- Pierce, 53, looks like a solid choice with a streak of 16 straight NCAA appearances and four conference titles in his five years as a head coach.
- Texas reportedly approached at least 11 candidates to replace Augie Garrido, who was reassigned on Memorial Day.
- Pierce has demonstrated versatility, having worked as both a pitching coach and a hitting coach as a Rice assistant.
After a month of swings and misses, Texas ended up hiring a baseball coach who would have said yes back on day one.
It took a little while — 31 days to be exact — but the Longhorns have their man in Tulane’s David Pierce, a Houston native who says coaching the Longhorns is “the ultimate dream for me.” Though he may not be the home run many thought Texas would hire when it moved Augie Garrido to an administrative job on Memorial Day, Pierce, 53, looks like a solid choice with a streak of 16 consecutive postseason appearances to go with four conference titles in his five seasons as a head coach.
Hours after the American-Statesman reported Pierce’s hiring on Wednesday morning, Texas confirmed it had tabbed the University of Houston graduate to be the program’s 13th head coach in 122 years. Pierce told the Statesman he will forgo his obligations with Team USA and left the team’s training camp in California to fly to Austin for a Thursday press conference. Then, “it’s time to roll up our sleeves and go to work,” he said.
Overall, Pierce is 197-109 as a head coach, including a 41-21 mark this season, which included a series win at Texas.
In some ways, this search paralleled the one Texas conducted in December to hire a football offensive coordinator. In both cases, there was a dash of embarrassment, with high-profile candidates pulling out and leaving the Longhorns brass looking overmatched. The Statesman identified at least 11 baseball coaches, including Pierce, who Texas either approached or interviewed for the position. In virtually every case, the coach received a pay increase to stay where he was.
Additionally, both searches involved an unexpected assist from university president Gregory L. Fenves, who flew to Tulsa to smooth over issues with offensive coordinator Sterlin Gilbert and ordered a pause to the baseball search two weeks ago until he returned home from a fund-raising trip in Asia.
Both searches ended with UT hiring a Texan — Gilbert of San Angelo, and Pierce who canvassed the state with coaching stops, in order, at Houston St. Pius X, Rice University, Bellaire Episcopal, Pasadena Dobie (head coach), the University of Houston, Rice for a second time, and Sam Houston State, where Pierce got his first college head coaching job in 2012. Along the way, he spent several seasons throwing left-handed batting practice with the Houston Astros.
“David has always supported me through the years, and I’m a huge supporter of his,” said Pierce’s brother-in-law, Gary Kubiak, who coached the Denver Broncos to the Super Bowl last season. “I also consider David a great friend and a great person. This is a tremendous hire for Texas, and my family and I wish him all the best with the Longhorns.”
Though the Statesman first listed him as a potential candidate in late May, Pierce did not hear from Texas until around the time he interviewed on June 18. A source said that after the interview, athletic director Mike Perrin, in his first search for a head coach, took steps to hire Pierce but was blocked by an influential figure at the university.
After being rebuffed by several candidates with national titles — including Vanderbilt’s Tim Corbin, Oregon State’s Pat Casey, UCLA’s John Savage and LSU’s Paul Mainieri — Perrin may have gotten the next best thing in Pierce, who in his first of nine seasons at Rice helped the Owls win the 2003 national championship when they hit .313 with 51 home runs. Possessing a wide breadth of baseball versatility, Pierce at separate times served as Wayne Graham’s hitting coach and pitching coach. In many circles, Pierce was thought to be the eventual replacement for Graham, who is 80.
“He did a good job in both capacities,” Graham said Wednesday. “His baseball education has been awfully good and it’s because he pursued it. He’s done everything he could to learn his business. To me, he is a great choice.”
In what promises to be a compelling story line, Pierce’s Longhorns will open next season against Rice with four games in Austin. It’ll be a matchup pitting the mentor, Graham, versus his pupil, Pierce.
“It’s gonna be a challenge and it’s gonna be very competitive,” Pierce said.
Pierce said he’ll fill out his coaching staff from “a handful of names” he’s considering. Among them, perhaps, is former Tulane associate head coach Sean Allen, who on Tuesday accepted a position at Alabama. Alabama has not formally announced Allen’s hire, and a spokesman at the school said he does not know if the hire is official.
Incidentally, Pierce also was a finalist to be the head coach at Alabama, which instead chose Louisiana Tech’s Greg Goff.
At Tulane, Pierce structured his staff with two offensive coaches, leaving him to handle the pitchers with the help of a volunteer assistant. Tulane led the nation this season with 13 shutouts.
“The structure on my next staff hasn’t been determined,” Pierce said.
Pierce declined to discuss the financial terms of his contract. For context, UT was scheduled to pay Garrido $1.2 million next year. Sources say Texas is obligated to pay Tulane a buyout, which is believed to be at least $250,000.
Though multiple coaches told the Statesman that some coaches had concerns about following Garrido, a five-time national champion and the winningest college coach in the history of the game, Pierce received his predecessor’s endorsement.
Garrido, who this weekend will head to Lubbock for his induction into the National College Baseball Hall of Fame, called Pierce “a very fine choice.”
“I’ve known Dave for quite awhile, going back to when he was an assistant at Rice,” Garrido said in a statement. “He was great there, and as a head coach, he has turned two programs around quickly and done a tremendous job. He’s knowledgeable and passionate about what he’s doing and who he’s doing it for. He’s a heart-and-soul Texan who will make every effort for this national championship-caliber program.”