BEAVERS PONDER: WHO'S ON DECK?
Pat Casey crossed most of us up with his decision to not return to his old position as head coach at Oregon State.
We were expecting a fastball down the middle. Instead, he threw a spitter that had us flailing at the plate.
So now athletic director Scott Barnes is left to make an extremely important decision that will affect the future of OSU's most successful athletic program.
After some thought, I like how Barnes is handling the search. A small committee has been formed. Casey is a "consultant" to the committee and will remain as a senior associate athletic director. There is no search firm. The job has been officially posted, meaning the Beavers will have to go through a formal interview process. Barnes says it will be a "thorough but expedited search," with a new coach named "as soon as the next two to three weeks."
It ought not be later than that. Oregon State's current coaching staff — interim head coach Pat Bailey, pitching coach Nate Yeskie and assistant Andy Jenkins — are on the recruiting trail, assuaging concerns of the Class of 2020 and working on building the Class of '21. even though Bailey, Yeskie and Jenkins don't know if they'll be working at Oregon State next season.
They're all hoping they will be, in one form or another. All have thrown their hat in the ring to be the next full-time Beaver head coach. Each of them have their merits, including the somewhat overlooked Jenkins, 35, who has done an excellent job as the Beavers' third-base coach for the past seven years.
I think Barnes will take a strong look at candidates outside the program, and there are several with impressive credentials who would have interest in taking over at OSU.
Scott Brosius is one. A Putnam High grad who played collegiately at Linfield, Brosius went on to an 11-year major-league career, winning three World Series rings and the 1998 World Series MVP Award with the New York Yankees. Brosius, 52, spent eight years as head coach at Linfield, taking the Wildcats to the NCAA Division III championship in 2013. Brosius coached in the Seattle organization — the final two years with the Mariners in 2017 and '18 — and is senior director of player development with USA Basketball.
Brosius, who makes his home in McMcMinnville, likes his current job but misses coaching. His son, David, signed with Oregon State out of high school but underwent Tommy John elbow surgery and is now at Linfield. Scott has a well-rounded background and would be an excellent recruiter and a good fit at OSU.
Andrew Checketts is another likely candidate. The former Oregon State pitcher and University of Oregon pitching coach has been head coach at UC Santa Barbara for eight years, compiling a record of 276-178 and making the College World Series in 2016. The Gauchos made the NCAA tournament and finished 45-11 this season.
Checketts, 43, told me several years ago he'd be interested in the OSU job but figured Casey would be there forever. A move to the Pac-12 would be a step up for the West Linn native. The Gauchos are in the Big West, which features UC Irvine and Cal State Fullerton but is without the depth or national prominence of the Pac-12.
Dave Brundage is another OSU coaching prospect. The Salem native, 54, was an outstanding pitcher and outfielder under Jack Riley at OSU in the mid-1980s and played nine seasons of pro ball, six at the Triple-A level. Brundage is in his 26th season as a minor-league manager, the last 17 in Triple-A. He is in his third season with the Sacramento River Cats of the Pacific Coast League.
Brundage has never coached at the college level, but his experience and knowledge of the game are beyond question. He's a personable guy who would be an effective recruiter, and if he were to get the job, would be amenable to keeping the current OSU staff intact under him.
Brosius and Checketts are on Oregon's list to replace George Horton, and Checketts is a lead candidate to take over for the fired Dan Hubbs at Southern Cal.
Barnes will surely interview at least a couple of candidates less familiar to Beaver Nation and without local roots. That's fine. But when it's time to make a choice, he needs to stay within a program that has truly risen to become one of the cream of the crop in the country.
Through the season, I've admired the job Bailey has done as interim head coach in the wake of Casey's "retirement," and with the possibility of Casey's return looming over him. The Beavers got little from their returning position players other than catcher Adley Rutschman and suffered through a wave of injuries to a once-deep pitching staff, yet still won 36 games and were in contention for the Pac-12 championship until the final weekend.
My initial thought was that Bailey should be Barnes' pick, but after speaking with several people close to the program — including a couple of former players — I've changed my mind. Yeskie should be Oregon State's next head coach. Former OSU coach Jack Riley, who pushed Casey to be his replacement back in 1994, told me as much this week, though he is a fan of Bailey's as well. And I get where Jack is coming from.
Bailey is 63, and while the fire still burns inside him, his career as a coach is winding down. Yeskie, 44, has never been a head coach, but his time is now. The job he has done in recruiting, developing and managing talent through his 11 years at Oregon State has been impressive. Nate is an excellent communicator, and he has enough of an edge that he'd have some of Casey's tough-guy demeanor, which is necessary in running a program.
A couple of weeks ago, Yeskie told me his biggest goal was to become the Beavers' head coach some day. Some day is here. The culture of the program that was developed under Casey must continue. Yeskie is the guy to make that happen.
An important bonus that comes with a Yeskie hire is that the OSU coaching staff can remain intact. Bailey — who wants very much to continue as head coach — would be OK with staying with Yeskie as associate head coach, which tells you a lot about the quality of person and lack of ego of Bailey. Jenkins, too, would likely be back, and Yeskie could add a pitching coach who would provide even more depth to an excellent staff.
Health issues were a major factor in Casey's decision to not return. The job took a tremendous physical and emotional toll on the Beaver skipper, who lost significant weight through every season and looked gaunt after winning his third College World Series crown in 2018. He seems refreshed and healthier in every way now.
That said, I'm not sure if Casey, 60, is done coaching. Will he be satisfied with pressing flesh as a premier fundraiser for the Oregon State athletic department — and, of course, for the baseball program?
Casey taking the Oregon job would be like General Grant switching over to the Confederacy. I don't see that, or even a move to another Pac-12 school, happening. But if Texas came calling? An SEC school? Notre Dame, again?
Casey is such an institution at Oregon State — in the state of Oregon — that it seems sacrilegious to have him coaching at another school. I get the feeling he's not quite sure what's out there in his future, and he'll take it month to month, year to year.
Meanwhile, Barnes has to make the decision that will keep the momentum moving in the Beaver baseball program. Yeskie is his guy, and as he goes through the interview process, I'm confident the Oregon State AD will come to that realization.