Athletic Director Greg Byrne announced his choice for Alabama’s 32nd baseball coach on Thursday, picking 14 year SEC veteran assistant Brad Bohannon as the head man. Bohannon has been at Auburn the last two seasons, after spending 12 years at Kentucky. Bohannon got his start at Wake Forest as a volunteer coach, spending two years there. At his previous stops, Byrne hired John Cohen at Mississippi State and Jay Johnson at Arizona. Cohen reached the College World Series within three years and Johnson did in his first year, finishing as national runner up.
Auburn is playing in the Tallahassee Regional this weekend, and Bohannon will remain with the Tigers at least through this weekend. It has been reported there will be a press conference on Monday in Tuscaloosa to introduce the new coach.
Alabama followed the model of several SEC teams over the last few years of hiring a first time head coach with experience as an assistant at a big time program. Florida plucked Kevin O’Sullivan from Clemson in 2008 after serving as the Tigers pitching coach for nine years. Kentucky hired Mississippi State assistant Nick Mingione last year and he is SEC Coach of the Year this season. Auburn named long time Mississippi State pitching coach Butch Thompson as head coach after ridding themselves of Sunny Golloway, and Mississippi State hire Andy Cannizaro was hitting coach at LSU before heading to Starkville. All were first time head coaches and have had great success thus far.
Bohannon is a 42 year old native of Rome, Georgia, were he graduated from the Darlington School, and remains the only baseball player in school history to have his number retired. After high school, Bohannon played at Vanderbilt and Georgia Tech before finishing at Berry College in Georgia. He received a BS in Finance in 1998 from Berry. After college, Bohannon played two years in the Frontier Independent League before going to Wake Forest as the Volunteer coach from 2001-2002. While at Wake Forest he earned a Masters in Business Administration.
Cohen then hired Bohannon at Kentucky as a full time assistant and was later elevated to assistant coach/recruiting coordinator. Bohannon worked for Cohen from 2004-2008 and for Gary Henderson from 2009-15 after Cohen was hired at Mississippi State. Recruiting is where Bohannon made his bones, as he quickly gained a reputation as one of the hardest working and best on the trail. During his time as coordinator for UK, 69 Cat players were drafted or signed free agent contracts with MLB. In 2012, nine players he had recruited and signed were draft selections. In 2014, Bohannon recruit AJ Reed won the Golden Spikes award as the national player of the year. His classes ranked as high as fourth in the nation, and finished in the top 25 every year during his tenure.
Bohannon was the 2015 National Assistant Coach of the year as selected by two different organizations, The American Association of Coaches and Baseball America. In his time at Kentucky and Auburn, he inked players from 25 different states and Canada. If someone can convince elite players to come to Kentucky and Auburn to play baseball, they certainly can get them to Tuscaloosa.
The hire of Bohannon furthers shows the influence of Cohen on SEC baseball. Thompson, Mingione, and Bohannon are all Cohen disciples and as Athletics Director at Mississippi State he hired Cannizaro. Four of the 14 SEC coaches have a direct link to the Tuscaloosa native.
Bohannon inherits a mess to say the least. The Tide went 19-34-1 in Greg Goff’s lone season at the Capstone before being let go last week after trying to pull players scholarships, in violation of NCAA rules. Goff and staff had signed 13 JUCO players and 11 high school players to add to the potential 31 players that could possibly come back. With a roster size of only 35 allowed and 27 on scholarship, the numbers are going to be tough, pending the results of the MLB draft that begins June 11. High School players Bubba Thompson and Jacob Heatherly are both highly regarded, and could be top round picks, making it very unlikely they will see campus. Sam Praytor is a catcher from Birmingham that could also be a high pick. Several of the JUCO players are also likely to be selected, but will depend on where and the money offered whether they will go pro or come to Tuscaloosa.
Current players that are likely to be picked are led by draft-eligible sophomore OF Chandler Taylor, a second team All-SEC pick after a 16 home run season. Pitcher Jake Walters and shortstop Chandler Avant will be picked as well. Pitcher Garrett Suchey should be selected, and first baseman Cody Henry and first baseman-outfielder Hunter Alexander may heard their name called also. All but Taylor are juniors. Senior Nick Eicholtz, a 13th round selection last year, should be picked again.
Nationwide, the reaction to the hire of Bohannon has been overwhelmingly positive. Many top baseball people around the country have praised the hire as a home run for the Tide. Byrne has an excellent track record in terms of coach selection (he also hired Dan Mullen as MSU football coach, and face it, that’s as good a hire as they can expect) and his first at Alabama looks to be another very good one. Time, of course, will tell, but first impressions have been fantastic.
Bama Baseball Fever, Lets all catch it!