Oct. 11, 2012

2012 Coaching Changes

Ritchie named GW head coach

Colonials Get Top Choice, Finally

By Sean Ryan

CollegeBaseballInsider.com Co-Founder


George Washington officially dismissed coach Steve Mrowka on May 21 – insiders say he actually was told before the Colonials’ last series of the season at Massachusetts the weekend before. Today, nearly five months later, GW officially named proud alumnus and Pittsburgh Pirates hitting coach Gregg Ritchie its head coach.


To say this coaching search was atypical is an understatement.


Even though it brought in candidate after candidate, GW knew who it wanted all along: Gregg Ritchie. But there were two major problems: timing and money. Not only was Ritchie in the midst of coaching the Pirates hitters, but Pittsburgh also entered the second half of the Major League season in a pennant chase. Throw in that bringing back Ritchie, a GW Hall of Famer, would cost more than what the Colonials’ budget allowed and more than the other candidates would command, and there were serious doubts that this day would ever arrive.


In late July, sources said that Ritchie had been offered the job. But there was no announcement – those pesky Pirates were still in the mix. But the buzz around Virginia and the Mid-Atlantic was that Ritchie, who runs a Northern Virginia hitting facility in the off-season, would be named the next coach at GW.


On Aug. 10, the Colonials tabbed longtime Mary Washington coach Tom Sheridan as associate head coach. It was another clue that Ritchie had in fact accepted the Colonials’ offer – Ritchie and Sheridan are longtime friends, with Ritchie serving as an assistant to Sheridan at Mary Washington from 1987-89. That day, I emailed GW officials: “Can you confirm that Gregg has been offered the position? And can you confirm that he will assume the head coaching position upon the completion of the Pirates' season?” The Colonials responded that Sheridan would lead the program until they announced a new head coach in the fall and couldn’t get into specifics about the head coaching situation.


At that time, we reported: While CollegeBaseballInsider.com expects that a deal already is in place for the top choice, it cannot confirm the selection. Sheridan provides a safety net for the Colonials if in fact their top choice does not come to fruition.


We chose not to name Ritchie for a few reasons. One was that while we thought Ritchie had accepted, we were not 100 percent certain. A second reason was that because an announcement wouldn’t be made until after the season, there was a lot of time for a change of heart. What if the Pirates reached the playoffs or the World Series? Would Ritchie have a change of heart and want to stick around for another run with the Buccos in 2013? And a third reason was that we knew that there would be a flat denial, which came a little more than a week later.


And then, the wait.


The Pirates fell flat and again finished with a losing record. And reports out of Pittsburgh were that Ritchie would not return. GW, meanwhile, hired the rest of its staff and began recruiting after missing the entire summer recruiting season.


Which brings us to today. A day that George Washington has been anticipating most of the summer. A day when it welcomes home a favorite son whom it believes can create excitement for a program moving into a newly renovated facility. A day that caps one of the more intriguing job searches in recent memory.


The long and winding road ended today. George Washington got its man.