Shortly after his boss for the past seven years, Dave Serrano, told him he was leaving Cal State Fullerton to become Tennessee’s new baseball coach, Greg Bergeron made his pitch to become the Titans’ new head coach.
It was respectfully denied.
“They were looking for someone who had a little deeper roots in the Titan family,” Bergeron said. “I understood that.”
Bergeron, though, also understood that another, “pretty awesome” opportunity awaited him as a member on Serrano’s staff with the Vols. All he needed was a quick tour of the campus and the OK from his wife, Anne Marie, before making it official Thursday.
Bergeron, 41, will serve as Serrano’s right-hand man, the associate head coach, on a staff that is still being pieced together.
“You go through the gauntlet of emotions: excitement, a little scared, nervous,” Bergeron said. “At the end of the day when the dust settles, I think it’s going to be a great opportunity and a great move for me professionally and for raising my family.”
Terms of Bergeron’s agreement with UT were not made available.
Bergeron first teamed up with Serrano in 1991 as a freshman at Cerritos College in Southern California. Serrano was just a few years into his coaching career and it was the only year Bergeron played at the school before moving on to Cal State Dominguez Hills, but a bond was formed.
The two reunited more than a decade later, when Serrano took over as the head coach at UC Irvine in 2005. He quickly called Bergeron, who had just wrapped up his first year as the head coach at El Camino College in Torrance, Calif., and hired him as his third-base coach and offensive strategist.
The two have stuck together ever since, as Bergeron followed Serrano to Fullerton and is doing the same now that Serrano is at UT.
“Greg has been a huge part of any success that I have had over the last seven years as a head coach at both UC Irvine and Cal State Fullerton, and I don’t expect that to change at Tennessee,” Serrano said in a university statement. “He is one of the best offensive strategists in college baseball and has done a fabulous job of developing infielders into first-round picks and gritty, grinding players.”
Bergeron has the numbers to back it up.
In Bergeron’s four years at Fullerton, the Titans ranked among the top three schools in the Big West in on-base percentage, slugging percentage, runs, sacrifices and stolen bases. In 2010, the Titans notched the second-best batting average (.337) in team history.
“We have an understanding for each other and we kind of know what each other is thinking. Our players see that and feed off it,” Bergeron said of his relationship with Serrano. “We’re all on the same page and we all have the same approach.”
Though his initial reaction to Serrano’s departure from Fullerton might have been to apply for his boss’ old job, Bergeron said he’s excited for the challenge that the “pinnacle of baseball” in the SEC will present.
“For our profession, it’s kind of like the big leagues,” he said. “We know we have some work to do . . . (Serrano) likes to take on challenges. We’re going to have to work hard and do our deal.”
Andrew Gribble may be reached at 865-342-6327. Follow him at http://twitter.com/Andrew_Gribble and http://blogs.knoxnews.com/gribble