Barnhart: One name kept coming out at top of UK baseball coaching search

Here is what Mitch Barnhart had to say tonight about new baseball coach Nick Mingione tonight.

MITCH BARNHART: “The process, it unfolded a few weeks ago when Gary Henderson called and said he was going to resign the position to be our head baseball coach. I got a call when I was in Florida at the SEC meetings.

“We began a search very quickly. Our goal at the end of the day was to be efficient and to be as quick as we could, but to be efficient.

“I worked with Kevin Saal and DeWayne Peevy. We quickly put together a list of folks we thought would be interesting to talk to about our job at Kentucky.

“The list quickly grew. There were 51 names within a three‑day stretch of people that had shown interest in our job at Kentucky. It’s a Southeastern Conference job. It is one that people realize the potential of what goes on at the University of Kentucky in so many different ways. So it was a very popular position right out of the chute.

“Then you begin to identify the things that you want in your head coach and who is going to lead your program. You look around. You look at the attributes that have been successful here at the University of Kentucky for some of our head coaches. They come in a variety of ways. There’s no one size fits all.

“The underlying things that we look for are people of character, people that make great heart decisions, people that have integrity, that will abide by the rules, lead this program with great integrity, whether it’s the Southeastern Conference rules, the NCAA rules, the university’s rules, treating people the right way.

“We want people to be educated. We want people to be good learners, whether that is on the field of play in terms of baseball or whether that means in the classroom, just the way they conduct themselves and their craft. We want them to be good stewards of what they’ve been given and understand the responsibility that goes with that.

“Then the last thing, if we do those things in process, we talk about it frequently, we should want to win. It should be a priority for us and we shouldn’t be ashamed to want to go do that. That’s a part of it. If we lose, we lose with honor and manage ourselves the right way.

“That’s what we looked for. If you begin to have those conversations with people across the country, you look for people that are involved in college baseball, and you’ve been in our league for a period of time, there’s a few folks that sort of have an eye for the landscape. You begin to have those conversations.

“One name kept coming up at the top of that list time and time again. If you think about passion, competitiveness, effort, integrity, character, people that are good stewards, people that are learners, that was Nick over and over. It’s not irony. It’s not coincidence. 10 years ago we enjoyed a relationship getting to know Nick before he went to go to Mississippi State.

“So to have him here today is a great honor for us. I would like to welcome Christen and Reeves into the family. And Randy, his in‑laws, we’re so honored you’re here with us today. We appreciate it very, very much.

“We knew from the time that Nick was with us that one day he would be in this spot. The hardest thing for someone that’s getting older like me is to think of people differently, whether it’s my own children or people that have been at our staff from 10, 12 years ago. Sometimes I think of them as they came into our program. They go away from you for a period of time. You have to think, What has a decade done to them? Then you begin to look at their resume, what they’ve accomplished, the success they’ve had.

“Wow, I won’t say it’s overwhelming, but it’s impressive, what Nick has done. Whether that’s a couple conference championships, one here and one at Mississippi State, whether it’s a tournament championship, whether it’s a College World Series appearance, players of the year developed, freshmen of the year developed. It speaks volumes about his desire to pour into young people at a high level. So it is a real pleasure to have him here doing that with us.

“Make no mistake about it. We understand that Major League Baseball is a part of the game that we play. All of our athletes come here looking to move to the next level. I’m for that. We all want them to be able to pursue that. At the end of the day, at this place, it will be about the name on the front of the jersey first. I don’t think anyone understands better than Nick.

“The relationship he has with our players will be a passionate one, an intense one, and a fun one. I look forward to the things we’ll develop on the field of play. That will be important for Kentucky.
It is absolutely with great pride and great enjoyment as I see a young guy to my left that has pursued the dream of being a college baseball coach.

“When you look at the way he began his career, the things that he has done, the sacrifices he has made personally, to have him sitting here as our head baseball coach is a real joy, a real honor, and I’m looking forward to all the things he will do at Kentucky.”

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