July 3, 2012
LEXINGTON, Ky. -- Kentucky baseball coach Gary Henderson, who directed the Wildcats to a school-record 45-win season in 2012, has signed a new five-year contract, UK Athletics Director Mitch Barnhart announced Tuesday.
"I want to begin by thanking Mitch, Dr. Capilouto and Marc Hill for their overall commitment to our baseball program and for helping us establish Kentucky baseball as one of the nation's elite," Henderson said. "We have had some exciting moments during my nine years at UK and we still have a lot of things that we want to accomplish.
"I also want to thank our players and their families. They all bought in. We have a group of kids that have tremendous pride in the program, they like each other and they like to play. The complete and total absence of selfishness that our club demonstrated this past season will be vitally important to maintain as we move forward. We have great kids with supportive families and it is my responsibility, along with my staff, to make sure they clearly understand Kentucky baseball will not be sneaking up on anybody in 2013."
UK baseball assistant coaches Brad Bohannon and Brian Green have also been inked to new contracts. Bohannon serves as UK's recruiting coordinator and Green functions as the offensive coordinator and hitting coach.
"It was very important to me that we were able to keep Brad Bohannon, Brian Green and Keith Vorhoff on my staff," Henderson said. "My three assistants have tremendous passion, energy, intelligence and work ethic. The continuity of our staff has been a program strength and I appreciate Mitch's efforts to help with that continuity.
"I want to thank the Big Blue Nation," Henderson said. "Our fans came out and supported us in a big way this spring. We are going to do everything possible to give them another exciting, winning team to make it easy for them to continue coming out to the ballpark."
Henderson was named Southeastern Conference Coach of the Year after pacing the Wildcats to a record 45-win season in 2012, including the best finishes in the SEC and NCAA Tournaments in program history. UK finished third in the SEC regular season and set school records by leading the conference for eight of 10 weeks and winning seven of its conference weekend series.
The Wildcats ranked No. 1 for three weeks during the season and finished the campaign ranked for 13 consecutive weeks. Following the season, Kentucky had a school-record nine players selected in the 2012 MLB Draft, the second most in the nation and the most in the SEC, and the 2013 roster has sent an NCAA-leading nine players to the prestigious Cape Cod League or on the USA Collegiate National Team.
Henderson has been at the core of the UK baseball surge onto the national scene since claiming the 2006 SEC Championship after a last-place finish in 2005. As the associate head coach, pitching coach and recruiting coordinator from 2004-08, Henderson guided the UK pitching staff to some of its best seasons in school annals and annually brought in highly ranked recruiting classes. After taking over as head coach in 2009, Henderson has totaled a 129-99 (.565) record, the second-best four-year coaching record in UK history.
"Gary Henderson is a good example of the type of coach we want to lead our athletics programs at Kentucky and he and his staff are very deserving of new contracts," Barnhart said. "He has helped build the program from the moment he arrived in Lexington and it was thrilling watching his team complete a historic campaign in 2012. We are convinced that the success our baseball program achieved last spring is just the beginning and it is an exciting time to be a UK baseball fan."
Henderson has consistently produced a bevy of talent in the UK program, highlighted by the record draft picks in 2012. Since Henderson arrived in Lexington, UK has had a total of 54 players drafted or sign a professional contract. In UK baseball history since the start of the draft in 1965, 153 players have been drafted or sign contracts, with 36 percent of those players coming under the watch of Henderson. Since claiming the 2006 SEC Title, Henderson has had 51 players drafted or sign a contract, an average of 7.29 players per season. Before the 2006 season, UK averaged 2.17 players selected per MLB Draft.
In 2012, Henderson guided the Wildcats to its best campaign in the 107-year history of the program. UK set new school records in wins, strikeouts, innings pitched, saves, opponent batting average, games played, fielding percentage, winning streak and home wins. UK finished with the second-best team ERA in program history in 2012 and its 18 wins in league action marks the second-most in UK annals. With Henderson known for his disciplined approach to controlling the running game from the mound, UK allowed the fewest steals and picked off the most runners in the SEC.
Among the other statistical successes of 2012, include a 15-10 record vs. the top 25, and a school-record 10-4 record against top-10 foes. UK won a series against a No. 1 team (LSU) for the first time in UK history, posted a school-record 18-10 record in one or two-run games and finished the entire 2012 season with a No. 13 NCAA RPI according to WarrenNolan.com.
HENDERSON QUICK NOTES
Led UK to a school-record 45-win season in 2012, including its best finishes in the NCAA and SEC tournaments (modern-era history of SEC Tournament).
His 2012 pitching staff had the second-best ERA in program history, and despite playing in a "hitters ballpark", allowed the fewest homers in the SEC and the second fewest in UK history.
Has the second-best four-year record of any coach in UK baseball program history.
Became the second UK coach in program history to earn SEC Coach of the Year accolades in a voting of the conference coaches.
Since arriving on campus as the recruiting coordinator, pitching and associate head coach in 2004, Henderson has turned UK into a destination for the top talent in the nation. Since 2006, UK has had a total of 51 players picked in the MLB Draft or sign a pro contract, an average of 7.29 players per season. Before the 2006 season, UK averaged 2.17 players drafted per season.
Has brought in the top-three recruiting classes in program history, No. 4 in 2008, No. 6 in 2009 and No. 16 in 2010.
Led UK to the first No. 1 national ranking in program history, with UK owning the top spot for three weeks in 2012.
His 2013 club has an NCAA-leading eight players in the Cape Cod League or on Team USA, with SEC Freshman of the Year Austin Cousino becoming the third player in UK history to be named to the USA Collegiate National Team.
UK finished 2012 with a school-record 10-4 mark against top-10 teams, and completed 2012 ranked for a school-record 13 consecutive weeks.
Henderson's 2012 club led the SEC for eight of 10 weeks and won a school-record seven of its SEC weekend series.
Henderson will be entering his 10th season at Kentucky, joining the UK staff for the 2004 season and taking over as head coach in 2009.
Press Conference Quotes
Opening statement ...
"I sat down this morning and I wrote what I wanted to convey and I gave it to Brent (Ingram) to make sure it was what we needed, so largely what I wanted and needed to say, I have written. Moving along with the same idea and the same theme, is that I want to thank Mitch (Barnhart), Dr. (Eli) Capilouto, and Marc Hill for their commitment to the program. It is substantial and I appreciate it. It has been very helpful to receive their support in terms of getting us to where we want to go and do the things we want to do. We want to get support from the top, and we have it and I appreciate it. Along the same lines, we have had a good nine years. There have been some ups and downs like there is in all athletics. There have been a lot of fun times over at Cliff Hagan (Stadium) and there are a lot of things left I want to get accomplished. I am really, really excited about the direction that we are going and there is a lot of things left to do. It's a good place for us to be at this point.
"It was also really important for us to thank our kids and our families in the program. I think sometimes you get to moments like these and you overlook what is really important and what is really important is the support from the top, and my assistant coaches, is the kids that we have in the program and the families. The thing that struck me the entire year about our kids is how much they liked each other, how much they liked to play, how much them and their families bought into me and our staff. If you don't have that, then it is a really tough battle. We've got it, and we are going to do everything we can to maintain the same type of kids and the same type of a relationship that we have with those families.
"It's going to be my responsibility to make sure that the families, kids, staff understand that Kentucky baseball will not be sneaking up on anyone in 2013. It will be a new landscape for us, and we are excited about that. It was very important for me to be able to keep Brad (Bohannon), Brian (Green) and Keith (Vorhoff). I appreciate them. They are great. Work ethic, intelligence, passion for what we do. What they do is unmatched, it is great. The continuity that we have in our program is an absolute strength of our program and I think everyone in our league recognizes that. To that end, I want to thank Mitch for helping maintain that continuity.
"I think the last thing that struck me as I sat down and wrote out my thoughts, is the support of our fans. The Big Blue Nation is a great thing, but we have great fans at Cliff Hagan (Stadium). They come out, they support us, and they need to know that we appreciate it and it helps when they are there. We are going to do everything we can to create another exciting, winning team to make it real easy for them to get out there next spring."
On how he expects the new deal to help recruiting ...
"Our recruiting is going pretty good. I guess it's not going to hurt. We've done a good job. Brad is as good as it gets. Brian helps along the way. I think I'm probably as active as just about any head coach. We do a great job of recruiting here. We don't get them all; we get more than our share. I think anytime that you can talk about improvements, whether it's our team room, our locker room, our ballpark, any of it helps. (John Calipari's) team helps. It all helps, but I don't think we've been hampered and if I did, I probably wouldn't tell you.
"Every one of our kids hears it from me: It's not about what's around, it's about the people. And so while we've got a nice new locker room, which I'm extremely appreciative of, it's all about the people inside that locker room. I say it so often that now Brad's saying it to recruits. It's about the people that you have in your program and not necessarily anything else really. Those other things, they help, no question. We want them, they're going to come, but you can win a league championship in our ballpark. We've proven that (in 2006) and we were one game away from doing it again. We're eager about the momentum a new ballpark's going to create when it gets here, but we're going to play with what we have right now and we're very appreciative of it."
On how recruits knowing he will be here for five years will help ...
"That's a different angle, no question. If you have a good year, they want to know if you're going to stay. If you have a bad year, they want to know if you're going to be there. That's a constant in our business. A constant. That's just something that you, one way, shape, form or another, answer every summer. I think Brad would tell you he answers that every summer from somebody. I know that I do. In that regard, I think it helps."
On how you can build on the momentum from this season ...
"You continue to make really good decisions in the recruiting process and you make sure that you don't go backwards in your bullpen. Those are the first two things that you do. You do everything you can to stay away from injuries, but you only have so much control over that. The first two things you absolutely have a little bit of control over. Recruiting is not an absolute science so sometimes you catch a break and sometimes you don't. Sometimes you swing and miss. Those are the things you have real control over and you continue to foster the attitude and the culture you've created by making sure that you communicate at a really high, consistent level with the kids you have in your program so when those new kids come in, they understand the direction that we're traveling and what we're interested in and what we're not interested in. That's not something I typically have had any trouble doing. I think those are the things that you can control and you hope that you stay healthy."
On if he has a feel for how many recruits he may lose to the MLB Draft...
"I do, and I'm old enough know to know that in the next 11 days anything can happen, but we've got until 5 (p.m.) on the 13th (of June). Brad (Bohannon) and I were just going over that again (in the office). Anything can happen in the next 11 days. We have the five incoming drafted kids - we feel good about it but I think four of the last five years I've been on the phone at midnight that last night. Whether it's Scott Green or (Colin) Cowgill or (James) Paxton or Alex (Meyer), it goes down to the wire. I don't expect that that will be any different - obviously it won't be midnight this year, it will 4:30 in the afternoon because they changed the time. But anything can happen. We're in the first year of that new (MLB CBA) agreement. I don't think anybody's 100 percent clear on what those dynamics will be at the end. Long-winded answer is I think we're going to keep them and we're doing everything we can to keep them."
On the in-state talent and how important it is to land those players at Kentucky...
"It's real big and we're doing a good job of it. Nobody's perfect and you don't get them all, but to have those three particular kids and the rest of them coming from within the state is huge. We've done a good job even in that next group - we can't talk specifics about names but we've got recruits in that next group in-state that's a very exciting thing. Again, that's something that Brad (Bohannon) and Brian (Green) are doing a great job of. There's just a lot of pride in our state, there's a lot of pride in our university, and whether you're talking about Chandler Shepherd's parents, or Corey (Littrell's) parents or Trevor (Gott's) parents, and I know I'm missing some others, but those people have a lot of pride in our state and when those people do well I think it's an absolute great thing to have as many Kentucky kids playing or on the field as we can."
On what he meant by Kentucky not sneaking up on people in 2013...
"Seven months ago Corey Littrell is not really on the radar. Trevor Gott is not really on the radar. Matt Reida and J.T. (Riddle), in terms of what those other people are expecting that we play on our schedule, (were not on the radar). Clearly that's changed. We have [an NCAA-leading] eight kids now in the Cape (Cod League). Once you have that and you create that kind of thing, everybody's going to be looking for you. That's good. That's the way athletics are. It's hard to stay on top. It's hard to get there."
On reflecting on his last 10-12 years...
"I'm really glad that I know where (Gary's son) Ty Henderson's going to go to school for the next five years, probably number one for me. I'm glad that we did it again for a year here, and I'm really eager to put two (great years) back-to-back. Those are the things that come to my mind."
On what kind of sense of accomplishment he and the coaching staff feel...
"I think Kentucky is a great place to work. I think Lexington is a great place to live. Besides enjoying those two things, those two aspects of your job, you want to be successful no matter where you're living or where you're working. I feel really good about our coaching staff. And in order to continue to feel good about that, is the four of us are sitting in the coaching locker room and you look at each other - you have to win. That's just the bottom line. Mitch (Barnhart) and I have not had a lot of these conversations, but we've had some and they come from me. My job is to make his job easy. And my assistants' job is to make my job easier. That's just how it works. The sense of accomplishment is there, it's great, but it's all about 2013 now. That's just how it goes. You enjoy it for a short moment, but it's like I said earlier, you're happy with the direction but you're not satisfied with the results. We have some things to prove. And I think I sat here Feb. 8 and said the same exact thing. That doesn't change. It's like talking about the goals in our league. Well, the goals are pretty clear, you're in the SEC. I don't need to beat my chest and get out in front of you and tell you we're supposed to do this, that and all the rest. I think they're pretty much understood. When you have something short of satisfying you have to figure out how you're going to get it going right. I think our coaches are happy. I'm really, really happy for our kids and the pride that they take in the program and the buy-in they have shown to our coaching staff and me. I want to create an environment where we feel good about that all the time. That's just kind of an expectation level. Not necessarily the expectation that you're going to win a certain number of games, but an expectation that the kids in our program couldn't be more proud. That's really what draws people together is the feeling you have within your program, whether it's your coaches, or your players, or those relationships. That's why we're in athletics. ... There's something about athletics that draws people together. Whether you're talking about my relationship with the 1979 Eugene Challengers American Legion team - which I remember vividly - or the relationship our kids have within our program, you want them to feel great about what they do. A large part of that is set up by me and the things I'll allow or not allow or the people that I'll attract around me. But those are the things that you're trying to create. You want to create moments, you want to create memories, and you want to create a feeling of belonging. That's what athletics are. We've taken a very positive step in creating an environment where I think J.T. Riddle loves playing with Matt Reida. I think Trevor Gott loves playing with Corey Littrell. That's what we want to do. And that's a lot easier said than done. Look around. We were able to do it and we're going to work really hard to create that same culture."
On the dimensions of a new field...
"I think I'm fine with fair, I really am. A fair ballpark I would be fine with."
On watching Kent State and other SEC teams they had beaten advance in the tournament...
"No, I didn't catch all the games, I caught some. It struck me that we were 5-1 against that one (NCAA) semifinal, just watching that and doing the math in my head. There have been years that we haven't been in the postseason and I've talked to different coaches around the league, (Arkansas head coach) Dave Van Horn has told me on a couple occasions that the real challenge is getting to the postseason. If you are in our league and you get to the postseason you have a chance to win in Omaha. This year I think kind of highlighted that for me in just how close we were to being there and watching what those other teams did and I think probably more important, I've been there but our kids haven't. I think while it was good for me, it was more important for our kids and maybe more important for Brad, Brian (Green) and Keith (Vorhoff) to see that you have to play well at the right time. You have to have kids tat like to play, you have to have tough kids and you have to have some depth in certain areas but you have to play well at the right time. I think the season that we had just highlighted how important that piece of it really was."
On Colin Cowgill reaching the Major Leagues helps the programs...
"I think it helps anytime the kids that leave your program have success; I think that is pretty obvious. I think it also helps on the front end, in the recruiting process to try to convince kids to get here. I don't think I've coached a bigger no-brainer than Ryan Strieby that should be in the big leagues, for him not to make it, so I think all of those things help in terms of illustrating to families the importance of going to college, all of them. I think Colin coming here is a great thing for the program, I think it's awesome that he lives in town and he is over here working out and our kids can see him and talk to him and understand the work ethic he has and the type of person he is. Just that familiarity, we had a lot of that when I was in college, a lot of it at San Diego State. It really helps shape your perspective if you are perceptive at all because you get to converse; you get to have conversations at a totally different level than when you're talking to your peers. I think those things are important on the front end that you can show the guys that made and did not, the David Ecksteins, Brad Wilkersons, the Colin Cowgills, the Ryan Striebys and if we can get him turned up just a bit then Chris Rusin is going to get there pretty quick. I think those things are all good for the program but I really like what it does when the kids are back here."
On if a sluggish finish in 2012 kept UK from hosting a regional in the NCAA's eyes ...
"The (Oregon) Ducks lost all three to the (Oregon State) Beavers that last weekend and got to host. I think Mitch hit it right on the head, you never know. I think it's an absolute crap shoot, they can tell you that you didn't win late, you didn't play a tough enough schedule early, you didn't do well on April 10th, they can tell you whatever they want and all you have to do is look at somebody else's schedule that would illustrate exactly the opposite. I think that there are a lot of extenuating circumstances; I think that there are pressures that those people feel and have that led to those decisions. I can tell you that I got a call or text from seven of the other 11 coaches in our league that were very concerned and expressing their amazement or displeasure because they are all smart enough to understand what it means next year moving forward. Every one of them knows it could have been them, it wasn't necessarily us, to me it was much more of a league issue."
Athletics Director Mitch Barnhart
Opening statement ...
"First off, we thank you for coming on a cool day in July. It's good to be with you today. A lot of times we get to the summer months and it gets a little slow and you don't get to celebrate. You forget all of the things that you have accomplished and the things that your teams have done. We have tried to look back at about a month ago to think back to what the year had entailed and there were some really great moments. As we closed our spring seasons, there was a storyline from these coaches and these players that played for Kentucky baseball that was very special to follow. There were a lot of really good things that we did this season and you can look the stat sheet and see the 45 wins and number one ranking and it goes on and on and on.
"The guy leading the charge is Gary Henderson and he is a guy that has been with our program for several years now. He came in with John (Cohen) and we all know the story. He has led our program here to a spot now where we have a chance to move forward in a very special, unique way. We wanted to make sure that we honored the efforts that he has made here over the last few years and especially this year, and also set the stage for us going forward which gives us a chance to hopefully have a lot of fun in this league and give some players a chance to compete for championships and make a run at that College World Series which would be very, very special.
"We are pleased to announce today the new five-year agreement that we have got with Gary, extending his contract and his assistant coaches Brian (Green), Brad (Bohannon) and Keith (Vorhoff). We are so appreciative of your efforts and the things that you do for Kentucky baseball and we thank you. We thank Vicki (Henderson) and Ty (Henderson); you guys have always been so special in the stands and so supportive of our program. We are just thrilled and happy to have this opportunity to let everyone know we are going to be working with Gary for a good number of years to come and we thank you for your efforts."
On facilities ...
"I don't think you can look around our program and see the things that we have built and say we're not committed to the growth of our Olympic sports programs and the facilities that they have. All those things fall in a master plan for the university, which we are a part of, and at different places along the way, it would have been really nice to maximize moments. We probably wished we could have done something in '05-'06, '06-'07 and that era and we just couldn't. It wasn't available to us at that time for a lot of reasons, funding models, those kinds of things. And then there are a lot of things that happened in terms of financing of the university and things that go on and now we're fighting back.
"We've done a good job, I think, of getting facilities for our programs and we've been able to pay cash for those. Our plan going forward is to make sure we fit into the master plan of the university and then make sure that we're positioned properly to take the resources financially that we've grown or we're going to get financing for one way or another or the combination of both to do something as quickly as possible for Gary and his team. We know our facility needs some help, whether it's there or whether it's moved to Alumni Drive or something like that. Obviously those are probably our two options and how we make that all work as fast as possible is critically important to the ability to help Gary.
"That's why the five-year deal was really important, amongst other things, in terms of stability of the relationship Gary has with our administration and the university, that's one thing. The other thing is to make sure that do our part to facilitate the things that he needs in terms of capital projects and things to move forward. We're committed to that. We've done a lot of things in facilities. We've only got a handful left, in addition to Commonwealth Stadium, that (UK needs to improve to) really put us where we need to be in the Southeastern Conference. Baseball is primo on that list."
On if there was momentum for a stadium after not getting a postseason host selection ...
"I don't think there is any mystery that we were disappointed we didn't get to host. There wasn't any mystery in that. I was disappointed not for us, but for Gary and the coaches and the players. They are the ones that I was most disappointed for. I was disappointed for our fans as well because I think they truly wanted to come and be a part of a very special time in postseason play. I think that there is a group of folks that want to help us move this thing forward. You get a mixed bag of answers when you ask why we didn't get selected. People point to different things but you never know. The reality of it is that we had a heck of a good ball club and they went up to Gary, Ind., and came up short in one of the most memorable games that I'll ever be involved in. I listened to the game from Destin, Fla., all the way to Lexington driving home from SEC meetings on radio. It was an amazing thing to listen to and obviously I wish it would have turned out differently but there are memories in that. When I think about Michael Williams catching 47 or 48 innings in a weekend that is unbelievable to think he gave that to Kentucky. That was a great effort and Gary (Henderson) has talked about those kinds of things and kids loving to play the game and loving to do it for the guys in the locker room, the coaches and other people around the program.
"I think a couple of things I want to touch on momentum wise is people enjoy our coaches. They are really good people and quality folks. You want to see good things happen to good people. There is momentum out of that and people want to help. They will step up and do some things necessary to get some things done. The other thing, I think it signifies a couple things really important. We want to continue to put Kentucky in the best light possible as far as facilities, recruiting and all those sorts of things. We can only do that if we have great people and they stay and we don't turn this into a transitional place. We want to bring in people that make their home here and I am talking about more than just a ballpark. I'm talking about for their families and things. This is a good place to bring your family. This is a good place to live. That makes that part really, really good. We have to make sure we do our part to give him the best chance to do all of that. That is our goal out of that. I have been very clear with our university administration and the people we need help from in terms of this process. There are some pieces to the puzzle left facility wise that we have to finish up if we want to be who we want to be in this expanded league."
On if he has a time table on new stadium plans ...
"Quickly. We obviously have to move quick. It takes probably six to eight months to actually get a set of plans you can build off of and the architectural plans and the real working plans. You can draw pictures. You can do those quickly, but to actually get it takes six to eight months and a solid period of time to build it. It depends if you are going to go off the site that you are on or somewhere else. If you are going to be where you are right now or build on a new site. Those are two separate issues because you can continue to play in the spot (you currently are). You are not retrofitting anything if you go someplace else. Those become issues for you. Then how do you fit into the university landscape. I think that is coming down the pipe fairly quickly as far as what it wants to do with its master plan. I think that is coming rather rapidly which will help us determine where we need to go and what we need to do. More than anything else I want to make sure it helps Gary get what he wants for this baseball program. We don't want to just do it to do it and put a band-aid on it. That is not the purpose. The purpose is to have the ability to last the test of time a little bit. We have done band-aids before and they are probably not our best plan. We have to figure out how to create a facility that can stand for a while and get us a chance to be out there for a while and be here beyond here and me."
On if he sees the project taking place in the next couple of years ...
"Yeah, I think so. I would be disappointed if we weren't there."
On architectural plans for a new stadium...
"No, we've got some things that we've looked at. Nothing really architectural plans, we've looked at some pictures that we've had drawn up but nothing is really concrete, so to speak. But we can move, once we get a direction, I think we can move rather rapidly in terms of that process. This isn't something new to us, in terms of building, we know how to build and we know what to do once we have the opportunity, we just have to make sure we move it along."