Baseball coach Tracy Smith, ASU part ways after underwhelming postseason performances

Arizona State and baseball coach Tracy Smith (right) agreed to part ways Monday. Under his guidance in seven seasons, the Sun Devils did not advance past the NCAA Tournament regional stage. (File photo by Brady Klain/Cronkite News)

PHOENIX – Arizona State baseball will immediately start the search for a new head coach after mutually agreeing to part ways with Tracy Smith, the school announced Monday.

“Decisions like this are never easy to make, but I want to thank Tracy for his efforts over the last seven years,” Ray Anderson, ASU Vice President for Athletics, said in a statement.

Smith took over as head coach in 2015. During his tenure ASU never ranked in the top two in the Pac-12 or made an NCAA Tournament super regional appearance. This season it tied for fifth in the Pac-12 and was eliminated in regional play Sunday. Anderson told reporters those results fell short of the expectations for ASU baseball, which include consistently placing in the top three in the Pac-12 and being in the conversation for a top 15 ranking in the country.

Though Anderson recognized that the team faced challenges like the COVID-19 pandemic and injuries, he said when considering Smith’s seven-year tenure, not enough improvement showed to give him confidence Smith could lead the team to a higher level of competition.

“We came in together very confident that we could advance the program and, very frankly, bring back some of the glory days of old,” Anderson said. “I really thought that we had an opportunity to do that and when you come to the realization that it’s not working to the extent, or at the level, you anticipated it’s obviously very disappointing.”

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This coaching change comes because Anderson believes the program is in the same place it was seven years ago and is in need of someone who is ready to push it forward.

“We’re going to be looking for someone who will come in and re-energize ASU baseball, our donors, our alums, our fan base,” Anderson said.

Anderson emphasized that ASU will be deliberate in its search, looking to the highest level for a new coach, but acknowledged it won’t be able to compete with other big conferences such as the SEC and ACC in the salary department. Other aspects of Sun Devils baseball make the position attractive, Anderson said, including Phoenix Municipal Stadium, which he described as the “finest in collegiate baseball.”

He also believes the young, talented roster will appeal to potential head coaches. The Sun Devils fielded the youngest lineup in the NCAA Championship this year, with two-thirds of their lineup regularly featuring freshmen.

Anderson said he would discuss the state of ASU baseball with associate head coach Ben Greenspan, pitching coach Jason Kelly and the rest of the staff. The next head coach will determine which members of the current staff stay.

For Anderson, it was difficult to part ways because, “Tracy’s a fine, fine person,” but believes it’s the right decision for the program.

He did not offer a timetable for the announcement of a new head coach.

Catie Cheshire kay-tee che-shire (she/her)
Sports Reporter, Phoenix

Catie Cheshire expects to graduate in August 2021 with a master’s degree in sports journalism. Cheshire is a graduate assistant at the National Center for Disability and Journalism.