Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Titans Baseball Needs a Regime Change

By Samuel Chi

I realize by writing this post I'll offend a strong contingent of coach Rick Vanderhook's supporters. But my loyalty is to the Fullerton baseball program, far and above any individual, so here goes:

Hook was never the right guy to lead this program and that's compounded by AD Jim Donovan's ill-advised decision to extend him last year. But now, Donovan has a chance to take a corrective course of action to save the program.

When Dave Serrano left for Tennessee, it was a pivotal time for the Titans. Under siege from big-budget schools putting more emphasis on baseball, we were faced with a landscape increasingly dominated by BCS powers. We needed an infusion of new blood and new ideas to take us boldly into a more challenging terrain.

Instead, bowing to pressure from alums and some fans, then-AD Brian Quinn hired Hook. Not only that, he did not even bother to conduct a meaningful national search to find the right guy for the job.

Now, Hook's loyalty to Cal State Fullerton isn't to be questioned, but that should not be the first, second or third qualification for the job. This is an elite program that needs elite leadership, and Hook doesn't fit the bill.

Hook's a career assistant for a reason, with a temperament ill suited to be the leader of an elite program. He also betrays a certain amount of small-mindedness, with his decision to meddle with the Titan Central message board and then try to shut down live streaming being glaring examples.

In short, Hook's stuck in the past, on and off the field. He does not have the vision that's desperately needed to lead this program.

While I don't personally approve the secret recording of a tirade (IF THAT'S INDEED WHAT HAPPENED), the allegations must be serious enough for Donovan and the administration to mount an investigation. And make no mistake, this wasn't an isolated incident.

Viewed in totality, you can make a case for abusive treatment of players. Please spare me the Junction Boys tales, these are different times whether you like it or not. And the best coaches find ways to adapt. Coach K does not go about his business the same way he did in the 1980s.

The sunflower seed incident, the post-game rant at USD, the 7 a.m. scrimmage after a late-night game, the pregame tirade before the UCSB game - just using a few examples already mentioned on the message board - prove to be very illuminating.

It shows that Hook has but one play in his playbook. A few commenters mentioned that Augie went on epic tirades, too - yes, I know, I've seen them personally. But that's not the only thing he does. Augie was - and still is - a master motivator. He has many more devices from that coaching tool box.

Hook, on the other hand, is a one-trick pony - which we all knew. And he's not going to reverse this season's epic meltdown because he's already out of ideas. The constant ranting and raving - and badmouthing the players to the press - is already old and the players have tuned him out.

Now we must not allow this disastrous season go beyond 2014, and the only thing to do is cut Hook loose.

We thank him for all he's done as a player and assistant and these last 2 1/2 years that included a 51-win season (but no trips to Omaha). We go out and conduct an honest and serious national search, trying to locate the best candidate for the job, whether he's ever set foot at Goodwin before or not.

We should never fear whomever we hire would move on to greener pastures. If they do, we wish them well and we move on. We're Cal State Fullerton, there are plenty of top coaches who want to leave their mark here. What we can't do is let the program slip into irrelevance like Titans softball.

That's the danger facing us now. We have failed to recruit top position players after Serrano's departure. We have not been to Omaha since 2009. We have been eliminated by a lower-ranked team in each of the past three seasons. We'll likely miss the postseason for the first time since 1991.

Was it all Hook's fault? Maybe not. But at the same time, Hook isn't going to get us out of this very mess - arguably the program's only major crisis in its 40-year history (I was around in 1989 and this easily tops that) - that in no small part was his creation.

Donovan gets a second chance to make the right move. He needs to find a coach to take Cal State Fullerton back to Omaha and sustain our record of excellence.


Anonymous said...

You are absolutely correct that the CSF head coach job is to big to give to a career assistant. You guys are in the same position USC was in a couple years into the Chad Kreuter regime. The only difference is CSF has a chance to right the ship before it's too late. Hopefully the AD will do the right thing and do a national search for a qualified HC. CSF is one of the best opportunities in college baseball, great location for recruiting, affordable tuition for in-state student athletes (necessary for baseball with so few scholarships), and a very competitive league.

The Big West and Southern California is not the same with a CSF baseball team that isn't expected to win every game, and it's news when they don't.

I'm a USC fan (my son played there) and it's been a long time since we have had anything to cheer for. SC has an amazing history but bad choices for leadership, and taking too long to change the situation can do damage that will take a long time to recover from.

Anonymous said...

You hit it exactly on the head. We watched USC's baseball program slowly slip into irrelevance and we could easily head that way if we don't handle the current coaching situation carefully.

Anonymous said...

These are "teachable moments" for these young men, and they - the players - need to learn accountability. I believe that was the spirit of Hook's tough-as-nails motivation, and it never would have come to those extremes if the players performed well, responded to management, and created a culture of a "we're in this together" band of brothers. I have no problem with Hook's candid interview with ESPN because it was spot-on accurate: lack of clutch hitting, lack of "playing smart" and a defense-with-the-yips. Maybe most importantly - again, as a teacher - Hook was BEGGING a Jr / Sr player to LEAD from within. This is a LIFE LESSON, not a baseball lesson, and every young man in that locker room should strive to be a leader - or turn in the uniform that was once worn by so many great young men with courage to speak truth to power, step out front among their peers, and lead by example. Hook can coach my kids any time! Life is about overcoming adversity, and everyone doesn't get a juice box before bed.

Anonymous said...

Your criticism of Hook, and those who hired him, is cheap and petty. "One trick pony"? What a clever use of words. One might even say "stuck in the past". I have a suspicion that the true problems with this year's team is with personnel. Hook deserves to be held responsible for his recruiting decisions, no doubt, but, by all appearances, there's a RAT on the team. I can't believe that the players will tolerate this -- a traitor in their midst. Maybe the rat is a player's Mommy or Daddy, which would be truly pathetic, but, if that's the case, show the entire Rat Family the door. GET OUT! GO AWAY! YOU ARE NOT WELCOME HERE!YOU DON'T BELONG IN THIS PROGRAM!

Anonymous said...

Hooky is a big ot.(period) and an old fool.

Anonymous said...

Rick Vanderbigot is washed up. He is sorry. Why CSF allowed him back is a mystery. He has ruined many elite top position players. AND Savage allowed it during those 3 years.

Anonymous said...

I suppose that means Savage is a big ot as well. Together, they were HORRIBLE! How these big ots keep getting coach of the year and bonuses is ludicrous. What is up, America? They make me sick!

Anonymous said...

To all of the big ot's supporters: You have no ideal how bigoted that guy is, do you? If you do not, look in the mirror!

Anonymous said...

Don't get quite now....

Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...

Why is Hook a bigot, you got any proof?