As we've said many times here, one of the great things about being a part of the SB Nation network is the vast amount of resources we have immediate access to. To that point, we reached out to SBN's Virginia Tech site, Gobbler Country, to help OU fans gain a little more insight into their new head baseball coach, Pete Hughes. They were kind enough to oblige and we think you'll like what they had to say.
CCM: We'll get to specifics in a minute, but if you had to summarize Pete Hughes in a couple sentences/paragraph how would you describe him to those of us just getting to know him?
GC: Pete Hughes has taken Virginia Tech baseball from the gutter of its existence in 2006 to where you see it today. When Chuck Hartman retired from Virginia Tech after 28 years as the baseball coach, Hughes quickly got it turned around, inheriting a team that went 20-33 in Hartman's last year and turning it into a team that went 32-21 in 2009. He has since produced two 40-win teams and a 35-win team. As far as his impact on those in the program and the community, Hughes was seen as a father figure to most of them based on what they have come out and said, both while he was there and now that he is moving on to a new opportunity. He has a civic-based motto, 19 ways, that was a big component of the program, requiring his teams to do 19 separate community service/outreach events per calendar year.
CCM: What is your overall assessment of Hughes' time as the head baseball coach at Virginia Tech?
GC: I think with all things considered, he is a very good baseball coach. As I mentioned above, he turned the program around after Hartman did not go easily into his twilight years of coaching. He raised the level of recruiting considerably. What facility upgrades the Hokies do have were because of his insistence that they be built so that the program could be at a competitive level. He did a bang up job, one that is going to be hard to follow, regardless of how similar former assistant Patrick Mason may try to run the program in Hughes' absence.
CCM: Based on his introductory press conference, he seems to have a good personality to him (which would be a complete 180 degree change from the guy he's replacing). Would say that's a fair assessment and if so, how much (if at all) do you think that helps him in both relating to his players and recruiting?
GC: I had heard as much about Galloway from the former editor of our site, Ryan McGhee, who is a Virginia Tech transplant by way of Oklahoma, when the two teams faced off in the College World Series, but I didn't know any details myself. Concerning coach Hughes, I find that is a very relatable guy. You can read the story one of our writers, Casey Richey, posted about his first interview with him in his most recent post. I would say that he is a calming influence to his team.
CCM: Is there any one particular aspect of the game he and/or his teams are known for (with respect to his coaching abilities) or is he more of a manager in the true sense of the word and relies more on his assistants to coach hitting, pitching, etc.?
GC: I think he's more of a manager in the traditional sense. He trusts his pitching and hitting coaches and lets them do their thing and doesn't try to micromanage them. I do know that he values his assistants and that they in turn value him back ten-fold.
CCM: Oklahoma fans are VERY interested to hear your opinion on how Hughes is viewed as a recruiter. Do you anticipate him struggling at all moving to a part of the country he might not be as familiar with? Or is that something he can overcome either by his own doing and/or by the decisions he makes with respect to his assistants?
GC: I think, especially with Oklahoma's recent success, Hughes will be able to recruit the kind of player that he loves, just like he began to do at Tech. He also had success recruiting at Boston College, which was not easy to do. Basically Hughes likes toolsy types of players who also know how to play the game. He likes guys with power at the plate. He likes guys with speed on the bases. He likes guys with really good stuff on the mound. And I know that every coach wants guys like that, but Hughes has shown a penchant to play some of those types of guys earlier if they have a clue about what's going on out there.
He's been able to produce some guys who are now in the top affiliates of their respective major league clubs, like Austin Wates, a speed demon defensive-minded center fielder who hits for contact, Ben Rowen, a submarining reliever who was the MILB pitcher of the year in 2012, and Jesse Hahn, who sports a 2.14 ERA in 29 starts in A-ball and is hitting mid-upper 90's with his fastball despite having Tommy John surgery and missing all of 2011. He should be up to AA sooner rather than later. So those, along with recent draftees Chad Pinder and Tyler Horan, both power cogs, with Pinder also being a defensive whiz.
CCM: Often in these type of situations, you can (prematurely) judge a new hire based on the reaction of the fan base from which the coach is coming. If they're upset, generally you've made a wise decision. If they don't really care, generally there might be some second guessing as to whether or not they got the right guy. Where would Va Tech fans fall within this spectrum?
GC: I agree, that's usually a good barometer. I would say Virginia Tech baseball fans are incredibly saddened to hear about Hughes' departure. There was at least some concern several weeks ago that Hughes would be on the move, but when Athletic Director Jim Weaver said he was going to spend the next few weeks making sure that Hughes would return, I think the fan base thought we had dodged a bullett. Then again, we probably should've known not to trust Weaver as basically many of the things he has said recently concerning coaches have been simply posturing. It was strange though that he did not allow Georgia to speak with Hughes, but did allow Oklahoma to speak with him. I don't really understand that reasoning unless it was a request by Hughes to do so.
In addition, we should've known Hughes would garner more money on the open market than Weaver was willing to give up as he has shown terrible judgement in evaluating the one-time cost of a successful coach versus the long term implications of said programs tanking and losing most of their fan interest. By the time of his retirement, he will have set several of the non-revenue programs back as much as five years.
Basically, I think you're getting a really good coach, fitting of the title he has been given as a "program builder." Hokie baseball fans came out of the woodwork this season, and it really felt like we were on the verge of building something special in that regard. We only hope that Patrick Mason can keep it rolling. I wish coach Hughes the best of luck at Oklahoma, and I think he'll be a good hire for the long-term.