AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — For over 100 years, Texas had just four head coaches lead one of the most successful college baseball programs in the country. The last two left a legacy of winning national titles and thousands of career victories.
Now the Longhorns turn the program over to David Pierce, a self-described "slow-talking Texan" who doesn’t yet have 200 total wins in a career spent mostly as an assistant and just five seasons as a head coach.
Texas introduced Pierce at a campus news conference on Thursday, a day after hiring him away from Tulane after just two seasons there. The former Texas high school coach and player called landing the Longhorns’ job at age 53 "a special day, a special journey."
"I hope you can handle a slow-talking Texan, because that’s what you got," Pierce said.
How fast he speaks will be of little importance to Texas fans so long as he quickly returns the program to the College World Series.
Texas reassigned former coach Augie Garrido — the winningest coach in college baseball history — after 20 years and with a year still left on his contract because the Longhorns had missed the NCAA postseason three times in the last five years. Garrido liked to say "Omaha is the standard" at Texas.
Pierce said he’s ready to embrace that expectation, although he didn’t make any immediate promises and insisted he won’t be consumed by the pressure for postseason success.
"There’s absolutely no waiting," Pierce said. "If you view it as greater than it is, it will control you."
Pierce noted his Texas roots, serving as director of the state high school coaches association. He’s also been a pitching and hitting coach at the college level.
"All these stops along the way truly set me up for this," Pierce said. "I’ve done everything, including dragging the dirt."
Pierce spent nine seasons as an assistant at Rice before head coaching jobs at Sam Houston State and Tulane. He won four conference titles in five seasons as a head coach. His teams made the NCAA postseason every year but he’s yet to reach a super regional.
Texas fans expected the program to name one of the big-name coaches in the country and got nervous as athletic director Mike Perrin’s job search lasted for a month.
Perrin said Pierce was the only coach he offered the job, but joked that his search resulted in pay raises for several coaches at other top programs in recent weeks.
Perrin interviewed Pierce on June 18 but didn’t offer him the job until Wednesday. Perrin said he wanted to wait until Texas President Greg Fenves returned from a trip to China. Fenves has shown to have a strong hand in Texas coaching searches, most notably making a flight with Perrin and football coach Charlie Strong to Tulsa, Oklahoma, in December to hire offensive coordinator Sterlin Gilbert.
"I couldn’t be happier with the decision we made," Perrin said. "Throughout the search, his name came up time and time again."
Perrin refused to release Pierce’s contract terms, which under Texas law will be public record. Perrin said those details will be announced when Pierce’s contract goes before Texas regents in August.
Withholding contract information for several weeks would be a change at Texas, which typically releases those details when coaching hires are announced. Fenves’ office did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Pierce said he feels like Texas’ No. 1 choice. After all, he’s the one who got the job.
"It’s not where you start," Pierce said. "It’s where you finish."