John Cohen, whose career includes success as a player and assistant coach in the Southeastern Conference, and as a head coach at Northwestern (La.) State, is the new head baseball coach at Kentucky, UK Director of Athletics Mitch Barnhart announced June 24, 2003.
"John Cohen has a wonderful blend of competing and coaching in this conference, combined with a successful track record as a head coach at Northwestern State," Barnhart said. "He has a great passion for our job and a vision for Kentucky baseball. His desire to grow our program into an NCAA Tournament team, with an eye on Omaha (the College World Series), is exciting for our staff and our players."
Cohen, who played at Mississippi State and has been an assistant coach at Florida and Missouri, is excited about his new role.
"This is a tremendous honor and opportunity," Cohen said. "The University of Kentucky has one of the premier athletics departments in the nation. Everything I hear about the UK administration is the big 'C' word - commitment. Under Mitch Barnhart's leadership, we'll work to make UK baseball a consistent winner.
"I have high expectations for our program. It's a privilege to follow Keith Madison - one of the classiest people I know, one of the real gentlemen of our game, a coach who has tremendous respect throughout college baseball. I know Coach Madison's players are a first-class group of young men who know how to work and give everything they have."
Cohen comes to UK from Florida, where he served a record-setting term the last two years as hitting coach for the Gators.
In 2002, Cohen's offense led the Southeastern Conference in nine team offensive categories, while leading the nation in hits (825) and ranking second nationally in three other categories: batting average (.346), runs per game (9.74) and home runs per game (1.71). The Gators also set or tied a total of 41 offensive school records (20 team/21 individual) as Florida completed its most successful season since 1998 (46-19) and qualified for the NCAA Tournament. The 2002 Gators made major offensive improvement as they shattered the school batting average record by .14 points (.346-.332) and hit 62 more homers in 2002 (111) than in 2001 (49). Consensus All-Americans Mark Kiger and Pat Osborn each batted over .400 and scored more than 100 runs, while five Gator players hit 10 or more homers. Osborn also won the SEC batting title and became the fourth league batting champion that Cohen has helped coach.
In the 2003 season, Florida paced the SEC in five offensive categories, including runs per game (8.78) and batting average (.320). Two Gators finished in the top five in the SEC in batting average for the second consecutive year. Brian Rose earned third-team All-America honors while batting .357 with 16 homers and 59 RBI and a slugging percentage of .681. The Gators went 37-21-1, including another trip to the NCAA Tournament.
A two-time Southland Conference Coach of the Year, Cohen arrived at Florida after serving four successful seasons as the head coach at Northwestern State in Natchitoches, La. Cohen compiled a 146-84 (.635) mark at Northwestern State and directed the Demons to Southland Conference Championships in 1998 and 2001. His well-rounded clubs set 18 individual and team offensive records during his tenure, while his pitching staff set 10 school marks. The 1998 team posted the fifth-best ERA in the nation (3.82) and his 1999 team carried the nation's seventh-best fielding percentage (.967). Under his leadership, Demon baseball averaged 18 student-athletes per semester with grade-point averages of 3.0 or better. Both his 1998 and 1999 teams recorded a team GPA above 3.0.
During Cohen's four-year guidance of the Northwestern State baseball program, more than $200,000 in contributions and fund-raising activities was generated for Demon baseball. The previous single-year high was $24,000. The Demons' stadium, Brown-Stroud Field, was the main beneficiary of the funds with grandstand seating increased from 298 to 1,000. A school-record 4,214 fans watched Northwestern defeat defending national champion LSU at the facility on April 18, 2001.
Prior to his appointment at Northwestern State, Cohen served as an assistant coach at Missouri for six years, from 1992-1997. He was the chief assistant coach for his final three seasons, serving as the Tigers' hitting instructor and recruiting coordinator. In 1996, Missouri won the Big Eight championship and advanced to an NCAA regional for the first time in 16 years. The Tigers broke nine offensive school records that season, part of 17 total records set by Cohen's offense during his term there.
Cohen played at Mississippi State from 1987-90 when current Florida head coach Pat McMahon was an assistant on Ron Polk's Bulldog coaching staff. MSU advanced to NCAA Regional play four times while the 1990 team advanced to the College World Series. Both the 1987 and 1989 teams captured Southeastern Conference championships. Cohen concluded his career ranked in MSU's top 10 in several statistical categories. He earned first-team All-SEC honors as a senior outfielder and was selected by the Minnesota Twins in the 22nd round of the 1990 Major League Baseball Draft. He spent two years in the Twins' minor league system before beginning his collegiate coaching career as an assistant at Missouri in 1992.
Cohen, a 36-year old native of Tuscaloosa, Ala., resides in Gainesville and is married to the former Nelle Bashinsky, also of Tuscaloosa. They have been married for nine years and have two daughters - Jordan Baker and Avery Lawson.
THE JOHN COHEN FILE
Birthdate: Sept. 21, 1966 in Tuscaloosa, Ala.
COHEN'S RECORD AS A HEAD COACH
Year School Record Southland Conference 1998 Northwestern State 40-20 15-8 (SLC Champions) 1999 Northwestern State 38-21 18-9 2000 Northwestern State 30-26 14-13 2001 Northwestern State 38-17 19-8 (SLC Champions) 4 seasons 146-84 66-38(.635)
THE WORD ON JOHN COHEN
"John Cohen is an outstanding person and an outstanding baseball coach. He will do a great job at the University of Kentucky. I have been associated with him as a player and coach and he is a joy to be around. He has a tremendous work ethic and will be a great fit at Kentucky." -- Pat McMahon, Florida head baseball coach
"John Cohen has paid his dues as a college player, a professional player, and as a coach. The University of Kentucky has made a tremendous decision in naming him as its head baseball coach. He will approach the job with great enthusiasm, excitement, and class and I know he is looking forward to it." -- Ron Polk, Mississippi State head baseball coach
PREVIOUS QUOTES ON JOHN COHEN
"When John took the job here, he was following in the footsteps of two top-quality coaches. As he leaves, in light of the accomplishments and the impact he's had on our baseball program, he fits right in with Jim Wells and Dave Van Horn, guys who have won national coach of the year honors and taken previously struggling programs to the College World Series. The University of Florida is getting an outstanding baseball coach, one who is even better than they think, and I know they have great admiration for him. John will make a tremendous impact on that program because of the kind of coach he is and more importantly the kind of person he is. We are going to miss him."
"Jim Wells brought Northwestern baseball back from the dead. Dave Van Horn picked up the reins and advanced the program. John Cohen has been more successful against better competition than either of his predecessors - and that's two of the best coaches in America - while bringing an entirely different dimension of development to Demon baseball. Jim Wells dreamed of improving the stadium. John Cohen got it done."
"One of the biggest challenges in sports is not building a program, but maintaining and improving a successful program. Following Jim Wells and Dave Van Horn, John has improved the baseball program at Northwestern. His teams are hard-nosed, solid baseball clubs that don't back down."
"Until you've learned at that level of Division I, it's difficult to appreciate the challenges you encounter at a place like Northwestern State. You spend so much time doing so many things other than coaching that have to be accomplished successfully in order to have a chance to win. Then you must recruit, coach and develop players and win baseball games. In many ways, coaching at that level is the toughest assignment in college baseball. Because I know John well, because I've been in his shoes, I have tremendous admiration and respect for what he's doing at Northwestern."
"John is a great recruiter, a good coach and did a terrific job with the offense at Missouri. He is one of the great young coaches in America. At Missouri, he developed one of the toughest offenses in the Big 12 and the nation."
"John did a great job here and we will miss him. He was a big part of our success at Missouri. John is just so energetic and charismatic, he can relate to people really well. People just seem to like him right away. He leaves no stones unturned and makes all the phone calls. He does what he has to do to get the job done. He also does a good job evaluating talent. I've worked with John for six years and each year we have gotten better offensively."
"John embraced the Oklahoma State offensive philosophy. He is one of the young lions, both hungry and humble. He endeared himself to me and I shared trade secrets with him that you don't normally share. Unfortunately, they beat us three-of-five in 1996 and it was kind of like watching ourselves in the mirror."
"In spite of the fact that Kansas and Missouri are bitter rivals, I really took a liking to John and appreciated what he meant to the Missouri baseball program. I found him to be a great motivator, extremely well-prepared, and a fierce competitor. Of all the young guys putting in time to make moves in this profession, he is one of the shining stars."
"Much of the Missouri Tigers' rise back into the national spotlight can be credited to MU hitting instructor and recruiting coordinator John Cohen. Under the instruction of Cohen, the Missouri offensive attack has become one of the best in the nation."