A two-time Division II National Coach of the Year, Santa Clara University announced Thurs., June 30 it has hired Dan O'Brien as the new Bronco head baseball coach. O'Brien has spent the last 14 seasons as the head coach at UC San Diego, building that program into one of the premier programs at the NCAA Division II level. Dan O'Brien, the 36th head coach in school history in a baseball program that dates back to 1883, replaces Mark O'Brien after he stepped down in early June after 10 years at the Bronco helm.
Over the past eight seasons, O'Brien's Tritons qualified for five NCAA Division II West Regional showings, two NCAA National Championship Finals appearances and set a school record for wins four times. O'Brien, a 1995 graduate of UCSD, was easily the winningest coach in program history, holding a career record of 454-283-1 (.616) through the 2011. In 2011, starting pitchers Tim Shibuya and Guido Knudson became UCSD's first Major League Baseball draft picks since 2003. All told, 42 Tritons have earned all-West Region accolades since UCSD moved to Division II in 2001, while 72 student-athletes have been named to All-CCAA teams.
"We are so pleased to be bringing Dan O'Brien aboard to usher in a new era in Bronco baseball," said SCU Athletic Director Dan Coonan. "He is a phenomenal baseball coach, as baseball people will attest to, but an even better person. He embodies the type of values Santa Clara holds so dear, and that manifests itself in his coaching style and philosophy. He is quite accustomed to running a successful baseball program at a top academic institution. He is a perfect fit for Santa Clara and is ready to bring the program to new heights. We can't wait."
"I am very humbled and honored to be Santa Clara's head baseball coach and am thrilled about the opportunity that Dan Coonan and his staff has provided me," said O'Brien. "Santa Clara is a very special place. Anyone who has associated with this University knows that, and I'm excited to create a similar culture within this program that will inspire people to want to be a part of it. I see greatness in the very near future for Bronco Baseball, and will tirelessly work to bring this program to the level that it's capable of becoming."
Under O'Brien's guidance, the Tritons earned berths in the California Collegiate Athletic Association Championship (CCAA) Tournament eight years running, winning the tournament title in 2005, '09, '10 and '11. UCSD has also made five consecutive NCAA Regional appearances and claimed back-to-back West Regional crowns in 2009 and '10.
After reaching the national championship game in 2010, the Tritons lived up to their billing again in 2011, winning their third consecutive CCAA regular season and tournament titles. As the No. 1 seed, UCSD hosted the West Regional for the first time in program history. The Tritons were ranked in the national top-30 all season and held the No. 1 spot for two straight weeks in February. Ending the year at No. 6, UCSD finished with a 42-15 overall record and a 29-11 mark in CCAA play. The Tritons strung together a school-record 19-game win streak between Apr. 9 and May 14.
O'Brien was honored as the 2011 Daktronics West Region Coach of the Year, the NCBWA West Region Co-Coach of the Year and the CCAA Coach of the Year. Nine Tritons picked up all-West accolades and starting pitcher Tim Shibuya and utility player Blake Tagmyer earned all-American honors.
After going 41-15 and advancing to the DII College World Series for the first time in 2009, UCSD was even better in 2010. The Tritons recorded a remarkable overall record of 54-8 -- the best mark in program history -- and went on to capture conference regular season, CCAA Tournament and West Regional titles for the second year in a row. The top-ranked Tritons returned to Cary, N.C., where they defeated No. 4 Georgia College & State, No. 3 Central Missouri and No. 13 Franklin Pierce to reach the national championship game unscathed. Despite the perfect week, UCSD would come up short in the final game, losing a 6-4 heartbreaker to ninth-ranked Southern Indiana.
The Tritons wrapped up postseason play with a 9-2 record en route to the national runner-up finish. O'Brien was named the 2010 NCBWA National Coach of the Year for the second year in a row, while also taking home ABCA/Rawlings West Region and CCAA Coach of the Year accolades in consecutive seasons, as well.
The Tritons set a total of 19 program records in 2010. O'Brien reached a major milestone of his own during the season, recording career win No. 400 on Apr. 30 following a 19-3 rout at San Francisco State.
O'Brien's squads posted the top fielding percentage in the nation in 2008, '09 and '10 (including a school record .984 in 2010) and he coached two-time National Defensive Player Year Vance Albitz in 2009 and '10. In addition, the 2010 squad had six ABCA All-Americans and two National Gold Glove winners.
O'Brien was named head coach of the Tritons following the 1998 season, when he served as the interim head coach. He led UCSD to a 20-18 record in his first season, as that team broke a total of five school records. In 1999, UCSD again posted a winning record, going 19-18 overall, followed by an impressive 22-13 campaign in 2000, the team's final year of Division III competition.
After going 14-34 in the program's first season at the Division II level, UCSD surprised everyone the following year, posting an overall record of 30-23-1 and a 23-17 mark in the competitive CCAA. The Tritons reached the 30-win plateau for the first time since 1994 and had the second-largest turnaround in the country that season. O'Brien earned UCSD's Excellence in Coaching Award for the first time in his career, an award he has won each of the last three years, as well.
In 2004, O'Brien led the Tritons to a 35-24 overall record and a 22-18 mark in conference play. Ranked as high as No. 10 in the nation, UCSD qualified for its first CCAA Tournament, defeating Sonoma State 6-2. In 2005, he directed the squad to 37 victories and a second consecutive conference postseason appearance. The Tritons won 10 of their final 11 games, including a 7-6 victory over Chico State to sew up the program's first CCAA Championship. After another banner year in 2006, UCSD went 37-25 in 2007 and advanced to the NCAA Division II West Regional for the first time.
UCSD went 43-18 overall in 2008, setting a school record for victories. The Tritons went 25-11 in league play, advancing to the CCAA Tournament once again, and qualified for a second straight NCAA West Regional. UCSD won two regional games, before being eliminated by Chico State.
The Tritons defeated Sonoma State 12-4 in the West Regional Championship game to earn a berth in the Division II College World Series for the first time in program history. UCSD, which also garnered a No. 1 national ranking for the first time at the Division II level that season, recorded victories over West Chester and Dowling in Cary, before losing to Emporia State in the national semifinals.
After graduating from UCSD with a degree in communications in 1995, O'Brien served as an assistant for former head coach Lyle Yates before joining him in Greenville, Miss., as a player/coach with the Greenville Bluesman. O'Brien helped guide the minor league club to the 1996 Big South League Championship, before returning to UCSD for the 1997 season as an assistant under Robert Fletcher.
O'Brien played two seasons for UCSD in 1994-95, leading the Tritons to a 33-8 record and a third place finish at the Division III College World Series in his first year with the team. He led the team in home runs, was a two-time team captain, and won the John Rolph Memorial Award. O'Brien can be found among the school's top-10 for career and single season putout totals.
WHAT OTHERS ARE SAYING ABOUT DAN O'BRIEN
John Savage, Head Coach, UCLA; 2010 National Runner-up; Pitched three years for Santa Clara and then was a16th round pick of the Reds in the 1986 MLB Draft
"Dan has made a major impact at UC San Diego. He is one of the top up and coming young coaches in the country. He will represent Santa Clara in a first-class way and will work hard to take that program to another level. I have a ton or respect for him on and off the field and I think he is a great choice. He is very well-rounded and has been at a number of different levels. He is a student of the game and will incorporate a lot of the things he does successfully to help Santa Clara be a top level program. He's genuine. He's a baseball guy. Great choice.
Rich Hill, Head Coach, San Diego; has won WCC title five times
"Santa Clara has made an excellent choice in Dan O'Brien. He has a proven track record of success at a very difficult place to succeed. UCSD and Santa Clara are both very prestigious academic institutions and Dan is a proven winner at an institution that also places an emphasis on academic performance. Dan's best things are his abilities to be a true motivator and a great role model. He will be a shining light for both Santa Clara University and the West Coast Conference as well. He built a really monster Division II program at UC San Diego. Santa Clara is a great place and he will do well."
Ed Sprague, Head Coach, Pacific; 11-year career in Major Leagues (including World Series titles in 1992 and '93), NCAA Champion third-baseman at Stanford (1987, '88)
"Dan is a great guy and I congratulate him on his new position. He has done a fantastic job at UC San Diego. He is a very good fit for Santa Clara because he understands recruiting high academic kids that can play baseball. He will do a very good job there and it will be nice to have him Northern California."
Matt Cantele, Former UC San Diego All-American (2007), 2005 St. Francis Graduate
"Coach O'Brien is very into the development of each of his players both as student-athletes and people. He stresses the mental and physical growth of a person as much as anything. That was one of the real differences vs. other coaches I played for in the past – he really cares about the person. It's really important to him. He plays baseball the right way. He is very intense and a great guy. People love to play for him. He will push you. He lets you know what he is thinking and he pushes you to get better every day. He cares. I can't say enough good things about him. He really helped me grow as a person, especially now that I am in the work force and it's "life after baseball". I live by a lot of the same principles he teaches. He is always on top of it and you know what you are going to get each day. You better be ready to focus. He doesn't take a practice off and you better not. He really preaches integrity and that has helped me and puts him head and shoulders above the rest."
Tim Mort, Former UC San Diego Player, Four-Year Starter for the Tritons, Career .320 hitter
"He wasn't just a coach to me – he inspired me on and off of the field. He always stressed the mental game of life. It has really helped me off the field. He knows the game very well. Our team wasn't always the most talented team in the league but we went to the College World Series my senior year and we also won a couple CCAA titles as well. He has always been there for me and for my family. He was always someone I could go to when something were to happen. I consider him more than a coach and he is top role model of mine. I was born and raised in Santa Clara and have had a lot of friends who have played for the Broncos. I am a big fan of the Bronco program and I knew once Schott Stadium was built it could be great. Coach O'Brien, especially with his leadership skills and recruiting ability, only wants to be the best. He will strive for the national championship every year, every single year that will be his mindset – to bring a national championship to the program. That is just the way he is and that's the way he runs it. He's an even better person off the field. On the field he is a winner and doesn't like to lose. They will be the hardest working team out there until they achieve their goal – which will always be to a win a national title."
Earl W. Edwards, UC San Diego, Athletic Director
"We will certainly miss Dan O'Brien as an integral part of the success of the UC San Diego Athletic program. His performance as a coach was excellent on all levels. He provided his athletes a positive experience, emphasized their academic development and created a winning environment. I know he will do well as the Head Coach at Santa Clara University."
Josh Tanner, Graduated from UC San Diego 2009 (played four years) and worked as an assistant coach at UCSD in 2010; Interning currently with San Francisco Giants
"He has been a big influence in my life. I played a lot as a freshman and then didn't play well the next couple years, battling some homesickness and he was always there for me. By my senior year I had grown into a good role on the team. I won a Golden Glove my senior year and hit over .400. Coach O'Brien was a really good father figure on the field and was a big influence in my life. I know he is the same for so many people. Coaching with him in 2010 was really special as well. He puts so much work in behind the scenes and so much effort into it. It's pretty special. He has really done great things with that program – competing in San Diego, no scholarships, etc. He has turned it into a baseball powerhouse. He has done so much for his alma mater. It's pretty remarkable. He turned it into an unbelievable place to play and it was a lot of fun. I could talk about him for days. He's a friend, he's supportive and it's great for Santa Clara. I am excited for him and his new coaching opportunity."
O'Brien's Coaching Honors
2011 Daktronics West Region Coach of the Year
2011 NCBWA West Region Co-Coach of the Year
2011 CCAA Coach of the Year
2010 NCBWA National Coach of the Year
2010 ABCA/Rawlings West Region Coach of the Year
2010 NCBWA West Region Coach of the Year
2010 CCAA Coach of the Year
2010 FieldTurf Coach of the Year
2009 NCBWA National Coach of the Year
2009 ABCA/Rawlings West Region Coach of the Year
2009 CCAA Coach of the Year