It seems like David Pierce would be no stranger to moving trucks. Much like most coaches who are good enough to keep climbing that ladder to the upper echelons of a sport, Pierce has bounced through a few schools as an assistant coach and then moved into the head coaching ranks. However, before landing in New Orleans with Tulane, Pierce’s college resume was Houston-based with stints at Rice University and the University of Houston. His head coaching career began just up the road from Houston, at Sam Houston State (which is located in a barren wasteland known as Huntsville, Texas). So, maybe he just really likes Texas.
The sports world is a lot like New Orleans – things are going on everywhere, all the time, but it’s still small. In March, as Tulane AD Troy Dannen’s former school – the UNI Panthers – were knocking the Texas Longhorns out of March Madness, his new school’s baseball team, led by David Pierce were taking on the Texas Longhorns in Austin, Texas. Blood was in the Texas waters, as the Burnt Orange faithful were grumpy with the team’s 7-10 start, and lack of recent success. Of course, success is subjective, as the Longhorns did make a surprise College World Series appearance in 2014, but hasn’t won the Big 12 conference since 2011. Their legendary coach Augie Garrido’s time – with his five College World Series championships, and 15 CWS Appearances – as head coach was coming to an end.
And then the Longhorns came a-callin’ after yet another successful campaign led by Coach Pierce at Tulane. Pierce, upon his arrival in 2014 told his Tulane team that he hadn’t missed a NCAA regional in the 14 years he was in college baseball. A streak that is still alive as the Green Wave made the regionals both years under his leadership.
Pierce’s teams would go 76-46 over his two seasons – improving from 35-25 last year, to 41-21 this year. Moreover, the team regained its winning tradition, and quickly distanced itself from the program’s 2014 campaign. A year that saw the Wave go 23-29 and post it’s first losing season since 1993.
Pierce’s first team hit the ground running and scrapped it’s way to a third place finish in the American Athletic Conference. The team entered this season picked to finish third, but the boys had higher hopes, and came through, winning the AAC regular season championship with a 15-7 conference record. The title would be Tulane’s first, in any sport, in the AAC.
It was a season that saw a number of huge victories. The Green Wave beat the eventual NCAA runner-up, Arizona Wildcats, in a 11-10 shootout in February. In March, Tulane travelled to Austin and won the series against, ahem, the Texas Longhorns.
The Green Wave would go on to collect series sweeps over a tough Southern Miss ball club and, most importantly to many, a series sweep over the archrival LSU Tigers.
Even though the season ended with more fizzle than pop, in the regionals, Tulane ended the season of the Pac 12 champions, Utah Utes, and eliminated the number one seeded Ole Miss Rebels, on their home field.
And now Troy Dannen is on the road again. Dannen, quickly putting his stamp on the Green Wave, is in the process of choosing his fourth coach, and as a fan, you have to feel happy about that. Dannen immediately re-energized a free-falling football program with the hire of Willie Fritz. Dannen made another splash in bringing in career NBA coach and GM Mike Dunleavy, Sr., to take over a basketball program that hasn’t reached the NIT since 2000, and the NCAA tournament since 1995. Dannen also netted Jim Barnes to lead the women’s volleyball program. Barnes’s previous stint was in Baylor, where he led the Bears to two NCAA tournament appearances and a “Sweet Sixteen,” in 2009.
This will be a big hire. At this moment, success-wise, Tulane baseball is the, “big horse,” in the Green Wave barn, and Dannen’s choices will have to come in and prove himself quickly, to keep the program on its successful track. The Green Wave have a ton of talent returning – big bats and big arms. Even though Pierce has headed west to Texas, the New Orleans faithful will have high expectations for the boys in Olive and Blue next year.
And like a fine wine with a steak dinner, every game should be accompanied by a beverage and song.
Beer Pairing: Stoudts Brewing’s, “Smooth Hoperator”
Playlist Recommendation: Willie Nelson – “On The Road Again”
Around The Way
The still-called Zephyrs are back home after a Death March that saw the team play 12 games in 13 days on the road. The Zephyrs finished the trek with a 5-7 mark, and…what am I even talking about…You saw the fight, right? It’s a good one.
Anyway, the Zephyrs take on the Round Rock Express (it’s another Nola-Austin connection!) tonight at the Shrine on Airline at 6 p.m.
NBA free agency has come, and almost gone (at least for the good players), and the Pelicans have said goodbye to Ryan Anderson and Eric Gordon – who both headed to the Houston Rockets. The Pelicans added small forward Solomon Hill from the Indiana Pacers, and shooting guard E’Twaun Moore from the Chicago Bulls. NBA fever…catch…it?
Join me in supporting Tulane football by messing around with Wake Forest football. As you may know, I am a Twitter-head (follow me at @fullsportNOLA!). Flipping around the twittersphere I stumbled upon the hashtag #CountdowntoTulane. That hashtag is run by the Wake Forest football team who, lo and behold, are the Green Wave’s first opponent of the season. And they may be feeling a little too cocky.
So, here’s something as cool as a snappy hashtag. If you don’t know, on your phone you can download emojis. If you do this and scroll through them, you will see – somehow, someway – that one of them is a Wave. How great is that? So, please join me in flooding the @WakeFB twitter with Wave emojis. It’s just good old-timey fun. And, if you don’t know what hashtags, emojis, or Twitter accounts are – please contact your nearest young-person. Thank you.