Feb. 14, 2012

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Nine Innings with Dave Serrano

By Sean Ryan

CollegeBaseballInsider.com Co-Founder

sean@collegebaseballinsider.com @collbaseball


When the Tennessee head coaching position opened, the Volunteers were able to land one of most successful coaches in college baseball in former UT assistant Dave Serrano.


Serrano has posted a record of 289-139-1 (.675) in seven seasons as a Division I head coach. He was head coach at UC Irvine from 2005-07 before taking over at Cal State Fullerton for the past four years, registering four straight 40-win seasons with the Titans. Serrano guided both schools to the College World Series, one of only 11 coaches to take two different programs to Omaha.


A native of Torrence, Calif., Serrano has learned from some of the top coaches in the nation. He played under and coached with George Horton at Cerritos College and pitched for Augie Garrido at Fullerton. Serrano was an assistant for two seasons at Tennessee (1995-96) under Rod Delmonico. He returned to Fullerton as an assistant under Horton from 1997-2004 before going to UCI.


Serrano recently took time to answer our questions.


First Inning – How difficult was it to leave Cal State Fullerton?
I’ve never regretted any of my decisions along my career path to get to where I’m at today. With all due respect to Cal State Fullerton and its wonderful program, my belief is that Tennessee is a better fit for me and my family. I will always cherish my years at Fullerton, but my future is now all Tennessee.

Second Inning – You played for George Horton at Cerritos College, and Augie Garrido at Cal State Fullerton. What was it like playing for each of them, and what are some things that you learned from them that have helped you as a coach?
This is an easy question to answer. Coach Horton has played a huge part in where and what I am today. He taught me about leadership of young men, attention to detail, creating a winning atmosphere and delegating and trusting your coaches. Any and all success I’ve had and hopefully will continue to have has Coach Horton’s signature somewhere on it. I feel so fortunate to be able to say that I’ve played or coached with three National Coaches of the Year in Augie Garrido, George Horton and Rod Delmonico. I’m not sure many other coaches out there have had that wonderful opportunity like I have.

Third Inning – Speaking of Cerritos, how do you explain the number of successful college head coaches who have played or coached at Cerritos?
Well, as I’ve said to many people over the years, Wally Kincaid, who orchestrated Cerritos, was the John Wooden of JC baseball in his day. So it’s not surprising, at all, how many great coaches have come from that tree.
Fourth Inning – How did you get into coaching, and why?
When my career was over at Cal State Fullerton, my current assistant and good friend Bill Mosiello and I were running a Connie Mack team for then head coach at Cerritos College George Horton. When Augie Garrido left Fullerton for the first time to take over at Illinois, he took Jody Robinson who was Coach Horton’s assistant. This opening allowed Coach Horton to give a great opportunity for Bill and myself to coach at a very young age (23) at a great program like Cerritos. My decision to want to be a coach was purely to help kids and players prosper, not just in the game but life as well, just like some coaches and mentors did for me in my career. I look back at that opportunity and I’m so glad I took advantage of it to get me to where I am today.
Fifth Inning – Who were some of your pitching influences growing up and as a player? And who are some of them now?
The pitching philosophy of Wally Kincaid has made the biggest influence on me as a player and coach, but to this day I watch and observe many great coaches out there and take what will fit into my beliefs and system.

Sixth Inning – What were your biggest challenges going from a pitching coach to a head coach, and how did you adapt?
I’m not sure I would say there were any challenges, but I realized right away that I had to be as organized as ever before. You’re pulled in so many different directions, not just on the field but off the field as a head coach. I believe my transition was made smoother because of the power and role that was delegated to me for so many years as George Horton’s assistant coach. That’s where a great support staff of assistant coaches that you trust and delegate to, like I’ve been lucky to have at each stop, has allowed me to continue to be a pitching coach and head coach at the same time.

Seventh Inning – How has Cal State Fullerton done what it's done on the national scene, and how has it been able to maintain its status as a national power?
It obviously all starts with Augie Garrido, who took a baseball program at a commuter school in California and did more with nothing than anyone can even imagine. People see Fullerton now for what it’s become facility wise and believe they are on the same scale as others. They have no idea what it was like when Augie brought the first two national championships home. I believe the program has maintained its national prominence because its location to some of the best talent in the country and because players go there to win and go to Omaha. Lastly, the players, coaches and assistant coaches who it’s been handed down to over the years know what is expected of them to maintain the success level of all past Titan greats.

Eighth Inning – What attracted you to return to Tennessee, and were there any concerns about coming East after so many years on the West Coast?
The University of Tennessee itself, the SEC and the challenges and opportunities that will present and the fact that I can be part of building a program that has had some tradition of success back to where it belongs. I am also coming back to a place where I spent two great years as an assistant (1995-96) and know that it was a program that fit my needs and personality. Lastly, being able to put my wife and three boys into a great community and a true college town and atmosphere was something I couldn’t pass up. Probably my only concern to leaving the West Coast is the change in climate. With our indoor facilities and indoor batting tunnels, however, we should still never skip a beat in development with our teams.

Ninth Inning – What are some of your challenges at Tennessee, and what steps are needed to elevate the Volunteers to the top tier of the SEC?
I see challenges as we have so many great programs to catch back up with in the SEC. Besides that I don’t see us as having challenges. We have the facilities, a great university to recruit to, total support from our administration and a community that wants and will support us when we start winning on a consistent basis again. I think we started taking steps forward in every area of this program last June when we were hired to work to elevate Tennessee back to being a top tier program. It’s a daily commitment that will be expected of every coach and player in this program.


(photos courtesy of UTAD Photography)