OPINION: Cougs should look to Horton, Kinkade to lead program going forward

Chris Park wants the next coach to improve player development, recruiting, winning



The Cougars watch their teammates attempt to get offense going late in the game on Friday (May 24) at Bailey-Brayton Field.

ALEX BIVIANO, Evergreen columnist

WSU recently fired struggling head baseball coach Marty Lees. The Cougars finished in the bottom four of the Pac-12 all four years under Lees.

What was once a proud baseball school, boasting powerful alumni such as John Olerud, has become the laughing stock of the conference. While the decision to fire Lees was not surprising to those close to the situation, the timing perplexed some fans and journalists alike.

Although firing a coach before the last series does not give an interim coach much time to turn the season around, it does give fans a glimpse into who could be the next head coach.

Pitching Coach Dan Spencer was given the title of interim coach, which could give a clue into who WSU is considering as the 16th head coach in the history of Cougar baseball.

Spencer led the team into Arizona where the Cougars were swept. However, given that WSU had already secured last place in the Pac-12, the success of the Arizona series was measured more on team cohesion and team culture than on wins and losses.

Chris Park, senior associate athletic director, said that his goal for the next coach will be to “improve the baseball program at Washington State University in all three facets: player development, recruiting and winning,” but gave no timetable for when he expects a winning record for the team.

When looking for a coach that can excel at all three facets of coaching, a proven college coach would maintain team chemistry and mitigate growing pains caused by a new coach. George Horton, former head coach at the University of Oregon, had his name brought up after his struggles at Oregon.

Oregon chose not to exercise his option for the 2020 season, making him an available hire for WSU without the additional cost of buying out a contract. While Horton hasn’t been as successful in recent years, he led Cal State Fullerton to the 2004 NCAA Championship. His experience could be a powerful asset for a rebuilding WSU program.

“A winning attitude starts with a culture that is established from day one that starts with a new leader,” Park said.

Recruiting plays a big role in building a successful baseball program again, he said.

“Confident student athletes who will bring a winning culture back to WSU,” Parks said.

If WSU does not want Horton leading the program going forward, it could look to a local coach who has deep roots in Pullman. Mike Kinkade was drafted by the Milwaukee Brewers in the ninth round out of WSU. He played for three major league teams during his five-year career and is now the head coach of the Pullman High School varsity baseball team.

Kinkade led the Greyhounds to a 16-3 record and the Washington 2A playoffs. Although he has not coached at a college program before, he has coached from youth baseball up to the minor leagues with the Mariners organization. His Pullman roots and high level of baseball experience make him a strong candidate to turn this program around.

Although Lees dug a big hole for the next coach to fill, coaches that are already residing in the Pacific Northwest gives WSU solid options to find the coach who can turn this program around.