Pierce’s hiring right move for Troy State

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, July 17, 2002

Sports Columnist

Another feather should be put in Troy State Athletic Director Johnny Williams’ hat after last week’s hiring of Bobby Pierce as the Trojans’ new head baseball coach.

Pierce was named the head baseball coach after a thorough search, which saw 118 prospective coaches apply for the position. From as far away as the states of Washington, California, New York, Wisconsin, Wyoming, Arizona to the Southeastern Conference the list of candidates for the job was very impressive.

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Of the 118, the search committee, narrowed the field down to 25 outstanding candidates and invited eight of those coaches in for a formal interview.

The list was then narrowed down three; Pierce, former Chase Riddle assistant and now professional scout Mike Russell, and longtime Nichols State head coach Mike Knight.

Those three were brought back for a second interview with Williams and TSU Chancellor Jack Hawkins, Jr.

It was a tough decision, but to get a very talented and relatively young coach like Bobby Pierce with an overall coaching record of 535-202, was like picking a gem.

Those statements were echoed throughout the State of Alabama when the word went out on Wednesday that Pierce would be the man to head the tradition-rich baseball program at Troy State.

Yes! Troy State got a gem in Bobby Pierce! 535 wins in 14 years of coaching, if my math is correct, is an average of over 38 wins per season.

Pierce, 42, hails from Marianna, Fla., where he was a three sport star at Marianna High School.

He signed with the University of Alabama in 1980, where he set numerous SEC and school records as an All-SEC outfielder. He was named team captain for the Crimson Tide in 1981 and was later named to the Tide’s All-Century team.

At age 23, he became the youngest head baseball coach in Florida Junior College history when he accepted the job at Chipola Junior College in Marianna in 1983.

His first season at the helm, his team finished 41-15 and the Florida State Junior College Championship. While at Chipola, Pierce led his team to four Panhandle Conference titles, earned five state tournament berths (winning a championship in 1982) and won more than 40 games four times.

He left Chipola in 1989 to go back to his alma mater as an assistant coach under then-Alabama coach Barry Shollenberger for five years.

He accepted the position as the first head baseball coach at the University of Alabama-Huntsville in 1995.His UAH team won the Gulf South Conference title in 2001 and received four NCAA regional tournament berths.

To call Pierce a winner, would be an understatement. His record at Chipola was 259-95 in one of the toughest junior college conferences in the country. Then, he took a brand new program from scratch in one of the strongest Division II leagues in the country to a 276-108 record in seven seasons. His UAH teams won over 40 games, four times.

Pierce brings with him one of Troy State’s all-time great players in Mark Smartt as his top assistant.

Smartt played second base on Chase Riddle’s 1986 and 1987 National Championship teams. ‘Scrap’, as he was so affectionately know, was one of the most popular players at Troy State.

Pierce now has to concentrate on the job at hand as he inherits a Troy State baseball program that’s had three long seasons now.

If history repeats itself, 41-15 and the state junior college title at Chipola his first year and 37-16 at UAH his first year, the 2003 baseball season at Troy State should be very interesting.

Welcome to Troy, Alabama, Coach Pierce. It proclaims itself to a be a great baseball town, so the bleachers should be packed when your team hits the field for the first time next February.

Here’s wishing you and your team the best of luck in 2003!

Go Trojans!