Author John C. Maxwell said “leadership is influence.” This proves true in many aspects of life, but few more so than sports. While the athletes are the ones who have to actually take the field and perform, it is the words and guidance of a head coach they strive to follow out there. Let’s take a look at some of D2 baseball’s most influential head coaches.[divider]
Chris Hanks, BR-14 Colorado Mesa
Chris Hanks (pictured above) is the winningest coach in Colorado Mesa history and ranks sixth amongst all active D2 coaches. He has a career record of 695-303, good for a winning percentage of .696. In 18 seasons with the Mavericks, Hanks has led the team to the NCAA National Tournament 13 times, reaching the World Series two times. His stats are impressive, no doubt, but his true impact as a head coach and leader is best summed up by former player and Tino Martinez Award-winner, Austin Kaiser.
Kaiser told HERO Sports about the impact Hanks had on him, as a player and a man. “From day one each season, Coach Hanks preaches an expectation for excellence on the field, in the classroom, and as a man. He pushes his team and staff to work in a way that reflects an attitude of greatness, without expecting perfection. I think the consistency of his success speaks directly to how this attitude can shape a team and [an] individuals’ performance. I attribute a large portion of my growth as a former player and now [as] an athletics professional to adopting that mindset of striving to be excellent in my work ethic, my attitude, and integrity.”[divider]
Mike Kinnison, BR-16 Delta State
Kinnison was an ABCA Second Team All-American when he played for Delta State. (Photo Credit: Delta State University Athletics)
Mike Kinnison is in the midst of his 20th season with the Delta State Statesmen. He has already been inducted into the Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame and holds the school’s head coach career win record at 810. Kinnison’s overall record is 810-258-2, with a .758 win percentage. He is ranked fourth amongst the winningest active coaches in D2 baseball and ranks fifth overall. He has made the Statesmen regulars in the postseason, with four College World Series appearances, nine NCAA South Regional appearances, and a 2004 NCAA National title. Perhaps Kinnison has been so successful at Delta State because of the lifelong connection he has with the school. He received his Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees in Mathematics Education from Delta State and his two children are graduates of the school as well. Not only that, he played under one of Delta State’s legendary baseball coaches, Dave “Boo” Ferriss, in the late 70s.[divider]
Joe Urso, BR-3 Tampa
Prior to coming to UT, Urso was a coach and manager for the LA Angels. (Photo Credit: University of Tampa Athletics)
A graduate of the University of Tampa and a Tampa native, Joe Urso has coached the Spartans since 2001. During that time, the team has won four national championships, including one in 2015. If they keep up their strong play in 2016, UT could return to the championship again this year. That wouldn’t be the first time Urso leads the team to back-to-back championships; it happened back in 2006-2007 as well. He is the school’s winningest baseball coach, with a career record of 663-193-1. Those numbers put him second amongst other active D2 baseball coaches. He is ranked ninth as the winningest head coach of all-time.[divider]
Bob Fornelli, BR-17 Emporia State
Eight of Fornelli's players have been selected in the MLB draft. (Photo Credit: Stephen Coleman, Emporia Gazette)
A graduate of Emporia State himself, Bob Fornelli has made his mark as the head coach of the Hornets, currently in his 13th season with the team. In that time, he has led the team to numerous post-season opportunities and championship wins, territory they were before just vaguely familiar with. In 2009, Fornelli led the team to their second NCAA World Series appearance, where they lost by only one run in a low-scoring game.
2016 has been a good year for the Hornets, where they are beginning the spring with a .750 win percentage and a 10-3 record in conference play.[divider]
Carl Lancaster, BR-95 Mount Olive
Lancaster started as Mount Olive's head coach in 1987. (Photo Courtesy: Bobby Williams, GoldsboroDailyNews.com)
Although Mount Olive is not having the most stellar 2016, they are nonetheless still led by one of the best head coaches in D2 baseball. Carl Lancaster is currently the fifth winningest active coach in D2 baseball with a career record of 1018-440-1, putting him at a .698 win percentage. He is ranked 14th on the list of all-time winningest D2 baseball head coaches. He checked off a career milestone last year when he received his 1,000th win, a mark that only four other active D2 baseball coaches share. Lancaster’s biggest moment with Mount Olive was in 2008 when the Trojans won the NCAA championship. This was not only a big moment for the team, but for Mount Olive as a whole, as it was the school’s first national championship in any sport.