The search for a new baseball coach coach begins.
Arizona State announced the resignation of head baseball coach Tim Esmay Monday, creating a need for the program's fifth head coach. Ray Anderson, Vice President of Athletics for the Sun Devils, said he would begin a "vigorous search" right away.
With the move to Phoenix Municipal Stadium next year, the new coach will begin a new era of Arizona State baseball. Following a disappointing end to the 2014 season, the new coach will be tasked with getting Arizona State back to being a "top-five destination for collegiate baseball," as Anderson called it.
A few names that could be considered:
Andy Stankiewicz: Sooner or later, he will get a big-time college coaching job, it's just a matter of when. He is the current coach at Grand Canyon University and helped GCU make the transition back to Division I baseball. He is a former major league player, the father of junior infielder Drew Stankiewicz, a former assistant coach at Arizona State and an up-and-coming coach in college baseball. Aaron Fitt of Baseball America listed him first on a list of potential replacements. He would bring a legacy back to Arizona State, similar to what Esmay had, and would be a nice mix of old and new with the move to the new stadium.
Tony Cirelli: It's not NCAA Division I baseball, but what Cirelli has done at Mesa Community College has certainly grabbed attention. He just completed the best season in school history, finishing with a 52-13 regular season record, a No. 1 seeding in the NJCAA tournament and completed it with a national championship. Cirelli attended Arizona State, receiving his master's degree in education, so he has ties to the Sun Devils. An interesting piece is the precedent Arizona State has in hiring a Mesa coach. Jim Brock was the head coach at Mesa before Arizona State hired him in 1972.
John Savage: The head coach at UCLA and 2012 national champion, it would be all about whether or not he would make the move. AZ Central sports columnist Scott Bordow thinks he would at least consider it. Savage has a proven track record of success within the conference, and Bordow claims Arizona State's tradition and importance of baseball may be enough to woo him. Not to mention the crowd size. As Bordow states, Phoenix Municipal Stadium is nearly five times larger (by capacity) than Jackie Robinson Stadium, his current home.
Ken Knutson: Promoting the Sun Devils' pitching coach would be a safe move, considering his familiarity with the program, but safe is not necessarily a bad thing. He knows the team, and he knows the three best players on the team - pitchers Ryan Burr, Brett Lilek and Ryan Kellogg - as good as anyone. Knutson spent 17 years as head coach of Washington, and has more wins than anyone in program history. In order to win, pitching will be a key ingredient, and a pitching-centric skipper like Knutson could be a big win for the Sun Devils.
Pat Murphy: Would Arizona State take him back? He was forced out in 2009 during an NCAA rules violation that led to the Sun Devils' suspension from the 2012 postseason, and that may be the holdup. It would be admitting a mistake by the University, but the change was made under Lisa Love, two athletic directors ago. He is currently the manager of the Triple-A El Paso Chihuahuas in the San Diego Padres organization, and bringing him back would be the hiring splash that Anderson needs to make. And everyone knows he can recruit: One-third of the All-Packard team was brought in by Murphy, including current major league stars Dustin Pedroia and Jason Kipnis.