For the first time since 1993, Tulane is ready to introduce a new head coach for its baseball program.
Early Sunday evening, the Green Wave named David Pierce its next coach, setting an introductory news conference for Thursday. Pierce led Sam Houston State to three NCAA tournaments in as many seasons after serving as an assistant under Wayne Graham at Rice from 2003-11, first as hitting coach then as pitching coach.
Pierce replaces Rick Jones, who spent 21 seasons with the Green Wave before retiring two weeks ago due to health concerns.
“David brings a great track record of coaching with energy, enthusiasm and strong history of recruiting while developing some of the country’s finest collegiate players,” Tulane Athletic Director Rick Dickson said in the school’s news release. “David’s contributions during his tenure at Rice ranked among the nation’s best in that decade, which were an important factor as we sought the best fit to lead Tulane baseball back to national prominence.”
Pierce was the last man standing in a hiring process that featured three other primary candidates: Saint Louis coach Darin Hendrickson, Southeastern Louisiana coach Matt Riser and Tulane assistant and interim coach Jake Gautreau.
Former Green Wave assistant and Illinois State coach Mark Kingston also was scheduled to interview, but he backed out the night before he was due to arrive in New Orleans. Two days later, he accepted the head coach position at fellow American Athletic Conference program South Florida.
The four candidates who made it to the Wilson Center spent a full day with Tulane’s administration, meeting not only with Dickson but also university President Scott Cowen, who is retiring at the end of the month.
When the discussions were completed, Pierce’s name was at the top of the Tulane’s list. But sources told The Advocate that Pierce needed some additional persuading due to the makeup of Tulane’s scholarship structure. The university offers fewer need-based scholarships than Rice and carries a significantly higher tuition price tag than Sam Houston State.
With only 11.7 scholarships allowed by the NCAA, the issue often was addressed by Jones as a culprit for the program’s dip in performance.
“I hate to lose him, of course, but he’ll do a great job,” Sam Houston State Athletic Director Bobby Williams told The Advocate. “I’m not surprised because, when you have good coaches, people are going to want them. He elevated our game. ... (Tulane is) going to love him. He will do a great job for them.”
Pierce takes over a program that earned a trip to 12 regionals, three super regionals and a pair of College World Series under Jones but had failed to reach the NCAA tournament since 2008. This year, it suffered through its first losing season since 1993, finishing 23-29, and it didn’t qualify for the Conference USA tournament.
But the Wave does return seven freshman starters, including Friday night pitcher Corey Merrill and All-C-USA freshman team selection Hunter Hope.
Pierce’s 121-63 record at Sam Houston State, along with his success under Graham at Rice (which won the 2003 national title) proved to Dickson that he can orchestrate a return to national prominence.
With a six-year-old stadium and a tradition of winning in a state known for its support of college baseball, the potential is obvious. Now it’s Pierce’s job to take advantage of it.
“I know we have a lot to do in the next few days to secure and communicate to recruits and returning players that good times are ahead of us,” Pierce said in Tulane’s news release. “Our intent is to come in and win now, and we are not only going to win on the playing field but also in the community and in the classroom.”
Advocate sports correspondent Guerry Smith contributed to this report.