Serrano's Homecoming: Former UT assistant 'never left this place'

Dave Serrano, right, is announced today as Tennessee's new baseball coach. With him is his family, from right, his wife Tracy, and sons, Parker, Kyle, and Zach.

Photo by Saul Young

Dave Serrano, right, is announced today as Tennessee's new baseball coach. With him is his family, from right, his wife Tracy, and sons, Parker, Kyle, and Zach.

Dave Serrano introduced as Tennessee's new baseball coach (Pt. 1)

Dave Serrano was more than 175 miles away from the school he first helped coach to a College World Series appearance, but that was close enough for him.

He was in the neighborhood.

It was years back, well before the former Cal State Fullerton coach was introduced Thursday as Tennessee’s new baseball coach, and he was in Nashville to speak at a national coaches convention. Flanked by his wife, Tracy, Serrano wrapped up his speech, rented a car and drove back to the place he’d never “mentally” left behind.

The relatively newlyweds toured Neyland Stadium, Thompson-Boling Arena and then-freshly renovated Lindsey Nelson Stadium. Later, Serrano introduced Tracy, born and raised in Southern California, to some of his old friends before eating dinner at Calhoun’s on the River.

“You like to boast about something you think is special,” Serrano said. “I had nothing to do with all of this, but I wanted her to see that firsthand.”

Tracy saw it again, and Serrano’s three sons — Kyle, Zachary and Parker — saw it for the first time at the wee hours of Thursday morning. The family’s flight was delayed so much by Wednesday’s storms that it didn’t land until 1:30 a.m.

Serrano took one last detour before they checked in for the night, stopping at Lindsey Nelson Stadium to walk his family across the infield.

“That’s the little kid in me,” said Serrano, who equated the moment to the 2004 national championship he won as an assistant at Fullerton. “That’s how proud I am to show my family where we’re gonna spend our life.”

Twelve hours later, before a standing-room only crowd in the MVP Room of that same stadium, Serrano told story after story to explain why a California native coaching at a California school — which also happens to be one of college baseball’s storied programs — wanted so desperately to return to a stuck-in-neutral baseball school where he’d only spent two years of his life.

His answer came with ease.

“I never left this place. That’s the honest truth,” Serrano, 46, said. “I’ve been living out in Southern California watching Tee Martin lead the Vols to a national championship; watching the highs and lows of the basketball program; watching the highs of Lady Vols basketball; watching the rise of the softball program.

“I left physically but I’ve always been here emotionally.”

Serrano, who said he hoped this would be his third and final Division I head coaching job, will make $450,000 annually over the next five years, according to the basic terms of his agreement. At Cal State Fullerton, where he had spent the previous four years, Serrano was making close to $300,000 per year.

Serrano said it “looks like” Greg Bergeron, who served as Serrano’s top assistant at both Fullerton and UC Irvine, will follow him to Knoxville, but he wanted to give him a chance to see the campus and meet his future bosses first.

If Bergeron has half the experience Serrano said he had as an assistant under Rod Delmonico 1995-96 — two of the program’s best years in recent history — the deal will be done before Bergeron flies back to get his stuff.

“This is Tennessee. This is a special place,” said Serrano, who read from notes scribbled on the back of a lineup card while addressing the gathered reporters, UT employees, coaches and boosters.

“This is a great day in my career.”

Serrano, unprompted, rattled off the exact date he left Tennessee — Aug. 28, 1996 — to take an assistant coaching position under his mentor, George Horton, at Fullerton. The move provided a trip home and a fresh start for Serrano, who was going through a divorce at the time.

He met Tracy, then a wedding planner, three years later. It wasn’t long before she realized what Serrano repeated with emphasis at Thursday’s press conference — part of him was still in Knoxville.

“I could see the passion in his voice and his face would light up when he talked about it,” said Tracy, who dabbed tears out of her eyes throughout her husband’s press conference Thursday. “I just really believed that he would end up back here and finish his career here.”

Serrano interviewed for the post once before, in 2007 when the Vols eventually hired Todd Raleigh, whose firing last month opened the door for Serrano to put his name in the running for a second and final time. But there was some legitimate concern that this time wasn’t meant to be, either. Serrano was trying to take the Titans to yet another College World Series at the same time UT, which still had former men’s athletic director Mike Hamilton locked in at the top, was scurrying to find Raleigh’s replacement.

It would have been Serrano’s eighth trip to the College World Series, fourth as a head coach. Instead, after an unexpected first-round upset, Serrano spent the next two weeks “dreaming about” a return to UT.

The end result certainly made up for a disappointing finish to the 2011 season.

“This moment I’m feeling right now,” he said, “I feel like I am in the College World Series.”

Get Copyright Permissions © 2011, Knoxville News Sentinel Co.
Want to use this article? Click here for options!

© 2011 govolsxtra.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

  • Discuss
  • Print

Comments » 40

VolzsFan writes:

He owes everything from his career, his philosophy and his baseball knowledge to the winningest coach in UT history Rod Delmonico. Would have been a classy thing to acknowledge that.

RatherBeDrivingaTitleist writes:

in response to VolzsFan:

He owes everything from his career, his philosophy and his baseball knowledge to the winningest coach in UT history Rod Delmonico. Would have been a classy thing to acknowledge that.

I do not know whether he owes everything to Rod Delmonico or not. I do know that he truly wants to be here and is thankful for the opportunity. Everything he said regarding UT sounded pretty classy to me.

RoadTrip writes:

He was at UT 2 years. He worked under Horton for 8. Delmonico has a place, but not THE place in the history of CDS. Let's just say he comes from great lineage. However, he made his own way to where he is today. He is one heck of a man and a coach.

This is what I mean when I talk about players and coaches that bleed orange. It's a VFL forever thing no matter where you go or what you do. It is what it is.

BigVolFaninSC writes:

in response to RoadTrip:

He was at UT 2 years. He worked under Horton for 8. Delmonico has a place, but not THE place in the history of CDS. Let's just say he comes from great lineage. However, he made his own way to where he is today. He is one heck of a man and a coach.

This is what I mean when I talk about players and coaches that bleed orange. It's a VFL forever thing no matter where you go or what you do. It is what it is.

That's for sure since he said he wants to finish his coaching career at UT! Good to have someone not using the opportunity for a stepping stone (Kiffin!) to somewhere else! Now, let's see if he can gets some recruits and turn this thing around! GBO!

dwolfcreek#397971 writes:

WELCOME

taylorsvolfan writes:

PLAY BALL !!

FatherVol writes:

I LIKE this guy!

UofTNVol writes:

We HAVE GOT to upgrade our baseball practice facilities for this guy. Our field is nice, but the practice accommodations could use some work.

Rich_Is_Re-born writes:

in response to RoadTrip:

He was at UT 2 years. He worked under Horton for 8. Delmonico has a place, but not THE place in the history of CDS. Let's just say he comes from great lineage. However, he made his own way to where he is today. He is one heck of a man and a coach.

This is what I mean when I talk about players and coaches that bleed orange. It's a VFL forever thing no matter where you go or what you do. It is what it is.

You are correct, he also played under Horton if I'm not mistaking. I liked the press conference. When asked why he would leave CSF: "it's Tennessee, it's Tennessee, it speaks for itself." And while his TOTAL earnings at CSF were 300K, his salary was only 150K. Nice little bump in pay for Mr. Serrano, and a nice change of scenery as well. He will be LOVED in Big Orange Country. Unlike the hatred he got from the spoiled little tree-huggers in Cali. We have one of the best coaches in the nation who is gushing about being here. His entire family wants to be here. I'm loving it!

UofTNVol writes:

I think Joan Cronan would make a great UTAD. You would be hard pressed to find any AD with experience in this country with a more impressive resume. Think about that.

OrangeinCarolina2 writes:

Can't wait for that 8th trip to the CWS for Coach Serrano. Welcome back and bleed orange.
GO VOLS!

1bigvolman writes:

Very impressive! He understands what the BIG ORANGE is all about, I like him already.

SummittsCourt writes:

Did I misread something, Hammy had an opportunity to hire him and instead hired raleigh? Hammy truly was the worst AD in history!

This guy bleeds orange after being there just 2 years! UT's most successful years and hammy doesn't hire him? WOW!

Glad he is here now and I believe the program will turn around quickly. I believe he will be able to bring in top level recruits, hire a great staff and put UT where they belong in the national spotlight.

GO VOLS!

harbkey#1395972 writes:

great hire

VOLS_SEC_RULES writes:

in response to harbkey#1395972:

great hire

It appears to be. Since Hammy is gone, who actually did the "hiring"?

bryan14 writes:

Anytime someone writes their acceptance speach on the back of a lineup card they are an "old school" baseball coach. Let's hope that everyone get's the heck out of Dave's way and allows him the opportunity to win a few games for the University of Tennessee.

OrangePride writes:

in response to UofTNVol:

I think Joan Cronan would make a great UTAD. You would be hard pressed to find any AD with experience in this country with a more impressive resume. Think about that.

I have thought about that. I think a lot of us have been impressed with the way she has been handling this difficult position. But is her name actually in the mix? If so, will Cheek give her a fair shake and objective look in the process? He's a Florida guy, NOT a Tennessee guy....and frankly, his judgment to date has, to my eyes, not been very impressive. So we will see what comes out of this consulting group and it's "national search." But I'm with you, they might be best served with a search that starts inside the walls of UT.

uttcut writes:

Welcome back, Coach. Glad to have you back.

PHAT_VOL writes:

in response to OrangePride:

I have thought about that. I think a lot of us have been impressed with the way she has been handling this difficult position. But is her name actually in the mix? If so, will Cheek give her a fair shake and objective look in the process? He's a Florida guy, NOT a Tennessee guy....and frankly, his judgment to date has, to my eyes, not been very impressive. So we will see what comes out of this consulting group and it's "national search." But I'm with you, they might be best served with a search that starts inside the walls of UT.

Agree !! The search inside has probably been done. The national search has to be done. To make everything look good. And who knows a very good candidate maybe found. I'm not impressed with Cheek either but I am impressed with Cronan, Holloway and Dooley.
GO VOLS!!!

UTVOL2001 writes:

It is unbelievable CTR was hired over this guy! I am at a loss for words right now after reading that!

PHAT_VOL writes:

I dont think Serrano is the man he's well just to PHAT !! And isnt Serrano a ham?
On a more serious note I think hes a great Hire. Welcome coach Serrano!!
GO VOLS !

boonhower writes:

Good hire. Call Chris Burke to be an assistant.

Any UT coaching position should be anyone's last position if money is their concern. Getting a buyout from UT should set most for life.

rrus817505#222258 writes:

Love the passion. Go Vols!

NeylandWest writes:

in response to RoadTrip:

He was at UT 2 years. He worked under Horton for 8. Delmonico has a place, but not THE place in the history of CDS. Let's just say he comes from great lineage. However, he made his own way to where he is today. He is one heck of a man and a coach.

This is what I mean when I talk about players and coaches that bleed orange. It's a VFL forever thing no matter where you go or what you do. It is what it is.

True story! Completely agreed!!! Was on a trip about 2500 miles from east TN and saw a guy with an orange TN visor, we high-fived as we walked past each other b/c I had mine on, too...that's just how it is to be a VFL.

kazoo writes:

I like this guy, too--and I too wonder why we didn't hire him after Delmonico left. Who knows--maybe the timing wasn't right. The key will be recruiting, of course--and in particular getting good pitching. I venture to say that it's easier to recruit in California than Ktown--but I think this guy will be successful.

givehim6 writes:

Just do one thing, " WIN GAMES FOR USE ".

rootin4volz writes:

Home. Freakin'. Run. GO VOLS!

us43137415#376444 writes:

in response to RoadTrip:

He was at UT 2 years. He worked under Horton for 8. Delmonico has a place, but not THE place in the history of CDS. Let's just say he comes from great lineage. However, he made his own way to where he is today. He is one heck of a man and a coach.

This is what I mean when I talk about players and coaches that bleed orange. It's a VFL forever thing no matter where you go or what you do. It is what it is.

OK, let's see.. for those of you who don't speak twitter:

CDS stands for Coach Dave Serrano.

Still trying to figure out what "VFL" means.

Try this one: JPE.

"Just plain English."

Bigger_Al writes:

Pretty impressive. The guy is obviously stoked to be here. Better than the South Carolina asst. that was dreaming of Columbia.

FWBVol writes:

in response to OrangePride:

I have thought about that. I think a lot of us have been impressed with the way she has been handling this difficult position. But is her name actually in the mix? If so, will Cheek give her a fair shake and objective look in the process? He's a Florida guy, NOT a Tennessee guy....and frankly, his judgment to date has, to my eyes, not been very impressive. So we will see what comes out of this consulting group and it's "national search." But I'm with you, they might be best served with a search that starts inside the walls of UT.

I think Joan Cronan would be a great hire for the AD, but her age would be my biggest concern. She is in her late 60s, 68 I believe, and is set to retire next year and then serve two years as a special consultant.

UT needs to find a cross between Joan Cronan and Mike Hamilton. The AD needs to be someone with Joan Cronan's management and people skills as far as directing her staff and making hires, and Hamilton's ability to raise money and get facilities built.

vol45 writes:

Ready for baseball to start

tennrich1 writes:

in response to us43137415#376444:

OK, let's see.. for those of you who don't speak twitter:

CDS stands for Coach Dave Serrano.

Still trying to figure out what "VFL" means.

Try this one: JPE.

"Just plain English."

VFL= Vol for Life

iowa_vol writes:

in response to VolzsFan:

He owes everything from his career, his philosophy and his baseball knowledge to the winningest coach in UT history Rod Delmonico. Would have been a classy thing to acknowledge that.

You are a clown. He may have been given an opportunity from Delmonico, but it sounds like Coach Horton was his mentor. He had enough sense to leave the program instead of staying with one of the biggest a-holes that has ever been a head coach at UT. Good luck Coach Serrano. I wish you the best and am happy to hear of your passion for UT.

UTKin1992 writes:

First Vol coach hire in a long time that I really, really like. Serrano sounds like THE guy for this job.

HendersonvilleVOL writes:

in response to UofTNVol:

We HAVE GOT to upgrade our baseball practice facilities for this guy. Our field is nice, but the practice accommodations could use some work.

What practice field, they practice at the stadium don't they? It's not like football in that regard. They have an indoor option for bad weather situations and it's pretty nice, but many don't have that at all. I'm not sure what upgrade you're looking for on this one.

OrangePride writes:

in response to wallandhiker:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

Great post. What fills the stadiums and arenas are the folks who bleed orange and have a passion for the University. Good facilities make it a little easier to attract those good recruits you mention, but it is the tradition of excellence and our pride that brings us out. I think Dooley has begun to build on that, while Martin and Serrano look to do the same. I feel good about the future if Cheek doesn't mess up the AD selection. GO VOLS!

voloffaith writes:

in response to givehim6:

Just do one thing, " WIN GAMES FOR USE ".

Or " will work for fude." Or "Win games for us."
That was Columbo's line,"Just one more thing...."

TrueVol70 writes:

Didn't know the man until I read this article; now I love the guy! He is definitely one of us and I hope his passion and enthusiasm for Tennessee spread through the whole team. Great hire!

us43137415#376444 writes:

in response to HendersonvilleVOL:

What practice field, they practice at the stadium don't they? It's not like football in that regard. They have an indoor option for bad weather situations and it's pretty nice, but many don't have that at all. I'm not sure what upgrade you're looking for on this one.

Dude, the team does not need new practice facilities.

They have a brand new locker room, with polished wood individual units.

They have a new weight room that is much better than the ones for football and basketball.

They have an indoor practice facility with netting, pitching machines and all the other hardware. Tennessee's indoor facility is better than Vanderbilt's (I've seen their's, too).

They also have a top-notch outdoor practice facility. It's called the baseball field at Lindsey Nelson Stadium.

The university athletic department spent millions upgrading the baseball practice facilities.

Now you want them to spend more for something they've already done.

I have an idea.. Let's spend YOUR personal money.

UofTNVol writes:

in response to us43137415#376444:

Dude, the team does not need new practice facilities.

They have a brand new locker room, with polished wood individual units.

They have a new weight room that is much better than the ones for football and basketball.

They have an indoor practice facility with netting, pitching machines and all the other hardware. Tennessee's indoor facility is better than Vanderbilt's (I've seen their's, too).

They also have a top-notch outdoor practice facility. It's called the baseball field at Lindsey Nelson Stadium.

The university athletic department spent millions upgrading the baseball practice facilities.

Now you want them to spend more for something they've already done.

I have an idea.. Let's spend YOUR personal money.

Hey bro, I'm just saying that on-campus out-door batting practice facilities need to be upgraded. How bout you just ask our new excellent coach what he thinks about that idea? Be sure to get back to me on it. GBO

Want to participate in the conversation? Become a subscriber today. Subscribers can read and comment on any story, anytime. Non-subscribers will only be able to view comments on select stories.

Features