season — Tulane’s first league title since going to the College World Series in 2005 — and a No. 2 seed at the Oxford, Mississippi, regional.
Pierce coached in Texas for 26 years before accepting the Tulane job in the summer of 2014. His teams have reached NCAA regionals for 16 consecutive seasons, including three in a row as coach at Sam Houston State from 2012-14 and the last two at Tulane.
Pierce also was an assistant at Houston, his alma mater, for two years and at Rice from 2003 to 2011.
Still, Texas Athletic Director Mike Perrin looked elsewhere for nearly a month. LSU’s Paul Mainieri, Florida’s Kevin O’Sullivan, Louisville’s Dan McDonnell, TCU’s Jim Schlossnagle, Virginia’s Brian O’Connor, Oregon State’s Pat Casey, UCLA’s John Savage and Oklahoma State’s Josh Holliday all were linked to the opening before announcing they would remain at their current schools.
Mainieri, O’Connor, Casey and Savage have won national championships.
O’Sullivan, McDonnell and Schlossnagle have made their teams regular participants in Omaha, while Holliday guided Oklahoma State to the College World Series this season.
Pierce’s teams have yet to win a regional, but he led Sam Houston State to the first three at-large berths in program history and ended Tulane’s six-year postseason drought in 2015.
After bowing out early in Baton Rouge in 2015, the Wave went 2-2 in Oxford, eliminating top-seeded host Ole Miss along the way but losing twice to No. 3 seed Boston College. Tulane finished 41-21 for its highest victory total since going 43-21 in 2006 in the last of nine consecutive regional appearances under former coach Rick Jones.
Perrin also interviewed Houston’s Todd Whitting and Dallas Baptist’s Dan Heefner before choosing Pierce.
“I’ll never sell anybody for Tulane on the next job after Tulane, but you don’t want anybody on your staff fearful of making moves or pursuing things they feel advance them and their family,” Dannen said. “That’s part of it. Tulane is a great opportunity for someone in baseball if this is your last opportunity or your next opportunity.”
Pierce is replacing a legend in Garrido, who won 1,975 games in 48 years as a coach, earning three national championship at Cal State Fullerton and two more in 20 seasons at Texas.
The Longhorns dropped off dramatically at the end of his career, though, leading to his ouster at age 77. They failed to win more than 30 games in four of the past five years and bottomed out at 25-32 this season, tying a school record for losses.
Tulane won two of three at Texas in March. When the Wave was on the wrong side of the bubble for a regional hosting roll, Pierce pointed to the RPI schedule-strength hit it took against the struggling Longhorns as an impossible-to-foresee freak occurrence against a transcendent program.
Less than two months later, he is taking over that program.