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July 4, 2007

2007 Review: Best coaching jobs

Measuring the success of a head coach can be a tricky proposition, but with the season recently coming to a close, we take an inside look at the best coaching jobs.

In just his first season at Louisville, Dan McDonnell led the Cardinals to their first-ever College World Series appearance. Additionally, Louisville is now a program that many consider one of the nation's elite.

While McDonnell earned a trip to Omaha in his first season, UC Irvine's Dave Serrano accomplished the feat in his third season with the Anteaters.

Even with an incredibly tough road, the Anteaters defeated Texas on the road before doing the same to Wichita State in the Super Regional round. While in Omaha, the Eaters eliminated Cal State Fullerton and Arizona State.

Mississippi State's Ron Polk and Oregon State's Pat Casey also impressed, while Missouri's Tim Jamieson led the Tigers to a stellar finish in the Big 12.

We take a look back at the Best Coaching Jobs of 2007.

2007 Review: Five best coaching jobs
Dan McDonnell
The feat: When Louisville athletic director Tom Jurich hired Dan McDonnell from Ole Miss, he figured the dynamic coach would eventually become a consistent winner. But when he looks back at McDonnell's first season with the Cards, he has to be ecstatic. While McDonnell arrived at Louisville with impressive credentials, the first-year coach surpassed every expectation in his inaugural season with the Cardinals. Not only did McDonnell lead the Cardinals to an impressive finish in the Big East, he also led them to a Regional title. UL then won its home Super Regional over Oklahoma State, reaching the College World Series for the first time in school history. What a year it was for McDonnell and the Cardinals. His first season at UL sets the stage for a fruitful tenure.
Dave Serrano
The feat: When Dave Serrano left Cal State Fullerton to become the head man at UC Irvine, the move was a no-brainer. Not only did Serrano want to create a consistent winner with the Anteaters, the school already had some rich resources to use to their advantage. Once arriving at Irvine, Serrano made it his goal to translate the Titan mentality he learned at Fullerton into an Anteater mentality at Irvine. The attitude change worked in 2007. While the Anteaters put together a solid regular season resume, the most impressive part of their year came in the postseason. The Anteaters went on the road and defeated Texas on its home field, while beating Wichita State on the road to advance to the CWS. In Omaha, the Anteaters eliminated Cal State Fullerton and Arizona State before falling to OSU.
Ron Polk
The feat: Even with veterans such as Jeffrey Rea and Ed Easley at their disposal, the Bulldogs entered the 2007 season as a team that many predicted to finish near the bottom of the SEC. Boy was that prediction wrong. While the Bulldogs struggled down the stretch of the regular season, they still managed to finish second in the SEC West. In the postseason, the Bulldogs put together a less than stellar performance at the SEC Tournament, but bounced back in style with a great weekend at the Tallahassee Regional. After eliminating nationally seeded Florida State, the Bulldogs returned home to face Clemson in front of amazing crowds. Mississippi State's CWS run didn't go as planned, but it didn't put a damper on the season. The Bulldogs proved the critics and coaches wrong.
Pat Casey
The feat: After losing weekend starters Dallas Buck and Jonah Nickerson along with key reliever Kevin Gunderson from last year's team, the Beavers entered the 2007 season with more questions than answers. However, at the end of the season it was the same result. Not only did the Beavers rise to the occasion in the postseason, they showed a lot of confidence. That credit goes to the stellar coaching of Pat Casey. The Beavers didn't put together the most impressive regular season resume, but when it counted the most, they went back to their old ways. The Beavers defeated North Carolina in the CWS Finals for the second-straight season. While his coaching career is far from over, Casey has proven to be one of the nation's elite managers.
Tim Jamieson
The feat: Despite failing to reach the Super Regional round, the Tigers had a season to remember. The Tigers were picked near the bottom of the Big 12, but stormed through the conference portion of their schedule with a vengeance. Not only did the talented Tigers finish the season in second place and just two games behind league champion Texas, they also took two out of three from the Longhorns on the road. The Tigers lost to Louisville in the Columbia Regional Championship. Though some will choose to remember the Tigers by their inability to get to Omaha, we view the Tigers as a success. After losing weekend starters Max Scherzer and Nathan Culp from last year's team, the Tigers didn't skip a beat with Aaron Crow leading the way.

Kendall Rogers is the college baseball editor for Rivals.com. He can be reached at kendall@rivals.com.