Ever since joining the Pac-12 for the 2012 season, Utah's baseball program has both suffered and underachieved.
With only one winning season — 2017, 27-24 overall — in the last decade, the Utes were in need of a change. That happened when longtime head coach Bill Kinneberg retired in May following a 18-year career.
The search to find his replacement didn't last long as Utah elected to keep the hire in-house when it promoted Gary Henderson to manager. Henderson served as an assistant head coach the past two seasons.
“It was extremely gratifying to have the high level of interest in this search,” Utah athletic director Mark Harlan said in a statement. “Coaches from prominent programs across the country were involved and spoken to. However, as we all analyzed the candidates, it became clear that we had someone very special on our coaching staff."
It's safe to say that this is a homerun hire for Utah as Henderson is well known in baseball circles as somebody who resurrects programs.
Prior to his two seasons at Utah, Henderson was named the interim head coach for Mississippi State in 2018 and promptly led the Bulldogs to the College World Series. He was named the NCBWA 2018 National Coach of the Year.
“The last two years have been wonderful to immerse myself into the Utah athletics family,” Henderson said in a statement. “It has been a joy to develop relationships with our student-athletes and I am excited for the opportunity to continue to help them reach their academic, athletic and personal goals. This community, campus and city make the University of Utah one of the best places to be in collegiate athletics. I can’t thank Mark Harlan, Charmelle Green and Steve Smith enough for the opportunity to lead this program.”
Originally from Eugene, Oregon — ironically enough he'll be coaching against his hometown Ducks — Henderson is also an accomplished player. He pitched one season for Linfield College before transferring to San Diego State, finishing with a 19-5 record.
He got his college coaching career underway in 1995 when he was a pitching coach and recruiting coordinator for Florida — he was named National Assistant Coach of the Year by Collegiate Baseball.
He then moved west and served as pitching coach and recruiting coordinator for Oregon State. The Beavers won back-to-back College World Series titles in the 2006 and 2007, with the pitching staff recruited by Henderson serving as the backbone for both teams .
Henderson then went to the SEC where he was an assistant coach at Kentucky from 2003-2008 before serving as head coach from 2009-2016.
"To have a coach of Gary Henderson’s caliber and experience, who also has such familiarity with the young men in our program, makes him an ideal leader for the next era of Utah Baseball," Harlan said. "He has produced tremendous results both as a head coach and pitching coach with some of the premiere programs in the most competitive conferences in the nation, along with recruiting and coaching many young men who have gone on to major league careers. In his two years as our associate head coach he has demonstrated all of the qualities that translate to success, and I’m thrilled that he is the new head coach for our program.”