Texas hires Tulane’s David Pierce

David Pierce. (KSLA)

David Pierce. (KSLA)

First, the release from UT

AUSTIN, Texas — A Texas native who has spent most of his 27-year career coaching in the state, David Pierce has been named head baseball coach at The University of Texas, Men’s Athletics Director Mike Perrin announced Wednesday. Pierce, just the fifth Longhorn head coach since 1911 (with the exception of the war years of 1943-45 when Blair Cherry was at the helm), is the 13th head coach in 122 years of Texas baseball. He will be introduced on Thursday at a news conference on the UT campus.

“As a kid growing up in Texas, I dreamed of being a Longhorn and wearing the burnt orange,” Pierce said. “Today that dream is coming true. I am truly honored and grateful to become a part of The University of Texas community and to serve as head baseball coach.

“Texas is second to no one. Just growing up, I was on the field when David Denny broke the doubles record at Texas. I played against a lot of the guys in the mid-’80s and just understood the tradition and the history and the expectation of being a Longhorn. I understand it’s a position that’s going to hold a lot of responsibility, and I’m ready to accept that.”

“We are so excited to have David Pierce taking over our baseball program,” Perrin said. “He is a terrific coach who was a part of some of college baseball’s finest teams during his time as an assistant at Rice and has produced consistent winners as the head coach at Sam Houston State and Tulane. David has deep roots in Texas and has strong recruiting connections throughout our state and surrounding states. But beyond that, he is a great man who has a passion for leading and developing young men in all aspects of life.”

The 53-year-old Pierce comes to Texas from Tulane, where he spent the past two seasons as head coach following a three-year stint at Sam Houston State in that role. His teams have qualified for the NCAA tournament in each of his five years as a head coach, and including his time as an assistant, Pierce has been a part of programs that have advanced to the postseason in 16 consecutive years, played in seven Super Regionals and reached four College World Series, winning a title in 2003 with Rice. This summer, he was also named an assistant coach with the 2016 U.S. Collegiate National Team.

“The University of Texas has a long and storied history in college baseball, and I’m thrilled to have David Pierce on board to continue that tradition,” UT President Gregory L. Fenves said. “David is one of the best coaches in the country who is a proud Texan with great appreciation for our university and athletic programs. With his passion for the game, our student-athletes and the community, he’ll be a great fit, and I look forward to watching and cheering for our team for years to come.”

In his five seasons as a Division I head coach, Pierce has posted a 197-109 (.644) overall record, including a 76-46 (.623) mark at Tulane. Joining the Green Wave in 2015, the Houston native guided the school into its first season in the American Athletic Conference. His team posted a school-record nine shutouts, which ranked fourth in the nation, en route to a 35-25 record and the program’s first regional appearance since 2008.

“In talking to David and visiting with others in the college baseball world, it was clear that he is highly respected,” Perrin said. “He is well thought of, a tireless worker and a tremendous student and strategist of the game of baseball. The time spent researching and meeting folks around college baseball during our search has been invaluable. There are a lot of wonderful people in the sport, and David is a big part of that. We think he is a great fit to continue the proud tradition and history of Texas Baseball.”

Pierce’s second season at Tulane brought even more success as he led the 2016 Green Wave to a 41-21 record, a regular season AAC championship and a second-consecutive regional appearance. The 41 wins were the most for the program since 2006. The team led the nation with 13 shutouts and ranked in the top 25 in both ERA (23rd/3.24) and WHIP (25th/1.24), while belting out 66 home runs, which was tied for 13th nationally. Tulane produced two third-round picks in the 2016 Major League Baseball Draft in catcher Jake Rogers and shortstop Stephen Alemais with Rogers becoming Tulane’s highest draft pick since 2008. Seven players earned All-AAC honors, including four first-team selections, while starting pitcher Ross Massey was named freshman All-America after leading the conference and tying for 18th in the nation in victories (10).

“I think Texas Baseball fans are going to be excited to see the energy and passion of our team, the will to go out and play as hard as we can and try to do things that represent both the university and the athletic department well,” Pierce said. “We’ll look to run a high-paced offense that has the ability to score in multiple ways to go along with the pitching and defense that gives us a chance to win championships.”

In three seasons as head coach at Sam Houston State, Pierce compiled a record of 121-63 (.658). During his tenure, the Bearkats made three straight NCAA Regional appearances for just the second time in program history. Sam Houston State was crowned Southland Conference champions in each of his three seasons (the program’s only previous league title came in 1989), and Pierce was named the conference coach of the year in both 2012 and 2013. The recognition in back-to-back years made him the first Southland Conference coach to earn consecutive honors since UTSA’s Sherman Corbett (2007-08).

“After playing high school baseball in Houston and then staying home to play baseball at the University of Houston, it was always exciting, but I think my true excitement has come since I started coaching,” Pierce said. “It’s been a journey. I just completed my 27th year and never lost sight of coming back home and having this type of opportunity.

“I’ve played against Coach Gus’ teams and I have coached against Coach Garrido’s teams. Even back in ’91 when I was at Rice and he was the head coach at Cal State Fullerton we crossed paths. Coach Garrido and I have become friends and have had some fierce competitions, especially in my days at Rice. Both of those guys are so significant to the legacy of Texas Baseball, and I’m honored to have the opportunity to follow them and continue the tradition they’ve established.”

In his first season as head coach in 2012, the Bearkats were ranked in each of the major Division I polls for the first time in program history. He was honored as an American Baseball Coaches Association (ABCA) Regional Coach of the Year that season.

In 2014, his final season in Huntsville, Pierce guided SHSU to a 43-19 record, the second-highest single-season win total for the Bearkats since they joined Division I in 1987. The team ranked in the top 25 in the nation and second in the conference in both ERA (17th/2.73) and hits (25th/610). It also led the conference in scoring (5.7 rpg), home runs (31) and slugging percentage (.390).

Throughout his three-year tenure at Sam Houston State, Pierce tutored eight MLB Draft selections. Of those picks, three came in the top-10 rounds, including fourth-round selection (No. 119 overall) Cody Dickson, the highest-ever pick out of Sam Houston State.

Before taking over at Sam Houston State, Pierce spent the previous nine seasons as an assistant coach at Rice. He served as hitting coach from 2003-05 before taking over as pitching coach from 2006-11. Under his tutelage, the 2003 Owls hit .313 with 51 homers and 449 RBI en route to the school’s first-ever national title. In six seasons as the Owls’ pitching coach, Pierce helped produce five staffs whose ERAs ranked in the NCAA top 30, peaking with the fourth-best mark in the nation in 2007. On that 2007 squad, two Pierce-coached pitchers received major Conference USA awards as Ryne Tacker was named C-USA Pitcher of the Year and Ryan Berry earned freshman of the year honors. Berry also earned Collegiate Baseball freshman of the year honors. In that year alone, eight Owl pitchers were selected in the MLB Draft, including the 19th overall pick, Joe Savery.

From 2006-11 under Pierce, 27 Owls pitchers were chosen in the MLB Draft, eight of which were selected in the first 10 rounds. In that span, Pierce tutored six NCAA All-America selections, two freshman All-America selections and a pair of CoSIDA Academic All-Americans in Eddie Degerman (2006) and Tacker (2007).

Pierce’s stint at Rice was his second with the Owls, as he also served as an assistant in 1991. Prior to his second stretch at Rice, Pierce spent two seasons as hitting coach at the University of Houston, helping UH to a pair of postseason appearances, including an NCAA Super Regional showing in 2002. The Cougars hit .310 that season, the fifth-best single-season performance in team history.

Pierce’s first head coaching job came at Dobie High School in Pasadena, Texas, where he ran the program from 1996-2001. There, Pierce led the Longhorns to three District 23-5A titles and three Region III semifinal berths. While at Dobie, he was named district coach of the year three times and was also named a coach for the United States Junior Olympic trials. During his tenure in Pasadena, Pierce produced three all-state players, 36 all-district stars and 10 players who went on to perform at the college level, including former college All-American Shane Nance, who went on to pitch for the Milwaukee Brewers and Arizona Diamondbacks.

Before Dobie, Pierce was an assistant coach at Episcopal High School from 1992-95 and at St. Pius X High School – where he also played – from 1989-90.
c career, Pierce continued as a student-athlete at Wharton County Junior College (1982-83) before playing two seasons at Houston (1984-85). As a senior in 1985, Pierce helped pace the Cougars to an appearance in the NCAA Tournament. He completed his degree at Houston in 1988.

A native of Houston, Pierce was born on October 13, 1962. He and his wife, Susan, have two children – a daughter, Chelsea, who graduated from The University of Texas in 2012, and a son, Shea, who just completed his collegiate career this past season as a pitcher at Sam Houston State and Tulane under his father.

Now, a few notes and quotes.
I tweeted out earlier that Pierce has a strong resume for a variety of reasons. I’ll go a little more in depth on a few of those

1. Houston Connections – Pierce is a graduate of St. Pius X. He’s coached there, Episcopal (who usually has a great team) and Pasadena Dobie. He was an assistant at UH and Rice, winning a national championship in 2003 with the Owls. From Rice, he moved to Sam Houston State. That’s almost 20 years in the Houston area. Texas had eight players on this past season’s roster from the greater Houston area. I think that will increase over the coming years.

2. Postseason Experience and Success – Pierce has not missed the postseason as a college coach. That includes his stops at UH, Rice, SHSU and Tulane. He’s a national champion. He helped Rice make it to Omaha four times. He won three straight Southland Conference regular season titles in his three years at SHSU. He won an AAC regular season title this past season. Simply put, he has experience winning.

3. Worked with some of the best – Regardless of your opinion on the longtime Rice head coach, Wayne Graham is one of the best college baseball coaches of all time. After spending almost a decade as one of Graham’s assistants, he took what he learned in the Medical Center and applied it in Huntsville and New Orleans. We often talk about coaching trees in football, but the tree Pierce comes from is solid.

Now, some info from one of Pierce’s former players.
As soon as I found out this morning it was Pierce, I made a phone call to someone I know who played for Pierce at Tulane. This person did not play under Pierce for long, spending his final season in the Green Wave program under Pierce. However, he could not have given a more glowing review of Texas’ fifth baseball coach.

On Pierce: “I played for him for one season. I’m really happy for him that he’s getting this opportunity because I’m sure it’s a dream job for him.”

On Pierce’s style of coaching: “I would say he’s a player’s coach, but he’s pretty intense, which is a lot of fun to be around. It keeps the energy levels pretty high. It keeps people in the game and on task. You have to get your [stuff] done or he’ll get on you.”

On his baseball style: “Nothing out of the ordinary. He let the guys swing it, but if it was the right situation to bunt, he was going to bunt. If he had his hot stick at the plate and he wanted him to swing it, he would let them swing it. He wasn’t a conservative coach by any means.”

On his expectations at Tulane: “It was awesome how it wasn’t ‘if’ we were going to make the postseason. It was ‘how deep in the postseason are we going to go.’ We were going to make it, it was only a matter of how far. He never even talked about going to the postseason because he knew it was going to happen. He knew we were going to be good enough.”

On Pierce’s fit at Texas: “I’m happy for him. I have no doubt about it that they made the right hire. He’s won a national championship. I wouldn’t put it past him to win one in the next four years, honestly. The dude knows how to win. He somehow knows how to win every game. It’s unbelievable.”

My source went on to talk about one of the team’s first meetings with Pierce. Pierce asked how many in the room expected to make the postseason. Of course, the entire room raised their hand. Pierce responded “Good, this is the only time we are going to talk about this. We will make a regional this year.”

Augie Garrido on David Pierce:
“I’ve known Dave for quite awhile, going back to when he was an assistant at Rice. He was great there, and as a head coach, he has turned two programs around quickly and done a tremendous job. Truly, I think he is a very fine choice for The University of Texas. He takes great pride in his work. He’s knowledgeable and passionate about what he’s doing and who he’s doing it for. He’s a heart-and-soul Texan who will make every effort for this national championship-caliber program.”