MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — From halfway across the country, or roughly 1,200 Big 12 skymiles, Texas Christian baseball coach Jim Schlossnagle has proudly watched his longtime friend Randy Mazey direct a rapid turnaround at West Virginia.
“It’s obvious he has done one of the best jobs in the country, if not the best,” Schlossnagle said Wednesday, 48 hours before TCU and WVU (29-20, 11-7) open a three-game series in Charleston. “It’s been phenomenal, when you look at the state of the program when he took it over and where they are right now.”
Where the Mountaineers are now — tied for first place in the Big 12 — reinforces the soaring opinion Schlossnagle held of Mazey when they worked side-by-side at TCU the past six seasons. The two only became paired up in Fort Worth after, as Schlossnagle put it, “Randy got the raw end of the deal at East Carolina,” being fired in 2005 after a rift with athletics director Terry Holland.
Schlossnagle was only too happy to make Mazey his second-in-command, realizing through six consecutive NCAA appearances that another head-coaching position would inevitably pull Mazey away.
“I didn’t want to lose him, but he’s a great friend and I knew what kind of person and coach he was, and I wanted to see all that rewarded,” Schlossnagle said. “I always felt like the right thing for him and his family would come along in due time, and I think West Virginia’s a great fit.”
The compliments flow in both directions. As the Mountaineers have surged to the top of the conference, Mazey credited Schlossnagle with exemplifying that current head coaches must do more than “teach players how to hit curveballs and field backhands.”
Mazey lauded his ex-boss for highlighting other facets that fuel success: “It’s alumni, it’s community, it’s fundraising, it’s getting to know people. Prior to me going (to TCU), I was all about wins and losses, and what do I have to do to have a good season. He kind of jumpstarted me into the parts of the game that I needed to focus on.”
LIFE AFTER MAZEY
Ironically, amid Mazey’s first year away, TCU (23-24, 8-10) has slumped to the point where nothing short of reaching — and winning — the conference tournament will keep alive the Horned Frogs’ string of NCAA berths.
Yet Mazey waxed wary of a team that last weekend won two of three games in a nonleague series at USC. He credited TCU with having “the best pitching in the league” — a staff he helped assemble and develop — and a lineup full of quality hitters enduring subpar years.
“We can pitch, … and most days we play pretty good defense,” Schlossnagle said. “Most college baseball coaches are going to tell you if you can pitch and play defense then you’re going to have a chance to have a good season. But we’ve struggled to score runs a lot of days.”
Last in the Big 12 in team batting (.244), slugging (.310), on-base percentage (.332) and steals (32), TCU entered Wednesday next-to-last in runs (4.1 per game) and homers (10).
Compare that to West Virginia, which was tied for first in homers (28) and sat fourth in hitting (.282) and steals (59),
“Randy tries to downplay it, but they have a good team,” Schlossnagle joked. “He does a good job playing the underdog role and sneaking up on people, but he’s not going to sneak up on TCU, because we all know how talented his team is and how good a job he’s done preparing them.”
Mazey, still attached to the players he coached at TCU, said he derives no pleasure from facing his former team. And if not for the Big 12′s round-robin schedule, he wished the programs could have avoided meeting at all this season. In addition, Mazey’s two assistants have TCU connections: Steven Trout played two seasons for the Frogs and Derek Matlock was a volunteer coach there.
“It’s going to be really good to see everybody, but when it comes to playing against them, that’s a different story,” Mazey said. “You don’t mind competing against your friends when you’re screwing around, playing golf or cards. But when there’s so much at stake and you don’t want anybody to lose, that makes it a little bit tougher.
“But I’m a Mountaineer now, I’m not a Horned Frog anymore. So we’re going to go out and try to win three games next weekend.”