Tennessee Head Baseball Coach Dave Serrano has announced his intention to resign at the conclusion of the Vols’ season.
Serrano sat down with Tennessee athletic director John Currie on Monday evening to inform him of his decision. Assistant coach Larry Simcox will serve as the interim head coach while Currie conducts a coaching search.
“My decision to step aside at season’s end is based off what I believe is in the best interest of our student-athletes and this program,” Serrano said in a press release from Tennessee’s athletic department.
“I have no regrets about taking on this challenge six years ago. It was a job I always coveted. My time living in this great community includes some of the best days of my life.”
This season, the Vols are 27-22 and 7-18 in SEC play. Tennessee currently sits in last place in the SEC East standings and 13th in the entire conference. In his six seasons in Knoxville, Serrano is 157-160 with a 55-117 record in SEC play. Tennessee’s best season within conference play came in 2015, when the Vols went 12-18.
As one of just twelve coaches in NCAA history to take two different teams (UC Irvine and Cal State Fullerton) to the College World Series, Serrano was brought in to get the Vols back into the NCAA tournament, something that hadn’t been done since 2005. Unfortunately for Tennessee fans, Serrano never made it to the big dance and never finished higher than fifth in the SEC East.
When Tennessee hired Serrano away from national power Cal State Fullerton, it was celebrated as one of the best hires the athletic department had made in quite some time, possibly ever. Serrano’s resume checked all the boxes you look for when searching for a new head coach.
However, Serrano’s tenure on Rocky Top was quite rocky.
Serrano’s Tennessee teams continuously lacked depth. While the Vols may have had one or two big time players in their lineup, the Vols never had the players from top-to-bottom, to be competitive in the SEC. This is a direct reflection of poor recruiting within the state of Tennessee. The Volunteer state has plenty of talent, but under Serrano, Tennessee was never able to take advantage of it.
“My only disappointment is that we didn’t reach the expectations of success that I’ve strived to achieve for our fans, alumni and players,” Serrano said.
Serrano received a one-year extension following last season, a move in which former Tennessee athletic director Dave Hart made to allow the 13-year head coach an opportunity to right the ship.
Things looked bright for Tennessee at the beginning of the season as the team started off 12-2 and were ranked inside the top 25 by some media outlets. Since the hot start, the Vols have gone 15-20 and now face a scenario in which they need a ton of help to even make the SEC Tournament.
Because Tennessee is likely to miss the SEC Tournament, Saturday’s series finale against Missouri could be the final game for Serrano in Knoxville. Tennessee can extend Serrano’s tenure if they sweep Missouri this weekend and receive some help from Georgia. The Vols need the Bulldogs to be swept by South Carolina in Columbia to slide into the final spot of the tournament.
“We are thankful to him for his service to the University of Tennessee, and we wish him and his family all the best moving forward,” Currie said.
Now it’s time for Currie to fire up the coaching hot board for the first time as Tennessee’s athletic director.
At first glance, two names come to mind when observing potential head coaches.
Chris Burke is the first name that comes to mind. Burke played shortstop for Tennessee from 1998-2001. In ’01, Burke was the unanimous SEC Player of the Year as he led the Vols to an appearance in the College World Series by hitting .435 with 20 home runs.
Burke currently works as an analyst for ESPN, but as a Tennessee guy, his interest in the job has been known for years. While he may not have a ton of coaching experience, the former big leaguer would jump at the opportunity to come back to Knoxville and get his alma mater on track with the rest of the SEC.
Current interim head coach Larry Simcox is the second name that comes to mind. While it’s unlikely Currie goes in this direction because of his affiliation with Serrano, it wouldn’t be a complete shocker. Like Burke, Simcox doesn’t possess any head coaching experience.
As one of the best hitting coaches in the country, Simcox knows the state of Tennessee and would be successful in recruiting thanks to the many connections he has throughout the state. Simcox has been a part of two SEC Championship teams and three College World Series runs.
Regardless of the direction Currie chooses to go with this hire, it’s crucial for the future of the program. A lack of support from the university was something that always hindered Serrano during his time in Knoxville. Currie now has an opportunity to buck the trend of Tennessee baseball and with his next hire, provide a level of support the diamond Vols haven’t seen in quite some time.
Edited by David Bradford
Featured image by Hayley Pennesi, courtesy of Tennessee Athletics