The early 2000s were the longest period of sustained success in the history of Houston baseball. It was Rayner Noble who oversaw this program at its peak, although that peak sadly never quite reached Omaha.
Unfortunately, Noble seems to have lost his touch, and the last two seasons have been painful to watch. It hasn’t been just the losses, it has been the way the team has lost, with mind-blowingly poor pitching control. A seasoned coach should be able to get across the basics – basics like throwing strikes.
It is likely not a coincidence that Noble losing his touch has chronologically coincided with Noble losing some of his top assistants. Two in particular have left the program under remarkably similar circumstances.
David Pierce and Todd Whitting are both UH graduates. Both spent time as assistants under Noble, before leaving to take over similar positions at other Texas schools – Pierce at Rice, Whitting at TCU. Pierce left UH in 2002, Whitting followed the next year. Recruiting quickly took a downturn, and the success of the team followed soon after. Both Pierce and Whitting have been hailed as master recruiters by their new employers.
Together, they ought to be the first two names on Mack Rhoades’ list as he searches for a new coach. Whitting might be the more likely of the two to leap at the opportunity, given that Pierce is widely believed to be the head coach in waiting at Rice once Wayne Graham, the ageless wonder, retires. Whitting, on the other hand, is an assistant behind 39-year old head coach Jim Schlossnagle, and may never get a chance to be the head man for the Horned Frogs.
Whoever the replacement turns out to be (and remember, Rhoades went pretty far off the map for the James Dickey hire, so be prepared for anything), I hope Houston fans keep in mind what a fantastic job Noble did here, 2009 and 2010 notwithstanding. With all of the tantrums, and without all of the wins, Noble has turned into a sad parody of himself. But he’s not the winningest coach in school history for no reason.