Dean brings new culture to Auburn softball

Bryan Matthews, Senior Editor
Auburn Sports

AUBURN | Mickey Dean showed up for his introductory press conference in a suit and obligatory orange and blue striped tie. But if he had it his way, Auburn’s new softball coach may have preferred to ride in on a Harley-Davidson motorcycle.

His maverick approach led upstart James Madison to its most successful five-year stretch in school history including five of the school’s six NCAA Regional appearances and back-to-back seasons of 50 or more wins in 2016-17.


Jay G. Tate/

“My philosophy, it’s all about culture,” Dean said. “There’s two types of culture, culture by default and culture by design. My responsibility as head coach is to make sure we have the culture that we want and that has to be by design.

“I don’t think you can be great at one thing. If you want to be great then you have to be great in all aspects of your life — academics, socially, on-the-field, work ethic. I told the team yesterday the only time we’re going to have a problem is if I’m outworking you or if you’re outworking me.”

Dean, who went on an 18-day, 1,800-mile road trip on his Harley in June with just “a tent on my back,” could use some non-traditional ways to build team unity with his new players.

At JMU, he took the team on a camping trip, to the water park and even on a mud run.

“It starts with three things with our program,” Dean explained. “I can tell you that right up front; trust, love and commitment. I talked with the team yesterday about the trust part, and I’m going to have trust them, and they’re going to have to trust me. That’s where it’s got to start.

“I told them, when you take a class, you have no grades entering that class. You start at zero. That’s what your grade is. Well, for this, we have to treat trust the opposite. We have to start at 100 percent. We have to find a way to do that. And we will.”

Dean met with Auburn’s players for the first time Saturday and started out by singing Happy Birthday to All-American pitcher Kaylee Carlson. He plans to hold his first practice Tuesday.

“The meeting yesterday was really positive, it was very good,” Dean said. “They just want to play softball, all right? That’s all they want to do. They’re excited, and they’re going to take that excitement and run with it. They want to do this for you. They want to do this for you. They want to play for you. They want you to come out and cheer. That’s all they want. That’s it.”


** Dean on any questions he had about the previous softball staff and the ongoing investigation…

“Well, I felt that they were very up front. The questions and concerns that I had were mainly with the NCAA and how it would affect our program, and I felt very comfortable. Otherwise, I wouldn’t be standing here today. I feel like we have great support with the administration, so I just want to get out there on the field, hit some ground balls, run some bases and watch them live. Just let them do what they love to do.”

** Dean on playing in the SEC…

“I don’t know. I think it’s kinda laid-back,” he joked. “It’s exciting. You can preach to your kids year in and year out about wanting to compete and wanting to perform and wanting to do things at the top level. I get to do this in the SEC. We get to do this together as a family, the Auburn family. We get to go out and compete, work. That’s what’s exciting about it. The SEC is the top conference in the country. To be here and to have this opportunity, I am so grateful.”

** JMU played at Auburn last February, splitting two games. JMU lost the first game 4-0 and won the next day 1-0.

“The atmosphere is unbelievable. We played here when I was at James Madison. We played here last year and the excitement and the crowd and the community support is just amazing.”

** Dean on changing the pitching mentality from pitching to contact to going for strikeouts…

“I don’t want to get too much into specifics. I guarantee if you ask that young lady what she’s doing with every pitch, she’s trying to throw her best pitch. It’s just a mindset. It’s a mental mindset. She’s a great pitcher. They’re both great pitchers. We’ll come to some common ground there.”

** Dean on all of his practices being open to the public…

“Think about it; how would you like to go out and practice every day with 2 or 3,000 people in the stands? That would be awesome. Could you imagine how much more work we’re going to get out of our kids and get out of our coaching staff? Yeah, come on out.”

** Dean on being a fan of Auburn football…

“What's exciting to me, even more, is I'm an Auburn football fan. Bo Jackson and those days, that was unbelievable. Just the opportunity to hang around here and the small chance of meeting Bo Jackson would be tremendous.”

** Dean has agreed to a five-year deal with Auburn worth approximately $250,000 per year.

** Dean has a 478-172 record in 11 seasons as head coach at James Madison and Radford.

** Dean’s wife, Liz, son, Isaac, and daughter, Caroline, all attended the press conference. Isaac is a sophomore at James Madison and Caroline is a junior in high school.

What to Read Next