NORMAN — New Oklahoma baseball coach Pete Hughes opened his introductory news conference Thursday by acknowledging the obvious.
“I know what some of you are thinking right now,” Hughes said. “'If you can't beat 'em, join 'em.'”
The Sooners opened their 2013 NCAA Tournament run with a three-game sweep through the Blacksburg Regional, which OU clinched in a 10-4 victory over host Virginia Tech, then coached by Hughes.
Hughes becomes the ninth baseball coach in program history and replaces Sunny Golloway, who accepted Auburn's head coaching gig two weeks ago.
The 45-year-old Hughes brings with him a reputation for revitalizing downtrodden programs.
His first head coaching job came in 1997 at San Antonio's Trinity University, which he led to a 52-30 record in two seasons. He left there for Boston College, a program that had averaged 13 wins per year over the past 35 seasons before Hughes arrived.
Hughes left Boston College after eight seasons with a 250-181-2 overall record, including a school-record 37 wins in 2005.
From there, Hughes went to Virginia Tech, where he spent the past seven seasons and led the Hokies to five straight 30-win seasons and NCAA Tournament berths in 2010 and 2013.
Virginia Tech hadn't reached the tournament since 2000 before Hughes arrived.
“Pete captured our attention for a variety of reasons,” said OU athletic director Joe Castiglione. “He has an extensive track record at building programs, especially programs that face somewhat of an uphill battle, given the stage they were when he became the head coach.”
At OU, Hughes inherits a program with loads of recent success. The Sooners have reached an NCAA Super Regional in three of the past four seasons, and qualified for the College World Series in 2010.
Hughes said recruiting players to Boston College and Virginia Tech required lots of long trips around the country to attract talent, but at Oklahoma, his recruiting philosophy will be “inside-out.”
“I've always wanted to coach at a school where you were the institution in the region,” Hughes said. “This is the state university, and it's in one of the most fertile baseball grounds in the country. Oklahoma, bordering Texas.
“If we're going outside of that, something's wrong. We will consume those areas.”
Hughes visited his new players on a conference call just before speaking to reporters Thursday, and said all seemed receptive.
Left fielder and leadoff hitter Craig Aikin, who just finished his freshman season, attended Thursday's news conference.
He said when the Sooners were playing at Virginia Tech, he noticed that the Hokies players were loose and having fun, and he attributed that to Hughes.
“We played a handful of teams like that,” Aikin said. “The coach is really involved with those guys, and guys are just really wanting to play hard for him. They're just having the time of their lives.
“I'm really excited to play for him.”
Hughes will earn $350,000 per year at Oklahoma, according to a SoonerScoop.com report. The Washington Post reported that Hughes made $157,000 last season at Virginia Tech.
Thursday, Hughes also addressed his recent health scare. He suffered a heart attack only a few days after Virginia Tech was eliminated by Oklahoma.
He said he had 99 percent blockage in his main artery, but had a stent implanted and his artery is “100 percent wide open now.”
“I feel great,” Hughes said. “I feel fortunate. There's no damage to my heart. I'm 45 years old and in pretty good shape, with bad genetic history. Now we can stay on top of it.”
THE PETE HUGHES FILE
Position: Oklahoma head baseball coach, hired June 27
College: Davidson College (1990); Hughes, a four-year letterman and third baseman, also was the Davidson football team's four-year starting quarterback.
HEAD COACHING CAREER
1997-98: Trinity University, 52-30 (.634)
1999-2006: Boston College, 250-181-2 (.580)
2007-2013: Virginia Tech, 222-174 (.561)
Overall record: 524-385-2 (.576)