Dave Serrano surfs across the county to Fullerton
By Eric Sorenson - September 07, 2007
Got a call today from UCLA head coach John Savage. He wanted to talk to me about making this year's Southern California Media Day a live, two-hour show once again like it was in 2006. I'll sign that memo coach, no prob. I told him I'd see what I could do with the higher-ups in New York - though I warned him that I don't have any pull whatsoever, of course.
But then the conversation quickly turned to the big news of the day. "Heard the latest one today? And are you sitting down?" Coach asked me. "Serrano is heading to Fullerton."
[Long pause put here for effect]
That's all I could come up with. I thought the Fullerton gig wasn't even on Coach Dave Serrano's radar. I just read that the other day on UC Irvine's website. But lo and behold, it's true. The coach who took the Anteaters to the College World Series just two months ago is heading back to where he was the pitching coach guru for a number of years: Cal State Fullerton.
I shouldn't have been so speechless. One thing I've learned from my years of covering sports and from my good friends I have in the coaching profession: never believe anyone who says "I have no interest in that job." That's just coach speak. They HAVE to say that. Otherwise the media is quick to make a mountain out of a mole hill and put them in an awkward situation. That's just the nature of the business.
So once again that theory has proven correct as Coach Serrano, makes his way across the O.C. and back to Titan-land. And I can just feel the breeze blowing across the orange groves now as the entire Titan nation breathes a sigh of relief. With a coach like Serrano in tow, that program isn't going to go anywhere. It's still THE program in the state and will play for Big West titles, Regional hosts and College World Series regulars.
But I can't help but feel a little sorry for Fullerton assistant Rick Vanderhook. He was the one that everyone thought was next in line over there off of State College Drive. Being the long-time assistant and third base coach for Horton, it was a natural next step. Or so I thought.
But Serrano gets the gig after leading UCI for the last three seasons to a record of 114-66, including this past season's 47-17 mark. His Anteater squad reached the College World Series after dramatic wins in the Regionals and Super Regionals at Texas and at Wichita State respectively. Once in Omaha, the 'Eaters became a local favorite with their scrappy never-say-die attitude and - of course - off-beat nickname.
Serrano was at Fullerton during both the Augie Garrido and Horton eras. He also was the pitching coach for Rod Delmonico for two years at Tennessee, during which the Vols went to the College World Series with arms like R.A. Dickey and Todd Helton.
Coach Serrano is quoted as saying, "Now that I am realizing that I am the baseball coach at Cal State Fullerton and following in the legacy of Augie Garrido, Larry Cochell and George Horton, I couldn't be prouder."
And as for Coach Savage - who was the head coach at UCI before moving on to UCLA - what were his thoughts on the hire? He told me there's no doubt that this hire just cements Fullerton's status once again. "Oh he'll do great there. Obviously he's had success there before and he did a great job taking over for me at Irvine. So they're not going to miss a beat with Dave as the head coach."
It doesn't seem too far of a stretch that Fullerton Athletic Director Brian Quinn would reach out to a former assistant. In fact, I harken back to something I remember Coach Horton saying back during the Super Regionals when asked about Serrano leading UCI to Omaha, "I knew Coach Serrano was going to be a success at Irvine. And I'm also certain that if Coach Vanderhook and Coach Kernen ever get their chance at a head coaching job, they'll be just as successful. We've had some great assistant coaches come through Fullerton."
Well, now you've got a great one coming back to Fullerton too. And the Titan faithful say thank you.
Posted by Eric Sorenson at 06:42 PM on September 07, 2007