College World Series: LSU-Fullerton - Andy Cannizaro

LSU's Andy Cannizaro (Shotgun Spratling)


Mississippi State Set To Hire Andy Cannizaro


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It’s been a busy past couple of days at Mississippi State as long-time head baseball coach John Cohen will be announced the school’s new athletic director on Friday. Now, the Bulldogs are again in the headlines as Cohen has chosen heralded LSU assistant Andy Cannizaro as his replacement, the program will officially announce in the coming days.

Miss St Baseball LogoCannizaro heads to Starkville, Miss., with some impressive accolades. The 37-year-old, Mandeville, La., native was named one of the nation’s elite assistants by his only two seasons at LSU. And while he inherited quite an impressive group back in 2015, he did a marvelous job with the 2016 unit. Last season, LSU lost eight of nine from the batting order, but still managed to have one of the elite offenses in the Southeastern Conference with a .295 overall batting average.

Cannizaro is somewhat of an unorthodox hire for the Bulldogs, but one that could soon pay huge dividends. Cannizaro has only been a college baseball coach for two seasons, but his reputation as a coach and recruiter is immaculate. He also has a variety of experience in other areas. For instance, Cannizaro was a four-year starter at shortstop for Tulane and helped lead that program to their first College World Series appearance back in 2001. Furthermore, Cannizaro spent some time in the big leagues in the New York Yankees organization before earning a strong reputation as an area scout for five years.

“He was here for two and a half years, and this is a great opportunity to get a head coaching job in the Southeastern Conference. Those jobs are very limited in opportunities,” LSU coach Paul Mainieri said. “He doesn’t have a long track record in college baseball, but he has a long track record in a lot of other cool things. He was a scout, he was a big leaguer, but being a head coach in college baseball is a lot different than those other experiences.

“He’s jumping into the fire, there’s no question about it, but if anyone can handle this, it would be Andy,” he continued. “I know he’s excited about it and I knew he had aspirations to be a head coach, but that never bothered me and I was more than happy to be a mentor. I thought he’d be here a couple of more years before he left, but I guess in his mind you have to go when you have the opportunity.”

Mainieri also added this about Cannizaro and his abilities.

“I got to know Andy a lot because of two things: He was the area scout for the Yankees and we would talk about players and I had a good insight in what he looked at in players,” he said. “He was very charismatic, and on top of that, I’m really close with the guys in the Yankees organization. Those guys worked with Andy for five years and they were able to tell me what type of worker he was, and everyone felt strongly that he had great qualities about him. They thought that once he learned to be a coach, his intelligence and knowledge of the game would translate into being an outstanding coach. We definitely took a chance on him, but he was great and loyal.

“I wish him luck,” he said with a laugh. “It’s going to be a little weird seeing him in the same division, but I suppose Tim [Corbin] and Sully [Kevin O’Sullivan] already do it.”

While Cannizaro was in charge of a national title-contending offense at LSU throughout fall workouts, he has a new set of challenges as the head man at Mississippi State. Offensively, the Bulldogs lost a vast majority of their key hitters from last year’s club that finished the year with a national seed. However, there’s a strong foundation in place with the return of Jake Mangum, Brent Rooker and others. Meanwhile, the pitching staff is loaded with potential, thanks to the return of quality arms such as Konnor Pilkington, Ryan Rigby and others. Clearly stated, Mississippi State has some rebuilding to do, but the places are in place to be an NCAA postseason club again.

As for the coaching staff, not much will change with Cohen’s move to the AD role and Cannizaro’s addition. For the time being, long-time former Kentucky head coach and now MSU pitching coach Gary Henderson will stay on staff and be a worthy encyclopedia of knowledge for Cannizaro, while Will Coggin, who was promoted to full-time assistant coach when Nick Mingione left for Kentucky this past summer, also will stay on staff.

Cannizaro’s addition turns the page on the John Cohen era at Mississippi State. Cohen spent eight seasons as the Bulldogs’ head coach, guiding the program to numerous NCAA postseason appearances, including three super regionals and of course, a CWS appearance in 2013, where the Bulldogs were national runner-up behind John Savage’s UCLA Bruins.

LSU's Paul Mainieri will now coach against his former assistant in the SEC West. LSU’s Paul Mainieri will now coach against his former assistant in the SEC West.

LSU now has an important position to fill with Cannizaro’s departure. The Tigers are searching a new assistant at an inopportune time, but there are plenty of options. For instance, coach Paul Mainieri could choose to simply promote Nolan Cain to recruiting coordinator and allow volunteer assistant Micah Gibbs to control the offense, or he could look outside with New Orleans head coach and former LSU Tigers player Blake Dean as an option. Mainieri also would be smart to take a hard look at former Tulane assistant Jake Gautreau, who now works for Boras Corp. and lives in Houston, while other attractive options surely will arise as well. Following the former scout plan, Mainieri would be wise to take a hard look at Houston assistant Trip Couch, who has done a terrific job of identifying talent for the Cougars. There are a multitude of other options throughout the Mainieri coaching tree as well. Those are just potential options that would make some sense.

Speaking of Mainieri, with Cannizaro’s move to MSU, that now runs the total of former assistants under Mainieri turned head coaches to a whopping 12.

It’s been a busy week around Starkville, but now Cannizaro and Cohen and can get down to business. Mississippi State fans now usher in a new era, while LSU, which now has a search of its own, will be just fine come spring with yet another national title contender.

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