(Photo: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports)
After eight years, 427 wins, and two national championships, Arizona State softball was in search of a head coach because Clint Myers accepted the same position at Auburn for family reasons.
The university found Myers’ replacement back in June and now former Ball State coach Craig Nicholson must try and take over for a legendary coach and continue the success of one of the best NCAA softball programs of the past decade. It won’t be an easy task but Nicholson seems up to the challenge.
“I think what (Myers) and I like to do on the field is definitely similar,” Nicholson said.
Nicholson certainly has the pedigree already to make some noise in Tempe. His coaching career began at Central Arizona where he accumulated 723 wins and four national junior college titles in 11 seasons before moving onto Ball State. He led the Cardinals to an NCAA tournament appearance in 2010 and won three regular season MAC championships.
“I’ve been in this situation before in terms of winning championships,” Nicholson said. “ It’s not foreign to me but every year is a different experience. In the end, each team is different.”
Luckily Nicholson inherits a program that loses only Sam Parlich in the field and returns both Dallas Escobedo and Mackenzie Popescue to the circle.
Nicholson said he had the chance to meet about half the team in person so far and most of them were excited about a new coach and a new year.
“We’ll go definitely through a bit of a transitional phase with the team,” Nicholson said. “Change is scary but I don’t think it will take long.”
Nicholson has elected to retain assistant head coach Chuck D’Arcy and Director of Operations Chelsey Broermann, while adding former University of North Carolina assistant coach Boo Gillette.
“I’ve known Boo for six years, she’s a tremendous recruiter… she’s very organized and prepared,” Nicholson said.
Nicholson definitely has a more offensive minded approach to the game. His 2012 Ball State team was the only team to rank top ten nationally in batting average, slugging percentage, runs scored and home runs.
“You have to be good in all phases but my kind of thing has always been offense,” Nicholson said. “I worry a lot more about the offensive side of the game.”
Nicholson also identified himself as definitely more of a player’s coach. “It doesn’t mean we’ll be lackadaisical though,” Nicholson said. “ It’s just about the level of respect I treat my players with.”
Despite the recent success of the ASU softball program, Nicholson said he doesn’t feel any pressure.
“Pressure is one of those things I can’t worry about,” Nicholson said. “The expectation in the locker room will be higher than it will be on the outside anyways.”
Nicholson certainly seems ready to fill the large shoes of Clint Myers and with three All-Americans returning in Cheyenne Coyle, Amber Freeman, and Escobedo, the Sun Devils are poised for more success in 2013.
“Everyone I’ve come in contact with has been very welcoming,” Nicholson said. “By the time the season starts, we’ll be in good shape.”
With Nicholson’s help, Arizona State will look to make its eighth trip to Oklahoma City in the last ten years.
You can reach Nick Krueger on Twitter @npkrueger or by email firstname.lastname@example.org.