Where to From Here? Life After Clint Myers
For two reasons it was an absolute stunner of a text I received while watching my daughter’s softball hitting lesson. First is that my best friend, who lives in Auburn but doesn’t have a huge interest in softball, would text me about softball. Second was that Auburn head coach Clint Myers had retired from coaching softball.
About that time, texts and tweets began piling up in my inbox. Why? And why now? My wife shrugged and said, “You should have seen it coming.” That sounded ludicrous at first, especially since Myers just reportedly signed a contract extension in July that would extend his time from 2020 to 2023. But as I reviewed the past few months, I began to question how I didn’t see it coming.
First, there was the resignation of Clint’s son and associate head coach Corey Myers. “It became clear to me that my relationship with my family needs to be my top priority right now, and therefore felt that I must step away,” said Corey.
Certainly it is tough to question anyone who cites his family as his need to step away from the game, but the abrupt departure set the rumor mill ablaze, especially considering that his resignation meant Auburn owed him nothing. Coaches typically cash a check on their way out the door. Despite rumors, the administration and father did nothing, simply leaving the door open to speculation.
Perhaps the most telling was the transfer of junior Carlee Wallace. “Clutch Carlee” had been essentially a day-one starter for Clint Myers. She was beloved by fans and did much for the program. Why would she transfer for her senior year? She had no fear of being replaced and was close to many Auburn records. Most believed she would transfer to a school in her home state of California where she would be closer to home and there are some solid programs. However, she transferred to Baylor.
Could she have known what was in store? It now looks possible. Wallace was Myers’ first huge recruiting success and perhaps his biggest. While Myers may have secured the signatures of some higher rated athletes, none came as far as Wallace and none did more on the field. It’s certainly possible that Wallace was given the inside scoop due to respect from her former coach.
But why now?
That’s a pretty simple answer. School just started, which means those highly coveted recruits, such as Taylon Snow, are enrolled and in class. They weren’t just weeks ago, and if Myers had left then, they may have gone elsewhere. That’s a great thing for Auburn softball fans, but I can’t say its the best thing for the players.
According to many sources, part of the deal that Jay Jacobs cut with Clint Myers was that Corey would take over in his stead. But, on the other hand, it could simply be because Auburn is at a critical rebuilding point. With Haley Fagan, Kasey Cooper, and Carlee Wallace gone, Auburn losses 44% of its run production. That’s tough to bounce back from.
And, at age 65 he is one of the oldest coaches in the game and can’t coach forever. It it could just be a combination of a lot of different things.
Where to from here?
Obviously, Corey Myers isn’t taking over for Clint. Scott Woodard, who has been at Auburn since Myers arrived in 2013, takes over as interim head coach.
What about the other Myers, Casey Myers? How about Hunter Veach, who took over hitting coach duties last year in addition to his job as manager? Five years ago, I would have said that any of these guys would be fine. But, five years ago, I didn’t care much about Auburn softball. And that’s the problem. Auburn softball has seen an explosion of interest since Clint Myers came to Auburn. Can any of those guys keep Auburn winning at the level that Myers brought to Auburn? It’s doubtful. And, that would hit Jacobs where it really hurts, the budget.
Softball may not be a serious revenue draw, nor does it actually make money (to be fair, football is the only money maker at virtually any university in America). However, it has drawn enough dollars that it makes sense to give serious thought to making a quality hire. Auburn sold out season tickets the last two years, which is an incredible feat. The increased number of spectators led to temporary seating, which has now been transformed into permanent expansion.
Who is out there that Jay Jacobs could consider?
The first name that comes to mind is James Madison’s Mickey Dean. JMU finished the year ranked 18th and played in its fifth straight NCAA tournament. Dean has won an astounding 79% of his games at JMU.
Oregon’s Jimmy Kolaitis has helped raise the Ducks to elite status in his four-year stint. His prowess as a hitting coach is as elite as it gets. The Ducks led the nation in batting average at .353 andnwere second in slugging percentage at .618. He has ties to Alabama as he was the hitting coach and recruiting coordinator at South Alabama when the Jags hosted a regional and were a Top 25 team.
Oklahoma’s JT Gasso, son of head coach Patty Gasso, could be a great choice. He has been the focus of Oklahoma’s defense, which has been among the best in the nation. Gasso is young and on the rise, and his wife is former UCLA standout and two-time All-American, Andrea Harrison. She is a volunteer coach for the Sooners, and Gasso could be an ideal pick as they are young, energetic couple and have a great softball pedigree.
Another interesting option is Florida’s Jennifer Rocha, who was elevated to associate head coach for the Gators this year. Rocha played at Long Beach City College but transferred to Oklahoma where she played for and coached with Patty Gasso. The Gators are one of the very programs in softball and have been one of the more complete and dangerous teams year in and year out.