New Orleans turns to former coach Maestri to lead baseball program again
NEW ORLEANS -- New Orleans looked to its past to help shape its future, announcing the hiring of Ron Maestri as head baseball coach.
"It is an exciting time for our university, UNO alumni, the campus community and Privateer fans everywhere," New Orleans athletic director Derek Morel said. "There could not be a better man to lead the renaissance of Privateer baseball.
Maestri returns to UNO following eight-plus years of service as the executive director and chief operating officer of the Triple-A New Orleans Zephyrs.
|RON MAESTRI: YEAR-BY-YEAR AT UNO|
|* Sun Belt tourney champions | ^ T-5th place|
|1978||35-16||Sun Belt tourney champs|
|1984||46-26||College World Series^|
"I feel a great sense of responsibility and I am ready to face the challenge of bringing back that UNO pride that we all had at one time," Maestri said.
Cited in the UNO Privateers 1977 media guide as the "sole architect" of the Privateers' baseball success, Maestri originally coached the squad from 1972 through '85.
During his tenure, UNO posted a 518-247-1 record, with the resulting 518 wins and 67.7 winning percentage ranking No. 1 in school history. The Privateers never had a losing season under Maestri and qualified on nine occasions to play in the NCAA tournament.
The run of success for Maestri's teams included a runner-up showing at the 1974 NCAA Division II championship and in 1984, UNO became the first team from Louisiana to qualify for the College World Series.
Numerous players under Maestri have gone on to become head coaches among the high school, college and professional ranks, including: LSU's Paul Mainieri, Tim Jamieson of Missouri and former Chicago Cubs skipper Mike Quade. 1982 Golden Spikes Award winner and current Carthage College head coach Augie Schmidt also played for the Privateers under Maestri.
During Maestri's tenure, 42 different players were drafted and/or signed by professional clubs. Six of those players reached the Major League level, including two-time World Series champion Randy Bush.
In addition to his tenure as head baseball coach, Maestri served as director of athletics at the university from 1979-2000.
In this position, Maestri's ability to hire coaches like Benny Dees, Tim Floyd, Joey Favaloro and Tic Price allowed the Highland Park, Ill., native to put the Privateer program on the map nationally in both men's and women's basketball.
This time around, it was Morel who hired Maestri in an effort to duplicate the baseball coach's effort from the past and put the UNO program at the forefront of college baseball.
"We found the man who has energy and experience to build the foundation for the future and unite the Privateer faithful and the city of New Orleans behind this program and our university," Morel said.
A 1963 graduate of Bradley, Maestri initially arrived at UNO following four seasons as an assistant baseball coach and football coach for his alma mater. During his time in Peoria, Ill., he received bachelor's degrees in history and health and physical education in 1962 and a master's degree in education in '66.
As an undergraduate at Bradley, Maestri played second base on the 1962 Braves' team that won the Missouri Valley Conference title.
The 2014 Privateer baseball team will compete as a member of the Southland Conference, a league that Maestri is very familiar with and believes fans will greatly enjoy.
"I am so excited about the Southland Conference because we played most of those schools when I was coaching," Maestri said. "Southeastern [Louisiana] and Nicholls [State] have great programs. Jim Gilligan is coaching at Lamar, then you have Northwestern State, McNeese State and schools like Central Arkansas and Sam Houston [State] who have showed how good their baseball programs are."
"The Southland has always had a tradition of great baseball, so it is exciting to get into that conference. I think we can create rivalries in short driving distances for parents, families and friends and boosters to go to Southeastern, Nicholls. Everything is within driving distance so that's exciting."
When Maestri takes the field on Feb. 14, 2014, at Alex Box Stadium against Mainieri's LSU squad, it will be his first appearance in a Division I dugout since UNO was defeated by Michigan in the NCAA Starkville Regional on May 26, 1985.
Maestri's first home game will occur one day later -- at 2 p.m. ET Feb. 15. The Privateer head coach will direct his team at a renovated field named in his honor in 2002. Prior to first pitch, UNO will honor both the 1974 and '84 College World Series teams.
"I would like to thank the family of [benefactor] Wick Carey and in particular Wick for his tremendous donation to make this possible," Maestri said."Feb. 15 is going to be a time in which we can showcase the new addition to our beautiful field.
"It is awesome that we will be able to play LSU and I would like to thank Paul Mainieri for making that contest possible. It will be a time for Tiger fans and UNO fans to come out and enjoy a great day."
|RON MAESTRI: BY THE NUMBERS|
|1||Coach of the Year Award named in his honor||Sun Belt Conference, beginning in 2002.|
|2||Conference championships||1978 and '79 Sun Belt tournament titles.|
|6||Major League Baseball players coached||Jimmy Bullinger, Randy Bush, Roger Erickson, Mark Higgins, Eric Rasmussen, Wally Whitehurst (He's had 42 players drafted or signed to MLB contracts).|
|8||Halls of Fame enshrined||American Baseball Coaches Association, Bradley Athletics, Highwood (Ill.) Sports, Italian-American, Louisiana Sports, New Orleans Sports, Peoria Sports, University of New Orleans Sports.|
|9||NCAA tournament appearances||7 NCAA Division I, 2 NCAA Division II.|
|21||Jersey number retired||One of just two in UNO baseball history.|