Oct. 10, 2008


Nine Innings with Dan Spencer

By Sean Ryan

CollegeBaseballInsider.com Co-Founder


For the first time in more that two decades, there will be a new man in charge at Texas Tech. Dan Spencer (pictured left) is the new head coach of the Red Raiders. He replaces Larry Hays, who guided Texas Tech for 22 seasons and compiled more than 1,500 victories.


A former CBI journalist, Spencer was the 2007 National Pitching Coach of the Year at Oregon State. He spent 11 years with the Beavers and the final three as associate head coach, concentrating on pitching and recruiting. Spencer helped guide Oregon State to consecutive national titles in 2006 and 2007. He was an assistant coach with Texas Tech this past season.


A native of Vancouver, Wash., Spencer was an infielder with the Red Raiders and played one season under Hays. He completed his degree in history at Portland in 1990.


First Inning – You came back to Lubbock last year as an assistant coach after playing for Texas Tech from 1985-87. How did it feel to come back?

It felt great to come back. Obviously I enjoyed my time in Corvallis, but I had been there a long time and the opportunity to go back to where you played and get in the sunshine in a new conference with different challenges was intriguing.

Second Inning – You played for Larry Hays and coached with him last year. How has he shaped your life or career?

Coach Hays is a great person first and secondly a great coach. I think the balance that he has in his life is worth trying to copy. Our personalities are different, but the principles need to be the same.

Third Inning – In 11 seasons at Oregon State, you were part of the transformation of a program. How did it happen?

I think getting into the Pac-10 in 1999 and building Goss Stadium in the same year started it. Being in the Pac-10 forces you to recruit better and the league and the facilities allowed us to attract the players we needed to get it going. The other obvious key is that the Oregon high school class of pitching in 2003 and 2004 was very good and we kept most of them. Buck, Gunderson, Nickerson, Turpen, Kunz, Paterson and Stutes was a pretty good place to start on the mound. As you know if you cannot pitch you will not win when it matters.

Fourth Inning – Three straight trips to Omaha, two national titles. Do you still pinch yourself?

No doubt about it. To get to Omaha three times and win it twice is an experience not shared by many. In retrospect it is very humbling, knowing that a lot of great coaches have not been to Omaha.

Fifth Inning – Looking back, what will you remember most from your two national title teams?

That one is easy. I remember most the character and competitiveness of our players. I do not think that in either year we were the most talented team in the country, but I believe we were the toughest.

Sixth Inning – Was it tough to leave Oregon State?

It was very hard to leave the players that you coached and recruited. I am from the Northwest and my wife is from Corvallis, so it was tough to leave the grandparents and it is always tough to leave friends, but the hardest thing is to leave the comfort zone that comes from being in one place for a long time.

Seventh Inning – What's different so far between being an assistant coach and a head coach? How can your years as an assistant help you as a head coach?

You have a lot more friends when you are the head coach. I think the key is to not change who you are or how you coach just because you have a different title. Obviously there are a lot more meetings and things to do outside of baseball as the head coach. The one thing I will remember is that a head coach is only as good as the people you surround yourself with, basically your coaches and your players.

Eighth Inning – What is the first step in turning things around in one of the toughest conferences in the country?

Recruiting. It starts on the mound, so you have to pitch. Also, my feeling is that you have to be fast. Speed plays both ways: offensively and defensively. The other key that may be the toughest sell is to convince your team that you can win big before you do.

Ninth Inning – What goals have you set for your team for 2009?

To win as many games as we are supposed to win. To play the same way if we are playing a Tuesday game, as we would in a conference game on the road. Relentless consistency.

Tenth Inning – Describe yourself as a coach? Has that changed at all now that you're a head coach?

I try to be consistent day to day and not ride the roller coaster of five straight wins or five straight losses. I try to remember that you are coaching somebody else's kid and to separate the performance from the player. The relationships with players after they leave school is very important to me. I think the key is to not change my approach just because my title is different. I do not think that I am intelligent enough to try and change my approach.


(photos courtesy of Texas Tech Media Relations Office)