Football's Gus Malzahn greets new Auburn baseball coach Butch Thompson as Athletics Director Jay Jacobs looks on
By Charles Goldberg
AUBURN, Ala. — Butch Thompson is returning to Auburn baseball with the reputation as a first-class recruiter and with a rallying call for all involved in the program.
Auburn announced Thursday it hired Thompson as its head baseball coach, bringing back the man who served as an assistant coach and recruiting coordinator for the Tigers from 2006-08. The 15-year SEC veteran spent the last seven years as Mississippi State's pitching coach and assistant coach as well as associate head coach the last three seasons.
"It's an opportunity to not lead out front, but to lead together; and for our current players, an opportunity to lift them up and embrace them," Thompson said.
"This is the opportunity of a lifetime to be the head baseball coach at Auburn University."
Thompson replaces Sunny Golloway, who was dismissed in September.
Auburn Director of Athletics Jay Jacobs said Thompson was the unanimous choice of his search committee and that his new hire received support from former Auburn players as well as people across college baseball.
Thompson's reputation preceded his hire. He was named the 2014 Baseball America and American Baseball Coaches Association National Assistant Coach of the Year. He's made seven trips to the College World Series. Nine of his pitchers have made it to the major leagues.
He began coaching in the SEC at Georgia in 2002.
Jacobs said Thompson's Auburn connection was a bonus.
"That was not the criteria, but certainly with all the other attributes and experience that Butch brings to the job, his familiarity to Auburn was impressive, along with his experience in the Southeastern Conference," Jacobs said. "He's been at Georgia and Mississippi State as well. We believe this conference is unique, and it takes a unique person, and it was unquestionable that Butch possesses all those characteristics we think that a successful baseball coach in this league needs to have."
Thompson, who was to meet with his new team Thursday afternoon, said he welcomed the chance to return.
"It's a cliché to say it's being a part of something bigger than yourself, but I think it applies here," he said.
"To our baseball alumni and our fans, I want to encourage them that now is the time we can walk together. It's kind of a call to arms for this baseball program. We need them now more than ever. Auburn people respond well to that."
Thompson arrives for the final weeks of baseball recruiting.
"It's very important from the standpoint of what players do we have, what's still available," he said. "It's an opportunity to evaluate.
"The recruiting never stops. I do think it's given us time. Our next recruiting line in the sand is Nov. 11. Priority One is to take care of our current players, and No. 2 would be recruiting. Being able to be in place at this point will give us time to see if everybody is on board, if they're a match and still committed to Auburn baseball."
Jacobs said having Thompson on board for recruiting was important, "but the more important thing to me was having a leader for our current baseball team. When I went over there a couple of weeks ago and met with those guys for an hour and a half, they were a little confused and uncertain. With as hard as this team has worked with their commitment for Auburn, I wanted to get somebody here that would be a natural leader for them."
Jacobs said he was pleasantly surprised by the interest in the program during a time in which few baseball coaches are hired.
"We had a great pool of candidates," Jacobs said. "It was a great and thorough search. We had a lot of people involved in it, we got a lot of people's opinions on the best way to move this baseball program forward. When all the interviews were concluded, the committee supported Butch unanimously, along with the people in this athletic department who visited with him and the people outside of the athletic department who were providing me with input throughout the process."
Thompson played collegiately at Itawamba Community College and Birmingham-Southern. He began his coaching career as an assistant at Huntingdon College in 1993. He also served as an assistant coach at Birmingham-Southern and was head coach at Jefferson State Community College before embarking on his SEC coaching career. He was at Georgia from 2002-05, Auburn from 2006-08 and Mississippi State from 2009 through Thursday morning.
Butch Thompson's coaching career
1993 Assistant Coach, Huntingdon (Ala.) College
1994-96 Assistant Coach, Birmingham-Southern
1997 Head Coach, Jefferson (Ala.) State Community College
1998-01 Assistant Coach, Birmingham-Southern
2002-05 Assistant Coach, Georgia
2006-08 Assistant Coach, Auburn
2009-12 Assistant Coach, Mississippi State
2012-2015 Associate Head Coach, Mississippi State
Charles Goldberg is a Senior Writer at AuburnTigers.com. Follow him on Twitter: Follow @AUGoldMine