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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


Dreams come true for Jay Johnson

Baraha Elkhalil

New Arizona baseball coach Jay Johnson speaks during a press conference with athletic director Greg Byrne at Hi Corbett Field on Monday, June 8. “I am beyond humbled and grateful to be a part of Arizona baseball,” Johnson said.

The search for the next baseball coach is finally over for Arizona Athletic Director Greg Byrne.

Byrne announced Sunday that Jay Johnson will become the head coach of Wildcat baseball for the 2016 season.

“This is a dream come true,” Johnson said.

Johnson was hired after Andy Lopez retired from coaching the program for 14 seasons.

Lopez left his mark after the 61-year-old led the Wildcats to the school’s fourth national championship in 2012.

There were many names that were circling around the recent transition in the Arizona program including Pat Murphy, Mississippi State associate head coach Butch Thompson and Scott Brosius. With Byrne’s previous experience at Mississippi State, it was believed that Thompson would have the edge.

Murphy, also rumored to be in contention, was forced to resign at ASU in 2009 after four conference titles and four appearances in the College World Series. He could have brought a familiarity with Pac-12 Conference baseball. 

At the end of the day, Byrne gave Johnson the nod, and Arizona is set for a new era of Wildcat baseball.

“This is a once in a lifetime opportunity,” Johnson said. “Some would say this is a dream job, but it’s so much more than that. This truly is the greatest day of my life, and I want you to know that.”

Johnson is the new guy around the block in the Pac-12 and will be tested in his first season in a conference that had nine teams and have a record over .500.

Even though Johnson hasn’t had any coaching experience in the power conferences in college baseball, he’s had success at every school whether it was being a head coach or an assistant coach.

From 2002-2004, Johnson served as an assistant coach for Point Loma Nazarene University, and he eventually become the head coach in 2005. Johnson would stay in San Diego and upgrade to coaching the University of San Diego, leading the Toreros to six postseason trips from 2006-2013.

Johnson even had the luxury of coaching current Chicago Cubs rookie Kris Bryant at USD. Johnson would also go on to help sign the No. 1 recruiting class in 2008.

“He’s always out there relentless on the recruiting trail,” Byrne said.

Johnson would then transfer to Nevada where he would coach them for two seasons leading the Wolf Pack to earn the 2015 Mountain West Conference Coach of the Year award. This would come after the Wolf Pack earning 41 wins, which is the second most in Pack history, while also snagging the school’s first Mountain West Conference Championship.

“I actually called numerous of his former players and I couldn’t get one guy to say something bad about him,” Byrne said. “I called a senior player at Nevada and he told me that if he could, he would play for coach Johnson every season for the rest of his life.” 

Johnson added that he received the phone call from Byrne in McAlester, Okla., while on the recruiting trail and that he would be on the first flight to Tucson.

“I’ve never even heard of McAlester, Oklahoma, until a few weeks ago,” Johnson said. “I got the phone call and I was eating a foot-long sandwich, and I was so excited that I threw away the other half of my sandwich.”

Johnson adds his winning attitude to Arizona baseball, and being a stingy recruiter only makes for an interesting future for the Wildcats.

“One thing that I emphasize … is honesty, and if I can develop honesty, then I can get these guys to achieve their dreams in becoming Major League Baseball players,” Johnson said.


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