We’ve all spent many years looking at the icons of college softball with a great deal of respect and admiration. There is no doubt that when you talk about the great coaches of our game that you start your list with these names, Candrea, Enquist, Gasso, Hutchins, Murphy, Walton and Alameda. Well, after watching quite a few games during the NCAA Regionals there is a new list on the horizon.
Of course, many of the greats we discussed earlier are not going anywhere any time soon. These coaches are going to keep winning for as long as they want to coach and it is safe to say that any great accomplishments in the game will mean beating many of these coaches and their teams.
But the good news is this, there are a whole lot of “new” coaches making their mark on the sport and you have to be excited about it. Now when I say new, I don’t mean rookie coaches, or unknown coaches just emerging on the scene but rather less famous or renowned than the murderers row of Hall of Famers we listed earlier. If you watched the Regional games that I did we can all say the future is pretty bright.
Cindy Ball Malone at UCF is a rock star who can write her own ticket but, happily, seems to love UCF and will continue to build a powerhouse there. Trisha Ford as Arizona State has built a national championship level program in the desert and appears to be on the verge of great things. Marissa Young at Duke has built a Top 10 powerhouse in only a few years, her kids play with great passion, and there is no doubt they are here to stay. Courtney Deifel took on a very tough challenge at Arkansas and has established her program as a national championship contender. Pete D’Amour has almost instantly turned Virginia Tech into a national powerhouse. Laura Berg was one of the greatest players to ever play the game and she now appears to be on the verge of adding her name to the same discussion about coaching by turning Oregon State into a Super Regional team in only a couple years. Stanford hit the jackpot when they got Jessica Allister to return to her alma mater and she demonstrated that when her team went onto Tuscallosa and pulled off a huge upset to advance to the Supers. Samantha Ricketts has worked hard to help make Mississippi State into a contender in the SEC and has built a team that can beat anyone on any day which they just proved by pulling off the huge upset of Florida State. And last but not least, Arizona is synonymous with national championship softball and to see Caitlin Lowe leading the Wildcats to the Supers in her first season seems to say the Cats made a pretty good hire.
This list is certainly not the end all be all of coaching potential. There are many more coaches who are also doing great things at other schools where they just might not have the tools or the resources to achieve at the same level of the new breed of rock star coaches we just discussed. There is no doubt that the over achieving coaches we discussed earlier have a lot of advantages by working at schools that should be good but they still had to get it done and that deserves a great deal of respect.
So now we can start to think about where the next wave of coaching rising stars will come from. Whether it is an assistant who moves into the big chair or an up and comer from a smaller school, there is no doubt that we will be able to put together another pretty strong list again next year.
Comments? Questions? Suggestions?