- Paul Sherman/Daily
By Liz Nagle, Daily Sports Writer
Published May 23, 2012
In a press release on Tuesday, it was announced that Michigan baseball coach Rich Maloney will not be returning to the program.
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He departs after 10 years with varied levels of success, but coaching the team through two straight losing seasons has been an area of recent concern, which is why his contract will not be extended after it expires on June 30.
Last weekend, the Wolverines dropped the final series against Nebraska to finalize its 10th-place standing in the Big Ten, just above Northwestern, with an 8-16 conference record.
“This decision was one that Michigan and I reached together,” Maloney said in a statement released Tuesday. “It’s a time of transition … and time for me to move my career in another direction.”
Maloney has proven himself a valuable coach over the years with a wealth of knowledge and experience. He graduated as a three-year letter winner and third team All-American shortstop at Western Michigan.
And after being drafted in the 13th round and playing in a six-season stint with the Atlanta Braves organization, Maloney served as the assistant coach at his alma mater for three years in the mid-1990s.
In his first head coaching position at Ball State, Maloney took his team to claim two MAC championships before coming to Ann Arbor.
Upon first arriving in 2003, the team had not posted a winning mark since 1999. But Maloney stepped in as the 18th Michigan coach and led the Wolverines to three consecutive conference titles, two Big Ten Tournament championships and the NCAA Super Regional crown in 2007.
“I came here because I felt in my heart that this was a special place, and that this program was a sleeping giant waiting to happen,” Maloney was quoted as saying in a 2003 article from The Michigan Daily.
He awoke the giant, and in his decade at the helm of the program, Maloney became the fourth-winningest coach between Moby Benedict and Bill Freehan with a 341-244 record. He was twice named Big Ten Coach of the Year and ABCA Mideast Regional Coach of the Year for the success he found in 2007-08.
“None of us really knew what was going to happen — it’s just surreal,” said junior right-hander Ben Ballantine. “All I have to say is I thank him from the bottom of my heart … for giving me a shot to be a part of one of the biggest sports stages that there is in the world, and I’ll be forever grateful for that.”
During his tenure at Michigan, Maloney guided his players equally off and on the field. Many of the parents and current Wolverines respect his coaching style, approach to the game and ability to establish life-long relationships.
On Tuesday, sophomore right-fielder Michael O’Neill posted a thoughtful tweet: “Through our ups and downs Coach Maloney was always there for me and I’ll never forget it thanks for everything!”
He came to Michigan, fulfilling a life long dream, with a vision and a plan, and he played a large role in fundraising for the most recent renovations to Ray Fisher Stadium.
“I would like to thank all of the baseball alumni and donors that played an integral role in the stadium project,” Maloney said. “This is one of the top highlights on my list of Michigan memories and I appreciate their commitment to Michigan baseball.”
Before Tuesday’s announcement, Maloney’s squad suffered an injury-plagued season, but he labeled next year with promise and anticipation.
“Bottom line is to win,” Maloney said. “That’s the expectation at Michigan — it’s the expectation for me personally, my staff and, certainly, all of our players.”
But with his departure, Maloney’s annual youth baseball camps have been canceled and the national search to fill the void will begin immediately.
Though Baseball America sees Kent State coach Scott Stricklin and a handful of “up-and-coming assistant (coaches)” as potential candidates, there has been no official discussion on the matter. The future of the program remains uncertain at this time.
“Rich had several significant accomplishments during his Michigan career, but we agreed a coaching change at this time was in the best interest of the program,” said Michigan athletic director Dave Brandon in a statement released Tuesday. “We appreciate Rich’s contributions and wish him well as he transitions to his next career endeavor.”