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The Scope: See heads south, Smith sets standards

I dialed a familiar number Wednesday to catch up with Ohio assistant coach Andrew See in regards to whether he would be continuing his career as a Bobcat.

I didn't get an immediate response, but his voicemail spelled out all I needed to know.

"You have reached Andrew See: assistant baseball coach, Duke University," it said.

Only five days earlier, I was able to introduce myself to incoming coach Rob Smith, formerly of Creighton University.

As Smith was explaining his plans for the 2013 campaign, the last remnant of Ohio's 89-year coaching legacy was packing his suitcase for a trip to Durham, North Carolina to meet Duke personnel for the first time.

For me, it was all crunched into a symbolic jumble: saying "hello" to Smith and "goodbye" to See.


The first thing that struck me about Rob Smith is his obvious charisma. It's safe to say, from only "meeting" him on the phone, that he'll instill an unfaltering energy in Ohio's dugout, which has been relatively subdued for the past 24 years under Joe Carbone's tutelage.

Many coaches try to make their emphatic mark on new programs by stamping a clear-cut goal for the upcoming season. They promise an increase in wins, or declare their middling program a contender for the conference crown.

Smith is different. His message had a singular focus: learning how to practice with urgency and purpose.

"Our number one goal is to practice the way we should," he said. "Once we get that established, we can move forward and get more comfortable."

The guy's smart. There are a million ways to practice differently, and how he chooses to tackle his first head coaching gig will set the tone for what the team can expect when it begins its regular season.

For the first time in nearly a century, there's a blatant unexpectedness lingering about what's to come for the Bobcats.

Smith was more or less unwilling to move the conversation past establishing a unique mindset and practice philosophy when it came to his plans for Ohio. That might be because he hasn't had time to mingle with his new players or even stand in the dugout at Bob Wren Stadium and take a deep breath.

He wouldn’t say if any recruits were following him from Creighton in Omaha, Neb., but noted that his top assistant position would be filled by fellow Omaha transfer Craig Moore. Ryan Sawyers, who was a pitching coach for Purdue from 2008-11 and West Virginia Wesleyan last season, will take the same position at OU.

For the past 10 years, Smith has worked directly with his team's pitching staff at both Purdue and Creighton, where he spent his last five years. Although Sawyers will primarily be in control this time around, Smith will be far from hands-off when it comes to bullpen work.

"We wanted to eliminate free bases," he said, naming his top point of emphasis for the pitching staff. "You have to be able to control walks, hit batters, stolen bases, etc. That's a heavy emphasis we're going to set in place right away."

With the departure of junior starter Seth Streich to the Oakland A's organization, the Bobcats won't be returning any hurlers that started more than four games in 2012.

The staff, though shaky at times, held Ohio around .500 when its fielding and power numbers were lacking.

Even if practice doesn’t make perfect, Smith has plenty of time to prepare his inexperienced lineup. 


When I spoke with Andrew See following the Bobcats' final Mid-American Conference Tournament loss in May, he was teary-eyed and quick to pronounce his affection for Ohio and its outgoing coach. He named Joe Carbone "one of his best friends," and said kind words about the year's senior class. But he wasn't very reflective. There wasn’t waver in his voice that suggested he'd be moving on from the school he called home for the better part of the past decade.

While Ohio was conducting its "exhaustive national search," See knocked on doors at Youngstown State and inquired about assistant coaching slots that could open up at the likes of Michigan and UNC-Greensboro.

"I wanted to make sure I landed in a place I wanted to be," he said.

The most viable option outside Athens, through and through, was taking the pitching coach position at Duke.

See will be working under his former boss Chris Pollard, who is also new to Duke this summer. Pollard is fresh off his sixth-consecutive 30-win season at Appalachian State, where he and See worked together in 2005 and 2006, when See was an assistant coach for the Mountaineers.

"When I talked to coach Pollard at Duke, we talked about the expectations of the program and his vision and where I fit in those plans," See said. "To work with him again, and at Duke, it was an opportunity I didn't want to pass up.

"It's good to work for my former boss again because I know what I'm getting into."

He will inherit a pitching staff that returns two of its top three starters. Last year's number one starter, Marcus Stroman, left the program early after being selected in the first round of the draft. 

See's first job as a Duke employee will be to hit the road Friday in search of the program's next top talent — a part of the job he excelled in at Ohio.

"We prided ourselves at OU about being able to find that talent, and I always felt we did a really good job with that, but it's going to be exciting to introduce yourself as a parent and carry that name of Duke that will travel worldwide," See said.

As much weight as the Blue Devil logo carries, and as much of a haul it will be to make the move from Athens to Durham, See won't have any baggage heading into his new job. 

He expects to be at Duke for "at least four years," even though he wants to be a head coach at some point in his career.

“I feel if you're always looking for the next best gig, you're never going to do the best you can where you are," See said.

Jim Ryan is a sophomore studying journalism and assistant sports editor of The Post. Excited to see coach Smith's changes to the baseball program? Email your thoughts to

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