After 16 Years, Virginia's Coaching Staff Continuity Ends
Radford on Thursday announced it hired Karl Kuhn, Virginia’s longtime pitching coach, to be its next head coach. The announcement ushered in a new era for the Highlanders, who a week earlier announced Joe Raccuia had resigned after 12 years as head coach.
Beyond the implications for Radford, however, Kuhn’s decision to take the job breaks up one of college baseball’s longest tenured and most successful coaching staffs. Kuhn and associate head coach Kevin McMullan had worked at Virginia under head coach Brian O’Connor for 16 years, since O’Connor took over at the helm of the Cavaliers’ program.
O’Connor, McMullan and Kuhn had been together longer than any other full-time coaching trio in college baseball’s six biggest conferences (American, ACC, Big 12, Big Ten, Pac-12 and SEC). The group won more than 700 games at Virginia, reached the College World Series four times and won the 2015 national championship—the first in program history.
Adding to the staff’s continuity, volunteer assistant coach Matt Kirby just finished his eighth season at Virginia.
O’Connor said it had been an emotional week.
“After 16 years together, it is hard to say goodbye to such a loyal friend and one of the best assistant coaches in the country, but we are all happy for Karl and his family for this opportunity,” he said. “It is certainly hard-earned and well-deserved.”
This summer also saw the second-longest tenured trio in the six biggest conferences broken up, as Brad Weitzel’s tenure at Florida ended after 12 years. Kevin O’Sullivan hired Weitzel and assistant coach Craig Bell when he took over the Gators and the trio turned the program into one of college baseball's best.
With Florida and Virginia undergoing staff turnover for the first time in more than a decade, the longest-tenured trios in the sport look much different going into 2020. In the six largest conferences, Connecticut and Kansas are tied for the mark. Both staffs are going into their ninth season together.
At UConn, Jim Penders is entering his 17th season as head coach of his alma mater. He brought on recruiting coordinator Jeff Hourigan and pitching coach Josh MacDonald before the 2012 season. Volunteer coach Chris Podeszwa has been with UConn since Penders was hired.
Kansas head coach Ritch Price is entering his 18th season in Lawrence. Ryan Graves came with Price from Cal Poly and has since ascended to associate head coach. Ritchie Price joined his father’s staff before the 2012 season after three years as head coach at South Dakota State. Volunteer assistant coach Scott Hood has been with the program since 2013.
That kind of continuity on coaching staffs is rare in college baseball, even at the highest level. Only six other full-time staffs in the six largest conferences are entering even their fifth year together—Illinois (5), Louisville (6), Memphis (7), Mississippi (6), Texas Christian (7) and UCLA (5).
It’s unlikely that any of those staffs will stay together as long as the group at Virginia. The Cavaliers’ staff produced a rare run in today’s game, especially considering how many opportunities Kuhn and McMullan had to leave. McMullan has twice been voted by current head coaches as the assistant coach with the most potential as a head coach, and Kuhn has also been highly regarded for years. O’Connor himself was the subject of speculation when the Texas job was open in 2016 before he quashed the rumors.
As a new era begins for Radford, another ends at Virginia. And it’s a run that likely won’t be equaled any time soon in college baseball.