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Athletics begins hunt for Hillier replacement

The search is on.

Following the resignation of former Duke baseball head coach Bill Hillier May 25, the athletic department has appointed a search committee of athletic administrators, former players and faculty members to conduct a nationwide hunt for a replacement.

Senior Associate Athletic Director Chris Kennedy, who is heading the search committee, said that integrity, a commitment to academics and the ability to recruit well are three of the most important qualities the University is seeking in its applicants.

“We want someone who will make this an incredibly rich experience for those who go through our program,” Kennedy said. “We want the student-athletes to have an experience here that will be valuable to them, and they will always remember and always treasure—that includes all the aspects that go into being a student-athlete.”

Duke finished its season with a 14-39 record—its seventh-straight losing season—and won just 5-of-30 conference games in a league that qualified seven of its 11 teams for the NCAA Regionals.

But despite Duke’s long-time struggles and absence from the College World Series since 1961, the job has piqued the interest of a number of head and assistant coaches, as well as other college baseball figures around the country.

Tulane associate head coach Mark Kingston and Georgia Tech associate head coach Bobby Moranda both confirmed their interest in the coaching vacancy. Princeton head coach Scott Bradley, South Carolina associate head coach Jim Toman and Boston Red Sox scout Mike Rikard could not be reached, but a number of sources have mentioned them as candidates to fill the post as well. Approximately 25 applications have already been submitted, Kennedy said, and although the committee is in preliminary stages, he hopes to have a new coach in place by July 1.

“It’s one of the best universities in the country and plays in one of the best conferences in the country,” said North Carolina graduate Kingston, who is also the recruiting coordinator for the top-ranked Green Wave. “I think that the model we have here at Tulane of great academics and great baseball is something that can be applied at Duke.”

Moranda, who has never actively pursued a head coaching job before despite having served as an assistant within the ACC for the past 16 seasons, cited similar reasons for why the Duke job attracted him.

Many of the best baseball programs in the nation exist at academic-oriented institutions like Stanford, Rice, the University of California at Berkeley, and Tulane, Moranda pointed out. He doesn’t see why the Blue Devils cannot compete at the same level as long as the athletic administration makes a commitment to improve the program.

“There are a lot of great programs in our league,” Moranda said. “If you have administrative support that says, ‘Hey, we want to compete at the highest level,’ then at a place like Duke it can happen.”

Toman brings experience as a superb recruiter in two of the nation’s premier conferences, the ACC and the SEC. He has played a role in recruiting 13 top-25 classes during his time at N.C. State and South Carolina.

In his eighth year at the helm of the Tigers, Bradley led Princeton to a 17-24 ledger. Rikard, who resides in Durham and is a friend of Duke Athletic Director Joe Alleva, has experience as an assistant coach within the ACC.

Regardless of who Duke hires, overcoming a long tradition of losing will not be an easy task.

“I don’t think anybody can turn a program around right away, especially in a sport where it is a fairly large team,” Kennedy said.

Rising junior Corey Whiting said he expects the University to hire a proven winner who can invigorate the program with his enthusiasm. With similar academic prowess and competing athletics, players compared the situation at Duke to Stanford, which just earned its 12th straight bid to the NCAA Regionals.

“Stanford has been very successful, and I see us being able to reach their level of success,” rising senior Adam Murray said. “Duke is definitely a sleeping giant. If we get a good hire here and continue to move in the right direction there is no reason we cannot compete like Stanford does.”

Also sitting on the search committee is Faculty Athletic Representative Kathleen Smith, Associate Professor of Mechanical Engineering Larry Virgin, Assistant Vice President for Student Affairs Sue Wasiolek, and former Duke baseball players David Norman and Eric Albright. Athletic Director Joe Alleva will be involved in the interviewing process and final decision, but will not be involved in sifting through the applications, Kennedy said.

Kingston, Toman and Moranda’s teams all received invitations to the NCAA Regionals, and the coaches plan on waiting until their teams complete their seasons before interviewing. The Championship series will be held June 25-27.

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