"This is the opportunity of a lifetime to be the head baseball coach at Auburn University."
Those were Butch Thompson words in regards to becoming the head baseball coach at Auburn University. In what is a rather clever response to the way things apparently happened under Sunny Golloway, Thompson said "To our baseball alumni and our fans, I want to encourage them that now is the time we can walk together. It's kind of a call to arms for this baseball program. We need them now more than ever. Auburn people respond well to that."
Thompson will be charged with finishing up this recruiting class and getting Auburn prepared for the Spring. It's been a turbulent time since Sunny Golloway was fired near the end of September. Here's to hoping Thompson can get the Tigers back on track.
That's all I can really say at this point. Finally.
Not because Auburn has reportedly hired Butch Thompson, former Mississippi State Pitching Coach and a former Auburn assistant as their new Head Coach, but because Auburn finally just has a Head Coach.
Names had been flooding in. Rumors had been circulating. Names like Jack Leggett, Pat Murphy, and a host of others had been circulating. Surprising names. Names you normally wouldn't hear surrounding Auburn baseball. Still, one name kept coming up in the past few Auburn baseball coaching searches: Butch Thompson.
According to multiple reports, Butch Thompson and Jay Jacobs agreed in principle for Thompson to take the job Wednesday evening. The official announcement that he is taking the job could come at any moment.
It's now Butch Thompson's chance to try to get Auburn back to a level of competition that fans desperately want.
WHAT'S HIS RESUME?
Butch Thompson played college baseball at Birmingham-Southern. He has served as a pitching coach and even a head coach at the Junior College and NAIA levels before moving into the SEC in 2002. He's been coaching there ever since. He first served as pitching coach and recruiting coordinator at Georgia before moving to Auburn in 2005 to take the same position. When former Auburn head coach Tom Slater and his staff were let go, Thompson moved to one of the conference's best and most consistent baseball programs at Mississippi State. He was named Associate Head Coach in 2012.
Similar to when Will Muschamp was hired as the defensive coordinator last fall, Butch Thompson's former biography from his time at Auburn is still available on the website.
SO WHAT? WHAT HAS HE ACCOMPLISHED?
I've posted this on a few message boards when asked "Sell Me on Butch Thompson". Here was my nuts and bolts response:
- Turned 23 players from undrafted picks out of High School into MLB Draft Picks
- 9 Nationally Ranked Recruiting Classes
- The 7 College World Series number that is thrown out is misleading. 5 of them were JUCO/NAIA. Two of them (UGA in 2004 and MSU in 2013) were in D1 Baseball. Still, it's a good number.
- Most of his connections are within this area. The majority of his coaching career has been in the Mississippi State and the Birmingham/North Alabama area.
- Has experience at Auburn and his best recruiting class at Auburn (2007) lead to Auburn's best recent baseball success. It included Hunter Morris, Kevin Patterson, Jon Luke Jacobs, Wes Gilmer, Brad Hendrix, Brian Fletcher, and Treny Mummey.
- Teams regularly ranked high in strikeouts and double plays.
- Last season was the exception and not the rule. Hard to discount the 2.58 (2012), 2.79 (2013), and 3.06 (2014) Staff ERAs he had coming in. Each of those years had Strikeouts of 536, 588, and 513.
- Has coached and recruited at schools with similar scholarship limitations as Auburn (and at Auburn itself).
- State was devastated by the draft after 2014. That ERA number and W/L record is a bit skewed by a lack of depth in their bullpen and the fact that Preston Brown gave up 12 Homeruns. They still held opponents to a .269 Batting Average.
Now that Butch is reportedly the guy, the hard part begins. Here are the next steps for Butch at Auburn:
HIRE A HITTING COACH
That's the biggest step for Thompson. He needs to hire a hitting coach. A good one at that. Greg Norton is there is Thompson would like to go that route and if Norton doesn't mind being a hitting coach when he was an interim head coach for a little bit of time. Norton would add a little bit of stability to an already rocky situation. Maybe if Norton was given free reign of the hitters then Auburn’s offense might actually flourish. Auburn, at least in the fall, has shown that their offense could possibly be a markedly better than last year (granted it’s a small sample size). Thompson can handle the pitching. No problem. He needs a guy to handle the hitters.
SELL THE PROGRAM
Thompson now has to sell the program. Better than Golloway tried to. That’s more public appearances and being more open with fans and with players. Golloway tried, at times, to sell Auburn baseball to non-fans. He was succeeding those in-roads to a degree. Thompson needs to get butts in seats. The wins may not be there at the beginning but if he consistently builds then the fan base will slowly increase.
HIT THE RECRUITING TRAIL
Start recruiting and start recruiting hard. Golloway left a team that is top heavy with upper classmen. Whether they be guys who have stuck in the system or plug-in JUCO guys. Thompson is already behind the 8-Ball for this recruiting cycle but it’s not too late. There are still guys that could be swayed. Guys that Thompson will need to work even harder to get now. The recruiting aspect is probably what put Butch ahead when it comes to the Auburn job. He’ll need to deliver to quiet any early critics.
IGNORE THE GOLLOWAY CIRCUS
That’s not going away and, barring a settlement, is not going away quietly. Golloway will still fight and still push his suit against Auburn. Thompson needs to tune it out and focus on his team and his players.
Because there will ALWAYS be Auburn fans who feel like it will be Casey Dunn or bust for Auburn. No matter how asinine I personally feel that thinking is, I can’t change it. It will always remain until Auburn stops going .500 against the Bulldogs and starts going undefeated.
Personally, I love the hire. To me (and to many many others) it is the best fit for what Auburn baseball needs to succeed and what Auburn baseball should look for in a Coach. I’m excited (again) about the season) and will still be there at the top of the Parking Deck cheering on my favorite Auburn team.