Kansas coach Ritch Price announced his retirement on Sunday, ending a 20-year tenure at Lawrence that saw him lead the Jayhawks to a record 581-558-3 overall and 184-291- 1 in the Big 12.
KU made three regionals under Price, in 2006, 2009 and 2014, with the 2006 team standing out as arguably the best under Price. At 13-14 in the Big 12, it wasn’t Price’s best team at Kansas by conference record, but it was the only one to win 40 or more games in a season (43) and the only one to win the Big 12 Tournament.
The success Price brought to Kansas in the first half of his tenure is impossible to ignore. The three highest win totals for Price at KU during this time came in 2005 (36), 2006 (43), and 2009 (39), and the 2009 team advanced to a regional final. It was real progress for a program that had only been presented to two regions, in 1993 and 1994, before Price arrived.
Things also undeniably flattened out in the second half of his time in Kansas. There have been a few near misses, including in 2019 when the Jayhawks were a win or two away from being on the right side of the bubble, but 2014 represents the only time KU has reached the playoffs in the last 13. seasons. Things also bottomed out in 2022, with the Jayhawks finishing 20-35 overall and 4-20 in Big 12 play.
Assuming Price doesn’t return to coaching at some point in the future, it’s also the end of a 40-year career as a head coach that dates back to 1983, when he was hired. at Menlo (Calif.) College. After a stop at De Anza, Calif. JC, Price landed at Cal Poly, where he guided the Mustangs through the transition to Division I and went 217-228-1 in eight seasons.
Price is highly regarded within the profession and is universally well regarded by his peers as an assessor and developer of talent, yet it has often been difficult to prevent the Jayhawks from finishing near the bottom of the Big 12 standings. It shows how hard the job is, but nonetheless, the KU administration will now try to find the coach who can lead the program into uncharted waters as a more consistent playoff contender.
Previous head coach
Ritch Price: 581-558-3, 20 seasons
It’s hard to avoid defining Kansas by anything other than its boundaries. It is geographically disadvantaged compared to most of the rest of the Big 12, both in terms of weather and the availability of high school talent. Its facilities lag behind the rest of the conference, especially now that in-state rival Kansas State has completed a massive renovation and Oklahoma State has built a new stadium. Kansas is working on its own renovation plans, but those are still a few years away. There’s not much history on his side either, with just five regional appearances to his name – although the 1993 team made a surprise run at the College World Series – and no conference regular-season titles. since 1949. conference jobs, there are perks. General offers are at hand in these leagues and the money flowing from football and basketball will always make programs like KU more of a financial asset than a no. But there’s no denying that this is one of the toughest jobs in the nation’s power conference.
How much will Kansas be willing to pay?
According to 2021 data from athletic director U, Price’s total compensation at KU was $510,000, which puts him right in the middle of the pack in the Big 12. investment in facilities, he is willing to pay a competitive salary to his baseball coach. But is that the starting point for the next coach’s compensation, or did that number apply only in the case of Price, who had held the position for two decades? The answer will have a lot to do with the caliber of coach KU can attract.
Can Kansas find a niche?
With jobs as difficult as this, a coach needs to find a way to zigzag when everyone else zigzags, or at the very least have a very clear identity around which to build and recruit. As a member of the Big 12, Kansas really got none of that. He had exceptional players, but never had a cohesive identity beyond being the scrappy underdog trying to do more with less, which is less of an identity and more of a harsh reality of his life in the game. Big 12. Could KU be considering hiring outside the box or a coach with a clear plan in building a program that’s different from the rest of the conference?
Where will they go without a coaching tree?
Price has been extremely loyal to his assistant coaches throughout his time at Lawrence. Associate head coach and pitching coach Ryan Graves joined Price’s staff at Cal Poly in 1999 and was with him the entire time at Kansas. Price’s son, Ritchie Price, joined the staff ahead of the 2012 season after three years as South Dakota State’s head coach. The upshot is that there isn’t really a training tree to speak of, at least among the coaches in position to be considered for the opener this time around, and that would seem to increase the likelihood that the next man at work is something of a stranger to the program.
Next season’s roster looks on paper like it would be a blank slate for the next manager. After Price’s announcement, shortstop Maui Ahuna, who would have been in the running to be the first Big 12 player selected in the 2023 draft, listed his name on the transfer portal. The top two hitters other than Ahuna, Nolan Metcalf and Caleb Upshaw, are not eligible. Tavian Josenberger brings some excitement as a leadoff hitter and has hit 13 doubles this spring. On the mound, two weekend starters, Daniel Hegarty and Cole Larsen, also exhausted their eligibility. Starting pitcher Ryan Vanderhei, who has the best of the three by far, remains eligible but is likely to be drafted. The bad news is that this means the 2023 roster will be short on proven performance, but the good news is that it will allow for the kind of roster rotation Kansas needs to start rebuilding after a very difficult 2022 season.
Field of 64 Chat (05/25/22)
Teddy Cahill will discuss the Field of 64 today from 1-2 p.m. ET. You can submit your questions here.
Although Kansas has significant challenges ahead, it is still major conference work and will generate interest. The right fit will be key, but in the new Big 12 there may be an opening for the Jayhawks to step forward.
Sacramento State coach Reggie Christiansen brings both a connection to Kansas (he served as an assistant coach with the Jayhawks from 2003-04) and a solid track record as a head coach. He built the Hornets into one of the most consistent programs in California (since 2012, only UCLA, Stanford and UC Santa Barbara have won more games) and led them to the only three NCAA Tournament appearances in franchise history. program (2014, 2017 and 2019) . Prior to taking over at Sac State, he served as South Dakota State’s head coach for four years, deepening his ties to the region.
Arkansas assistant coach Nate Thompson hails from Kansas and led one of the best offenses in the nation over the past five years in Arkansas. Before that, he also stood out for his work in the same role at Missouri State. Thompson is establishing himself as one of the best assistant coaches in the SEC and is well placed, but perhaps a homecoming would persuade him to leave Fayetteville.
Central Michigan coach Jordan Bischel Won everywhere he went in 10 years as a head coach, from the NAIA to Division II and now Division I. Hadn’t played in the NCAA Tournament since 1995. His resume doesn’t isn’t all that different from Kansas football coach Lance Leipold, who athletic director Travis Goff hired a year ago.
Rob Walton, Oklahoma State pitching coach, the 2016 Assistant Coach of the Year, has an outstanding resume. He’s in his 10th season at Oklahoma State, his alma mater, and has helped the Cowboys become one of the best programs in the conference. Walton, 59, was previously the head coach at Oral Roberts for nine years, where he went 367-167 and appeared in the NCAA Tournament nine times. He is well placed at Stillwater, but a chance to be the Big 12 head coach may not present itself.
Mike Clement, Mississippi assistant coach would make an attractive candidate. He spent eight seasons as the Rebels’ batting coach, guiding one of the most explosive offenses in the nation. He spent two seasons in the same role at Kansas State, helping the Wildcats to a regional super appearance. He also coaches at Texas A&M and Texas-San Antonio and has the kind of Texas connections that would help on the recruiting trail.