Earlier this week, Jeff Gray wrote a really good piece about how Mike Bianco shouldn't be blamed for last weekend's regional loss. I generally agree. Bianco came into this season with a lot of question marks in hitting and fielding and made it work to the tune of 43 wins. For that he should be commended. He has, unquestionably, built Ole Miss to be a power that no one really envisioned before his career began. The stadium upgrades and attendance numbers speak for themselves, as does his trip to the College World Series two years ago. I was there, and it was a stellar showing and great experience.
The problem is that there just hasn't been enough postseason success. If we exclude the Omaha trip in 2014, we have to go all the way back to 2009 to see Bianco get out of regional play. Sure, there was a strong five-year period during which Bianco's teams went to four super regionals, hosting three. But that was seven years ago.
|Season||Overall record||SEC record||NCAAT round reached||NCAAT record|
Bianco has made the NCAA Tourney in 14 of his 16 seasons, but failed to make it out of a regional in nine of those appearances. His overall record in the tournament is a mediocre 30-30. Take away the 2014 Omaha run and that drops to 23-27.
Don't misconstrue this as a heavy-handed post calling for Bianco's head. That is certainly not what this is. But something has to change.
For the first half of his tenure, Bianco's troubles seemed to center around slight mismanagement and just plain bad luck. During the second half of the Bianco era, however, the problem seems to be just not having enough talent on the roster to make much noise after a strong regular season. Ole Miss has to get back to recruiting players the caliber of Zack Cozart, Mark Holliman, Chris Coghlan, Stephen Head, Drew Pomeranz, Justin Henry, Lance Lynn, Seth Smith, Brian Pettway, etc. Sure, there are some great players who have played on recent teams, but there aren't enough of them to field a lineup that strikes fear in opposing pitchers. Too many players are only there for their defense, and sometimes that defense isn't even very good.
It's worth noting that Bianco's most successful seasons coincide with the tenures of former assistant coaches Dan McDonnell and Cliff Godwin, both of whom are head coaches for teams playing in the super regionals this weekend. McDonnell was a fantastic baseball mind and tireless recruiter who was around for the super regional appearances in 2005 and 2006 (and the players he helped recruit were the backbone of the 2007 super) before taking over as the head man at Louisville before the 2007 season. Since then, he's taken the Cardinals to the supers five times and the College World Series three times. Godwin, who was with the Rebels during their 2014 Omaha run, has his alma mater East Carolina in a super regional in just his second year at the helm.
Now, certainly it's not as if Ole Miss should have fired Bianco and promoted either of these coaches while they were assistants; to suggest such would be ridiculous. It's just frustrating to see successes of people who coached under an underachieving head of the program.
I don't know what the answer is. I don't know how the staff should go about improving their approach to recruiting. I don't claim to be connected enough to the program to know where those failings lie. Something has to change though, or Ole Miss will continue to see itself at home during the postseason's second weekend.