Former Oklahoma hitting coach Aric Thomas has joined Tennessee baseball coach Dave Serrano’s staff as an assistant coach and recruiting coordinator.
Serrano announced the move on Sunday night on Twitter, calling Thomas a “great recruiter, coach and even better person,” who has had “experience and success in his career.”
“I went outside the box of hiring a (Tennessee) family member or someone I’ve worked with or played with,” Serrano said Monday, following UT’s official announcement of the hiring. “I had a great pool (of candidates) and Aric just won me over with his professionalism and his prowess as a recruiter.”
Thomas’ addition follows multiple reports of former UT assistant Bill Mosiello accepting a hitting coach position at Texas Christian. Mosiello, who was on coach Rod Delmonico’s staff for the Vols’ 1993 and 1994 SEC championships, spent the past two seasons at Tennessee.
“That was Mo’s decision,” Serrano said. “He’s a baseball coach first and probably a recruiter second. He knows what his strengths are and when this opportunity came up it gave him a better opportunity to run an offense and be a bigger part of the overall team.
“We both thought it was a better fit, but it was very hard for Bill to leave.”
After working at Oklahoma from 1996-2004, Thomas served as coach at Eastern Oklahoma State College from 2004-11. He was a two-time NJCAA Region II Coach of the Year in 2010 and 2011, winning region titles both seasons. Thomas posted a 237-159-1 overall record as coach.
“The most important thing that he can bring to the program is his recruiting,” Serrano said. “He’s been able to go nationwide and recruit top-flight players. He knows how to recognize talent.”
In 11 seasons at Oklahoma, including 2012 and 2013, Thomas helped the Sooners capture a national championship, two College World Series appearances and a Big 12 tournament title.
Last season the Sooners lost in the Super Regionals at LSU.
“Getting to come to the SEC, the best baseball conference in the country, I look forward to that challenge,” Thomas said in a UT school release. “What put it over the top for me is the Knoxville community. What a great place this is here and I’ve heard nothing but great things.”
Thomas recruited pitcher Jonathan Gray, this year’s No. 3 overall pick to the Colorado Rockies in the Major League Baseball draft, to Eastern Oklahoma State out of high school and
re-recruited him to Oklahoma when he joined the Sooners in 2011. Thomas has worked with multiple current MLB players including Philadelphia second baseman Chase Utley, Miami third baseman Greg Dobbs and San Diego shortstop Jason Bartlett.
“I think in recruiting you have to work inside-out,” Thomas said. “You have to start in your own back yard and work your way out. Obviously, Tennessee is a program where you can recruit nationally because the brand is so big, but you still have to be good in your own back yard.”
Thomas is a native of Riverside, Calif., less than an hour from both Cal State Fullerton and UC Irvine, where Serrano previously worked as coach. Serrano worked as an assistant at Fullerton while Thomas played at UC Riverside in 1992 and Riverside Community College in 1993.
The two didn’t know each other then, but Serrano said he’s “always been aware” of Thomas.
In addition to recruiting at Tennessee, Thomas will handle the outfielders defensively and share offensive coaching duties with associate head coach Greg Bergeron.
The Vols finished eighth in the SEC in batting with a .275 average last season, but produced a program record-low 13 home runs in 52 games. They ranked 11th in runs scored (276), 12th in hits (490) and 13th in RBIs (238) and total bases (637).
The Vols are 46-61 in Serrano’s first two seasons at the helm.
“He’s going to bring different ideas,” Serrano said of Thomas. “I think that’s the good thing about bringing in someone with a little bit different flavor who has been a part of other programs. That’s important for the evolution of this coaching staff and our program.”
A 1995 graduate of Oklahoma, Thomas completed his Master’s in professional studies in education from Capella University in 2007.