Just under an hour after Arizona State baseball completed its final game of the 2018 season Saturday night, head coach Tracy Smith said Vice President for University Athletics Ray Anderson has assured him he will be back next season.
After nodding his head at the question, Smith said, “Yeah ... I’ll let him speak his own words on that, but yeah.”
Here is the video of Tracy Smith saying that ASU Athletic Director Ray Anderson has assured him he'll be the head coach next season.— Jordan Kaye (@jordankaye_23) May 27, 2018
The full press conference can be found here: https://t.co/ZYRggKgFNq pic.twitter.com/UwzgGEXvl9
Arizona State finished 23-32 and 13-17 in the Pac-12 this season, recording back-to-back losing seasons for the first time in program history.
Anderson was in attendance at Phoenix Municipal Stadium for the Sun Devils’ final game of the season. Prior to the game, Smith, Anderson and ASU assistant coach Ben Greenspan talked together on the dirt near ASU’s dugout for a few minutes before the senior night festivities.
ASU head coach Tracy Smith and Athletic Director Ray Anderson speaking together before senior night pic.twitter.com/Gn7PYLZnjC— Jordan Kaye (@jordankaye_23) May 27, 2018
The fourth-year ASU skipper said he met with Anderson this week and that the pair meets every two weeks while also noting that every program at ASU has a program review meeting at the end of the season.
“There’s no decisions that are made in here that are short-term on job preservation,” Smith said. “I have no fear of losing my job. I think if people go down that path, you start making silly decisions that don’t benefit what should be benefitted.”
This season, the Devils rolled a out a youth-infused lineup, often starting an all-freshman infield that provided egregious gaffes that became the deciding factor in a handful of games. Smith said that he “saw some stuff this year that I’ve never seen.”
But despite the mishaps or mental mistakes, Smith stuck with the youth movement — something he planned on doing three years ago, he claimed. The decision is built upon the aspirations of long-term, down-the-road success.
It’s a rebuilding model that Smith made very clear Saturday night Anderson and ASU President Michael Crow were aware of and up-to-date on.
“We’ve been in this thing together from day one,” Smith said. “They’ve been informed on a lot of stuff that you don’t know — and it takes time. You keep people informed as to what your plan is, what you’re doing.
“ASU pays me a salary to go out and build this thing. My reputation is as a builder and we are still doing that.”
Before the year began, Smith raved about his young group, often saying they were special. After a few distraught weeks in which his team hovered around .500 against a relatively weak non-conference schedule, the skipper claimed ASU was going to turn the corner.
They never did.
Through it all, though, Smith still emphasized Saturday that he thinks his group is special. He even went as far to say “In some weird way, I think this is going to make them even better because it kind of knocks off a little bit of that mystique that ‘somebody owes me something.’”
Smith’s rebuilding plan that revolves around this season’s freshman — including the NCAA leader in home runs with 25, first baseman Spencer Torkelson — uncoincidentally lines up with the construction of Phoenix Municipal Stadium.
At the end of the season, Smith said the stadium’s fences, aside from the corners, will be brought in “roughly 15- to 17-feet all the way around” from it’s current 345-410-345 dimensions. Concurrently, too, construction will begin on a hitting facility that will sit on the first-base line.
Right now, Smith says the Devils’ power is built for a smaller park and he and his staff have “for some time” recruited to the stadium they are going to have, not the one they played in this season.
“We’re a pretty physical team and this park doesn’t play to that right now,” Smith said Tuesday. “You’re going to see us in the upper echelon in home runs in the country next year, and we’ve recruited that way.”
The stadium renovations may seem obsolete. Heck, Todd Graham got fired during the construction of Sun Devil Stadium. But Graham’s team didn’t revolve around construction. The facilities may have aided in recruiting but not to an on-the-field plan.
Some may not agree with Anderson’s decision to keep Smith, but when ASU’s skipper talks about this process, it makes sense on paper. Despite a poor product on the field, Smith gave Anderson a plan for how he’s going to turn the program around.
ASU’s head coach even said that permitting got in the way of moving in the fences and building the hitting facility after last season. In an effort to see how the fences could impact a game, Smith and his staff went back and looked at what may have happened if the fences were in.
For ASU’s first series against Miami (OH), the former Indiana head coach said that, between both teams, there was an 11-run difference between the current and moved-in fences when they accounted for home runs.
Anderson has probably heard about those numbers. Though the Devils would have likely still found plenty of ways to lose games, it would be tough to fire a coach, in part, because a permit didn’t go through.
Smith’s plan for getting ASU back to its glory really begins next season. There will be no excuses. He will have his team in his stadium.
Anderson most likely wanted to see Smith’s full vision put into place and executed. If he’ll see it through, though, is another question that Smith, right now, holds the keys to.