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May 13, 2014
Jurich's midas touch in hiring coaches
How does he do it? How does he always get his Man (or Woman)?
I'm not talking about Dick Tracy, James Bond or Dudley Do-Right, I'm talking about Tom Jurich.
The best people-hunting person I know, Tom should have been an international espionage agent hunting down dangerous criminals with his ability to track down and engage the right person for the right job. Thankfully Tom is not tracking down bad people but really good people, the coaches at the University of Louisville.
Take Dan McDonnell for instance. The youthful-looking coach spent 14 seasons as an assistant at Citadel and the University of Mississippi when Jurich found him and hired him as the University of Louisville baseball coach. In his first season at UofL, the Cards went to their first College World Series. And that was no one-hit wonder. In seven seasons McDonnell has established the University of Louisville as a national powerhouse in baseball.
In 2007-08 Louisville had back-to-back 40-win seasons for the first time in school history and have won 40 or more games every year in McDonnell's tenure except one. That year, 2011, was also the only season that Louisville did not play in the NCAA Regional. in 2010 did the almost impossible in winning 50 games in a season, going 50-14. In 2013, the Cardinals returned to the College World Series in Omaha.
With a recruiting philosophy of "go South young man" McDonnell has concentrated on signing players that live north of Louisville wishing to play in a warmer climate. That has resulted in 15 All-Americans, 54 All-Conference selections, five conference Pitcher of the Year winners and 33 Louisville players have signed pro contracts after being drafted by the major leagues.
This season the Cardinal Baseball team is 40-12 and seems headed to another successful postseason. Since the hiring of Coach Dan McDonnell Louisville has gone from being nationally irrelevant in college baseball to a top ten program, much like in other sports.
One of the most significant upgrades has come in the women's basketball. Nine months after hiring Dan McDonnell, Tom Jurich reached out to another young coach with no head coaching experience and hired Jeff Walz, an assistant at Maryland. Walz started his coaching career at Western Kentucky in 1996. Before being hired at Louisville, Walz spent 11 seasons as an assistant coach at Western, Nebraska and Maryland, all successful women's programs.
Much like baseball, women's basketball made an instant turnaround with the arrival of Walz. In his first season the team went to it's first Sweet Sixteen in the NCAA Tournament. Women's basketball has been ascending since the day Walz arrived. It is no longer a women's basketball program at a men's basketball school, but a national powerhouse on its own.
If not for UConn, Louisville would be one of the dominant women's programs in the country. UofL has had two national runner-up finishes (both to UConn), a #2 national ranking, 5-0 record in NCAA first round, 34 wins in 2009 and a 100 percent graduation rate since Walz arrived.
Say hello to another of Louisville's national powerhouses. When Louisville started playing lacrosse seven seasons ago, most Louisville fans, including me, didn't know how to spell lacross (and I still don't). But Kellie Young did, and she wasted no time elevating the Louisville program into a top program in the Big East. As a matter of fact, Young won the Big East in its last season before moving to college lacrosse's most-dominant conference, the ACC.
In only it's fifth season playing the sport, UofL not only received its first NCAA Tournament bid, but won two games against higher-ranked competition in the postseason, Georgetown and Ohio State. Ranked 23rd, the Cards were the highest ranked team west of the Alleghany Mountains after Northwestern.
Another assistant that Jurich promoted to head coach is Swimming and Diving's Arthur Albiero. Plucked from the University of Alabama now in his ninth season Albiero has taken the Cards to national prominence in the sport. UofL men have finished in the top 10 nationally and had three individual national champions.
The women are also highly ranked and a top team nationally in the sport.
Tom Jurich has had a golden touch when it comes to hiring coaches, whether experienced or not. The Cardinals are now positioned to compete for a national championship in every sport. Who would have ever dreamed that this would happen at the University of Louisville who, for the first time in 2014, will play in a 'major' conference in every sport.