Better known by Baylor fans as Steve Smith's long time assistant, Mitch Thompson along with another former Bear assistant, Chris Berry, will lead the McLennan CC Highlanders tonight in the JUCO World Series Final against Northwest Florida State, who they beat earlier in the tournament. While it is always good to see Bears succeeding wherever they may be, not to mention Bears tend to have a bit of a soft spot for MCC because of its proximity to and close academic relationship with Baylor, this is even more of a story because of the vacancy in Baylor Baseball's program.
Earlier, I wrote up 7 names that you needed to know in the job search. I didn't include Mitch Thompson as a candidate in that group. Part of that was because most fans already know well who he is and figured his name would be in the mix. I did not intend his omission from that piece to be a slight to him or discount his candidacy, but I just had a sense that the changes in the program probably would mean wholesale changes and a fresh start. However, there are a lot of reasons why he makes sense as a candidate for the Bear's head coach.
Having spent 18 seasons at Baylor, Thompson is intimately familiar with the unique advantages and disadvantages the baseball program faces, and he has demonstrated an ability to recruit at a very high level to Baylor. It was widely speculated that when Thompson left the program that the talent level and performance would dip while the new recruiting coordinator got his feet under him. That speculation became reality as the Bears followed the 2012 season with 3 straight losing seasons and failed to make a regional tournament again after his departure from the program.
What's more, Thompson still loves Baylor and Waco like one would expect, turning down several really attractive opportunities to stay in the area. He is still a fixture at Baylor football games and knows the value of the momentum created throughout the athletic department by Briles, Mulkey, Drew, and Moore. He also knows the value of McLane Stadium in recruiting and how to use Baylor's unique game day atmosphere to sell the whole Baylor experience in addition to the opportunity to play baseball for one of the Big 12's best baseball programs (historically speaking). When most of Steve Smith's great teams were on campus (certainly not all), the football team was almost unwatchable, and Floyd Casey was a virtual ghost town. I can imagine Thompson chomping at the bit for a chance to use today's athletic facilities to attract talent.
Thompson also adds the benefit of having a relationship with many of the program's past players, because he recruited them, and the current athletic department. While I do not know how it stands, I know he has a relationship with Ian McCaw. And, I know that he wants the Baylor job even if he has not come out and said so publicly.
Tonight's game is not just for a chance to win a national championship. It is an opportunity for Thompson to demonstrate that he can complete a very dramatic turn around quickly. In 2013, MCC finished with a 24-29 (11-19 in conference) record which was good for 7th place in their conference. In 2014, under Thompson's guidance, MCC improved to 3rd place in their conference and ended their season in their regional championship. In just his second year, Thompson has the Highlanders playing for a National Championship. Thompson is making a strong case that he should be the next Bear head coach. It is hard to know how Ian and the search committee are leaning, but they have to be paying attention to what is happening just west of town. And in case you did not know it, Mitch Thompson was honored by fellow coaches in 2009 and 2011 as the Big 12 "assistant coach that is most ready for a head-coaching job".
Sic Em, Coach Thompson. Good luck tonight. If any of our readers want to watch, the live broadcast is here at 8:00 pm.