Four Candidates (and one fantasy) for the next WSU baseball head coach

Pacific Northwest ties, proven MLB mentors top this list

WSU+Infielder+Cam+Magee+high+fives+one+of+his+coaches+after+an+NCAA+baseball+game+against+Gonzaga%2C+Tuesday%2C+May+2%2C+2023+in+Pullman%2C+Wash.+

HAILEE SPEIR

WSU Infielder Cam Magee high fives one of his coaches after an NCAA baseball game against Gonzaga, Tuesday, May 2, 2023 in Pullman, Wash.

SAM TAYLOR, Evergreen managing editor

Editor’s note: This article has been updated to reflect the number of freshmen who have decommited from the program

WSU is in the market for a head baseball coach after former coach Brian Green accepted a job at Wichita State.

Green was weeks removed from the end of his fourth year at the helm. He won 53% of his games at WSU but saw his Pac-12 Conference win-total decline in each of the last two seasons. WSU finished one place out of the Pac-12 baseball playoffs in 2022 and 2023.

WSU appeared to be on the right track as the program’s five All-Pac-12 players in 2023 were the most since the 2010 playoff team’s nine.

His pitching staff set a program record with over 500 strikeouts in 2023 but was nonetheless the weakest link as the lack of depth quickly caught up with the Cougs.

After a tenure that began with a goal of bringing Cougar baseball back to Omaha, the next baseball coach will take the reins of a program that has still not qualified for the College World Series since 2010.

CougFan.com reported WSU Athletic Director Pat Chun is moving rapidly, seeking former players’ input, in WSU baseball coaching search.’

While WSU Athletics is in a hiring freeze, it is thawed in certain circumstances.

WSU will prioritize positions that directly impact student-athletes, Chun said in a press conference, June 2.

Chun could hire a new coach any day, so below are four possible candidates (and one fantasy candidate) for the next WSU baseball head coach.

Jake Valentine; assistant coach/recruiting coordinator WSU

The first and most ideal head coach candidate is already in Pullman. Valentine moved to Pullman last year with his young family after seven seasons as an assistant coach at University of Portland. 

As the recruiting coordinator in ‘23, Valentine welcomed fellow former Portland Pilot Sam Brown, who combined dazzling defense at first base with dominant hitting to produce an All-Pac-12 First Team season.

All-Pac-12 Honorable Mention Jonah Advincula and former Arizona State Sun Devil Cam Magee committed to WSU with Valentine as recruiting coordinator.

All-Pac-12 Honorable Mention Elijah Hainline’s father, Jim Hainline, endorsed Valentine as a “perfect fit” for head coach.

“Mr. Chun. Please consider Jake V for the head job. He has earned a tremendous amount of respect in the locker room and is a great recruiter. Perfect fit!” Jim tweeted.

The Vancouver, Washington native played for Tacoma Community College and Hawai’i Pacific University before beginning a coaching career that took him to Stephen F. Austin State (2010-12), UC Riverside (2012–14) and Santa Clara (2015).

He spent seven seasons with Portland, in which 28 players earned All-West Coast Conference honors, four were selected in the MLB Draft and as recruiting coordinator, he was responsible for three straight nationally-ranked classes.

Valentine would provide continuity and stability in matching Green’s vision for success on and off the field while bringing his own ideas to the forefront.

John Olerud; WSU legend

Does Olerud, the former Coug and MLB player who is the only player to have his number retired by WSU want to move back to Pullman and lead a college baseball program? Probably not, but wouldn’t Olerud as head coach be so cool!?

Olerud was the Cougars’ pride and joy as a premier two-way player.

He hit a career .434 and in his sophomore season posted a ridiculous 15-0 record on the pitcher’s mound with a nasty 2.49 ERA and 133 strikeouts.

During his major league career, he won two World Series and earned three Gold Gloves, settling into the majors as a first baseman. The Seattle native was a part of the historic 2001 Seattle Mariners who won an MLB-record 116 games.

Olerud threw out the first pitch at a recent Mariners game and seems quite content living the retired life with his family in the Seattle area, having held no organized baseball position since his playing days ended in 2005.

However, with other Pac-12 schools like California, Arizona and Arizona State employing alumni as head coaches, WSU may be inclined to follow suit if the opportunity presented itself.

The next three options are among the most likely (or at least far more likely than Olerud’s return to the Palouse).

Travis Jewett; hitting coach USC

The Tacoma native and 1993 WSU alumn served as a WSU assistant coach from 2005–09. The Cougs qualified for the playoffs in 2009 with Jewett on staff.

He just wrapped his first season as USC’s hitting coach. In addition to WSU and USC, Jewett has served as an assistant for Vanderbilt, Arizona State, Washington and Gonzaga.

He led the Tulane baseball program for six years (2017–22) and helped 17 players get drafted into the major leagues with a 160-138-1 overall record.

Throughout his coaching career, Jewett has coached position players such as current major leaguers Kole Calhoun, Tony Kemp and Dansby Swanson.

Jewett would bring a quarter-century of coaching experience to the Palouse and lead WSU baseball in an encouraging direction of pro-player recruitment and development.

Rich Dorman; pitching coach Oregon State

Dorman has worked for WSU’s Pacific Northwest rivals for the last four years and has been a key leader to the Beavers’ award-winning pitching staff.

Dorman pitched three games for Oregon State in 1999, before transferring to Western Baptist (now Corban) in 2000.

He was drafted by Tampa Bay in the 13th round of the 2000 MLB Draft. He spent nine years in the minor leagues, making it as high as Triple-A Tacoma in the Seattle Mariners organization.

When his playing career concluded, Dorman took on a coaching role in the Mariners’ minor league system. He coached in Single-A Everett (2009–10, 2012–13), the Arizona League Mariners (2014–15) and Single-A Clinton (2011 and 2016). 

In 2016, Dorman worked with current Oregon State head coach Mitch Canham, who was Clinton’s manager.

Dorman spent eight years as Grand Canyon baseball’s pitching coach before joining Canham’s Oregon State staff in 2019.

During his time with the Mariners, he worked with major league pitchers such as Taijuan Walker, Freddy Peralta and James Paxton.

At Oregon State, he mentored Cooper Hjerpe, the 2022 National Pitcher of the Year.

Dorman would help stabilize a WSU pitching staff that ranked sixth in the Pac-12 in 2023 with a 5.55 ERA.

Eddie Smith; head coach Utah Valley

Smith is likely one of the most nationally-prized coaching candidates on this list.

In just two seasons with the Utah Valley Wolverines, he transformed a team that won 10 games the year prior to his arrival into a 34-win near-champion.

Smith’s club lost the WAC Championship and fell one win shy of qualifying for the NCAA Tournament, a tournament Smith is no stranger to.

As the hitting coach at LSU, Smith led a record-breaking offense into the Super Regional round of the 2021 NCAA Tournament.

“Working with Coach Smith my freshman year in college was a great opportunity that I had, and it is something that I will remember for the rest of my career. The energy and attitude that he brought every single day to the field molded our team into one of the best physically and mentally prepared teams in the country,” said Dylan Crews, the 2021 National Freshman of the Year.

Crews is the Athletic’s highest-ranked 2023 MLB Draft prospect. With Smith’s voice in his ear in 2021, he slashed .362/.453/.663 and hit 18 home runs.

Prior to LSU, Smith worked at Tulane University, on fellow coaching candidate Travis Jewett’s staff.

The Olympia native played baseball at Notre Dame, where he experienced two Big East Conference Championships and NCAA Tournament runs. Prior to that, he played at Centralia Community College.

He started his coaching career at Virginia, being a part of a staff that captured the nation’s heart and qualified for the NCAA Tournament in 2009 and 2011. He spent the next several years with Santa Clara and his alma mater Notre Dame before returning to his pacific northwest roots as the head coach of Lower Columbia College.

At Lower Columbia, he won two Northwest Athletic Conference Championships and was named his level’s National Coach of the Year by the American Baseball Coaches Association.

Smith has seen 60 of the players he has worked with be drafted by MLB teams. 

He would provide an amazing clubhouse culture and recruitment base to Wazzu.

The NCAA baseball transfer portal opened May 31, but as of Thursday, no Coug has entered the portal and only two incoming freshmen have decommited, as they await how WSU will fill the vacancy.

Chun was wise to hire Green in the first place, a hire which matched his promising hires of basketball coaches Kamie Ethridge and Kyle Smith and wise extensions of soccer and volleyball coaches Todd Shulenberger and Jen Greeny. 

Chun must find a coach who can match the basketball, soccer and volleyball program’s recruiting prowess and their high-achieving cultures for WSU baseball to return to Omaha.