PULLMAN – Washington State University promoted assistant baseball coach Donnie Marbut to the head coaching position Monday, replacing Tim Mooney, who submitted his resignation last week.
Marbut, who came to WSU this season after three seasons as head coach at Edmonds Community College, will be inheriting a Cougars team coming off a 29-26 season, its best record since 1994, longtime former coach Bobo Brayton’s last season as the head man.
“We are definitely on the right track,” Marbut said at a Memorial Day press conference called to announce his promotion and Mooney’s resignation.
“With the players we have on our existing club and the kids we have coming in, I am excited for the future of Cougars baseball. I feel very fortunate to be a coach in (the Pacific-10) conference and more fortunate to be a coach at this university.”
And fortunate to be able to attend the press conference. Marbut, 30, and his wife Jennifer are expecting their second daughter soon, and he kept his cell phone near in case of a call.
Marbut attended Aberdeen High and Edmonds CC before transferring to Portland State University, where current WSU athletic director Jim Sterk was A.D. Marbut served as president of the school’s athletic advisory board, and came in contact with Sterk.
“It’s ironic,” Sterk said, “but I hadn’t really talked with Donnie since then until Tim brought his name to me (as a possible hire) last year and asked me to call him.”
After graduating from PSU, Marbut was a high school and junior college assistant before being named head coach at Edmonds Community College in 2000.
In three years at Edmonds, Marbut posted a 152-38 overall record, was the NWAACC coach of the year in 2002 and 2003 and earned a reputation as one of the finest recruiters in the Northwest junior college ranks.
It was a reputation he’s enhanced in his year at WSU. Despite the string of losing seasons and allegations of physical abuse against Mooney by some WSU players, the Cougars brought in 13 transfers and five freshmen prior to this season.
And Marbut, who prior to Monday was serving as the recruiting coordinator and infield coach, has signed 12 players, including 11 from Washington, for next season.
“To compete in the Pac-10, it’s all about the Jimmies and the Joeys,” Marbut said, “not the Xs and the Os.
“This conference is not for the weak, and you better get the right types of people to make you successful.”
When Marbut signed a long-term contract – unusual for a college baseball assistant – late last summer to join the Cougars staff, some thought his ascension to the head position at some point was part of the arrangement.
Sterk denied it. “There wasn’t a prenuptial agreement,” he said.
But now there is a marriage, all because, despite the success his Cougs were enjoying – the team was probably three or four Pac-10 wins away from reaching their ultimate goal, the NCAA regionals – Mooney decided last week to step down. He met with Sterk and then told his players after Sunday’s last game of the season.
In his four years at WSU, Mooney posted an 84-135 mark, including his first winning season this year.
Mooney cited last year’s allegations, which came to light in an August article in The Spokesman-Review, as one of the key reasons behind his decision.
Sterk acknowledged at the time there were problems, but told Carter Strickland “we are working with Tim and our (senior associate athletic director) in charge of baseball, Marcia Saneholtz, to address those issues.”
As part of that, Mooney was given certain conditions to meet, including a written apology to a player for his actions.
“We didn’t know then how it would all sort out,” Sterk said Monday. “We felt at the time Tim wasn’t all to blame or something would have happened last year.”
Mooney said Monday he wouldn’t have made an offer last year.
“There was no way I was going to resign last fall,” he said. “I thought (the article) was poorly done, poorly presented and not an accurate look at the program. I was not going to leave this in the shape it was in right then. It was just in the last four days, five days.”
He continually emphasized Monday he wanted the WSU baseball program to be successful, and felt, if he continued in the position, his past would hold the program back.
“I took a lot of bullets,” he said of the turmoil, “and the newspaper article was a land mine, getting through that, but we survived it.
“In deep reflection, it seemed like we couldn’t get out from under that. There were some out there that wouldn’t let that go away. For the good of the program (I had to leave), maybe then they could continue moving forward without that weight I felt like I was carrying.”
Mooney, who coached at Albertson College in Idaho for 14 years, was named WSU coach in August 2000, the 13th coach in the Cougars’ illustrious baseball history.
It was a history Mooney embraced, cultivating former Cougars and building connections in the WSU community while raising money to refurbish Bailey-Brayton Stadium.
That work culminated in this year’s installation of a Field Turf surface, making WSU’s facility one of the finest in the Northwest. And it earned Mooney praise from Sterk.
“I respect the heck out of him,” Sterk said. “This program is in a lot better shape now than when he took over. He’s raised money and he’s increased supporters for the program.
“But when he came to me (about resigning), we came to the same conclusion that this was the right time.”
And they both felt the right replacement was in the program.
“I said to Jim, (promoting Marbut) is the best chance for success,” Mooney said. “The staff is in place. … If (they) blew this whole staff up, I wouldn’t have gone. I would have stayed. If I was going to leave, I was going to leave it in good shape.”