Oklahoma baseball has promoted Skip Johnson to head coach. The hiring was announced by OU early Monday night and is expected to be approved the school's Board of Regents on Tuesday. A press conference is slated for Tuesday morning.
The hiring comes a week after Oklahoma parted ways with baseball coach Pete Hughes.
Johnson joined the Sooners’ coaching staff before this past season. Prior to his arrival in Norman, Johnson spent 10 seasons as Texas pitching coach. During his time with OU’s Red River rival, the Longhorns reached the College World Series three times, won or shared four Big 12 Conference regular-season titles and claimed the league tournament three times.
"Once our search got underway last week, we spoke to many people throughout the youth, college and professional baseball worlds about the candidates we were considering, and the information gleaned from those conversations further validated our belief that Skip is the right and the best choice for our program now and going forward,” OU athletic director Joe Castiglione said in a statement Monday night.
"Our main focus with any coaching search is making decisions grounded in what's best for our student-athletes and our program overall. Skip emerged as the best candidate and he's diligently prepared for this special opportunity. We obviously got to know Skip this past year as a member of our coaching staff, but we also know about his career of success, his previous head coaching experience and him being mentored by the winningest coach in the history of college baseball, Augie Garrido. Skip's been part of championships and he's been to Omaha. That's where we want to be.”
The Sooners went 35-24 this past season and finished third in the Big 12 Conference standings at 12-11.
The berth in the NCAA Tournament was the program’s first since Sunny Golloway’s final season in 2013.
Elevating Johnson to replace Hughes seems like an attempt to preserve the status quo. OU will return the core of that team next season.
Johnson was previously the head coach at Navarro (Texas) College from 1994-2006. During his time there, he led that program to nine conference championships and four regional titles.
"I'd like to thank the OU Board of Regents, President David Boren, Joe Castiglione and (Senior Associate AD) Greg Tipton for giving me this opportunity to lead the University of Oklahoma baseball program, and for the confidence in me they've shown," Johnson said in a statement. "More than anything, I'm honored. As head coach at OU, I'm going to do everything I can to make our alumni and our fan base very proud. We're going to recruit and develop student-athletes who possess the intangibles and the heart necessary to win conference and national championships, we're going to abide by a set of core values that our players will clearly understand, and we'll have a player program that is going to develop young men on and off the field."
Johnson’s history developing pitchers extends into the major leagues. He coached three first-round picks at Texas and worked with Los Angeles Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw since the pitcher was a teenager.
But it is Johnson’s vast recruiting connections in Texas that could be his greatest attribute. The Denton, Texas, native has mined the state for over 20 years as a college baseball coach.
“He’s going to bring championship baseball back to Norman and the University of Oklahoma. The legacies of Coach (Enos) Semore, Coach (Larry) Cochell and Coach (Sunny) Golloway have all been a part of his own observation and his own development,” Garrido said in a statement. “I sincerely believe all of us in coaching are influenced by the people who we're surrounded by. He was surrounded by the spirit of Oklahoma baseball and the people in the leadership roles at OU. He's been on the Texas side of it and so he knows about arch rivals from the inside point of view, and he brings with him a background of championship baseball from when he was head coach at Navarro.”
It didn’t take Castiglione long to come to a decision on Johnson. He parted ways with Hughes just seven days ago. The searches that brought Hughes to OU from Virginia Tech in the summer of 2013 and eventually led to Golloway’s promotion from assistant to head coach took several weeks each.