Feb. 7, 2013
Cincinnati's Brian Cleary: Ambassador of the Game
Big East preview
With Louisville's Dan McDonnell
By Sean Ryan
is at it again.
The Cardinals, who have made five trips to the
NCAA tournament in head coach Dan McDonnell’s six seasons,
appear poised for another big year in the Big East: They are
ranked in all five of the main national polls, including a lofty
perch of No. 4 from Baseball America.
Louisville went 41-22 a year ago, losing in the
Tucson Regional Final to eventual national champion Arizona.
While they need to replace some key parts – especially on the
mound – the Cardinals are the team to beat in the Big East in
2013, according to the league’s coaches.
That hasn’t been an uncommon belief since
McDonnell arrived in 2007 after 14 years as an assistant at Ole
Miss and The Citadel, his alma mater. All the Cardinals have
done is average 43 wins a season under McDonnell’s guidance, and
they reached Omaha in his first season.
The trend of Louisville as a preseason Big East
favorite won’t last – the Cardinals will fly to the ACC for the
2014-15 school year.
1. What does last year's experience in the
NCAA tourney do for this year’s team?
With a young team, it gave several
guys experience not only playing in a Regional, but twice going
up against an Arizona team that went on to win the national
championship. Playing in the Regional final with an opportunity
to host a Super Regional the following week gave that team an
experience of being that close to Omaha.
As a team that returns a lot of firepower, where are your areas
We lost our Friday-night guy in Justin Amlung, the Big East
Pitcher of the Year and an All-American, along with two closers
in Derek Self and Matt Koch [all three are pitching in pro
ball]. Now, someone has to step up and wear the “Cow Bell” and
lead the staff. Someone has to prove that they can get the last
three outs of a game on a consistent basis. We feel we have
those guys in Chad Green, Jeff Thompson and Jared Ruxer for the
Friday spot and Nick Burdi, Cole Sturgeon and Dace Kime for the
last three outs. As for improvement as a team, we have to defend
at a championship caliber. For a team that did so much last
year, we were average defensively.
3. You've guided the Cardinals to five NCAA trips in six
years. What has been the key to your consistency and growth of
It starts at the top with our Athletic Director Tom Jurich,
his staff and their commitment to excellence. This allows our
coaching staff to have the freedom to be as good as we want to
be. And it’s evident, our two assistants, Chris Lemonis and
Roger Williams, who have been here since Day 1, are the best two
in the country at work ethic, recruiting, developing players and
continuing to advance this program to national recognition.
4. How did your experience as a student-athlete at The
Citadel shape you as a coach? And describe your College World
Series experiences, first as a player, and then as a coach.
It makes me smile. I loved my college experience, and I want
our players to feel the same way about theirs. Win
championships, play in Omaha and love your teammates and the
program. I was blessed to play with great teammates who loved to
compete and really cared about each other. We also played for a
legendary, Hall of Fame coach Chal Port. Having coached in Omaha
after having played in Omaha, I was able to experience both
sides. As a player playing in Omaha, it’s all about you and your
teammates. As a Coach in Omaha, you realize it’s about a whole
lot of people. I want so badly for my players, their families
and our fans to experience how special it is.
You have one of the finest facilities in the country. How has
that helped your program, and how does that position the
Cardinals for the ACC?
It shows that we make a commitment to baseball, and the
recruits and fans know it. It doesn’t have to be the biggest
facility in the country, but it has to be one of the best, and
it is. We will put our amenities, our facilities and our space
up with anyone. And if you are going to compete in the ACC, you
have to make a commitment.
(photos courtesy of Louisville Media