Daily Trojan talks to new baseball coach

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USC went 25-28 last season with an 8-22 conference record, the worst in the Pac-12. Stankiewicz and Grand Canyon University went 42-21 but were eliminated in the first round of the NCAA Tournament. (Patrick Hannan | Daily Trojan file photo)

Over the summer, the USC Athletic Department named Andy Stankiewicz, a former Major League Baseball player and Grand Canyon University principal, USC’s new head coach. The move followed the Trojans’ last place in the Pac-12 in 2022.

The Daily Trojan sat down with Coach Stankiewicz to discuss his goals as head coach at USC.

Daily Trojan: First, welcome to USC. I would like to know what it means to you to join the Trojan family and how you felt when you learned that you were the new manager here.

Andy Stankiewicz: Well, exciting, very exciting. You know, growing up in Southern California… in the 70s and 80s, you dreamed of, you know, going to SC – and I was a decent athlete. I also wanted to play football, but I quickly realized that it probably wouldn’t work out. So to step up a gear in baseball, to come home some 30, 40 years later to be named head coach at the University of Southern California Baseball, it’s a big moment for me and my family and I’m extremely excited to be here.

DT: [You’re] a SoCal native, and I saw that you went to Pepperdine University. So, is it more special to return to Los Angeles after spending a lot of time in Phoenix and at the minors and now in charge of the Trojans again?

AS: Yeah, that’s cool. You know, you go in circles, never know where and when life will take you. It just goes and you go with it. Next thing you know, I have the opportunity to come home. I still have family here, I’ve always felt like Southern California was a bit of a home. Coming home is exciting because, you know, you were born and raised here, and then you come out of it and you’re still kind of like… ‘I’d like to come back to SoCal because it’s always going to be my home.’ And so being able to come home and then be SC head coach is like a double bonus, man. I am delighted.

DT: Speaking of your time at GCU, you obviously had a lot of success there, winning five conference titles and Coach of the Year four times. How do you hope and how can you continue that success now here in the Pac-12 with USC?

AS: Well, I’m going to need support. I need support from incoming administration. And that’s something I felt from the start when I met [USC Athletic Director] Mike Bohn and [Associate Athletic Director] Lindsay Jaffe. I just felt like, man, starting from the top, I feel like there’s going to be all this support that we were going to need to get the program going nice and fast. Another part is getting a coaching staff that I think could help us…restore SC. I feel like the coaching staff that we were able to put together quickly is as good as any in the country. Travis Jewett was recruiting coordinator at Arizona State University, Vanderbilt University, head coach at Tulane University. Excited [Flores] is a hitting coach because his offensive training is good there. Next, bring home Seth Etherton – obviously, a great Trojan in his own right. You know, [Etherton] was part of the 1998 College World Series team. I think all of that and the staff that we have in place, I think it’s going to be as good as we can imagine. That’s a big part of it. I mean… you have to do a few moves before the players even get here, right? So when they get to the end of that month, they see there’s a structure in place – there’s organization. There is going to be attention to detail. So these guys are going to be a big help to us in setting up all of these necessary things for the program.

DT: You mention how important it is to have a foundation before you go out and sign a lot of players. What has recruiting for USC been like since you arrived? Is it different from your time at GCU? And moreover, have the NIL agreements played a bigger role in recruitment now?

AS: Well it’s the same. When I started at the Grand Canyon, everyone was like, ‘Okay, what’s going to happen there? What will change?’ I think there’s some really cool buzz about what we’re doing, what we’ve been able to do, like I said guys that are in place. But, you know, the truth of the matter [is], the unknown remains. Alright, how are they going to compete? What will they do? So now I have to find young men who want to be part of something to restore. There are other programs that have had success, but hey, we’re SC, and we’re going to change that quickly. So it kind of sounds like I was at the start of the Grand Canyon in that regard, like, okay, we have to rebuild the structure a bit, right? So I think that’s what this first part will be about. Now don’t make a mistake here, we’re going to win. We will compete well. We are going to teach them how to play baseball well. We will teach them to be good teammates. We’re going to build all of these fundamental dynamics for a ball club. But, I think people are just excited. At the same time, it’s our job to show them that they have to be excited for a good reason and be excited for the long haul, not just for a short time, right?

DT: Obviously, the USC baseball program in recent years has not been on par with USC’s athleticism for many other sports. They haven’t competed in the NCAA Tournament for several years. But you, on the other hand, led the Grand Canyon Antelopes to the playoffs multiple times during your tenure there. Will we see the Trojans make the playoffs?

AS: You know, our goal is to win a national title. I mean anything less falls short. You know, you look at that left field wall at Dedeaux [Field], it says 12, right? 12 being 12 national titles, the most [any team in Division 1 baseball]. So I’m perfectly aware of that, our coach is perfectly aware of that. I feel responsible. I feel obligated to the University. I feel obligated to the elders. I feel obligated in Los Angeles to win a national title. You know, if you’re a competitive person, that’s the point. So I’m not saying it will happen next year, but I’m saying we will rebuild and restore the foundation and the program that can be at a competitive level year after year. I think when you look at the great programs in college, what they do is they’re constantly in the playoffs. The first step is to get to the playoffs, and then the second step is always to be in the playoffs. Once you get to that point, well, you put yourself in a position to compete for national titles. So that’s definitely the goal.

DT: You had a very successful baseball career starting out playing in the majors to coaching the minor leagues and then some college runs most recently with Grand Canyon. What does it mean to you now to be that manager and what does mentoring and being the leader of these young baseball talents mean to you giving back to the game?

AS: I’m very proud of that, Joey. I have great respect for this position. I respect the coach [Rod] Dedeaux. I respect the coach [Mike] Gillespie, which I played for two summers. He was a mentor to me and a young man two summers in Alaska and a big influence in my life getting back into the college game now. This is the person I called when I finished my playing career: “Hey coach, what do you think? Should I go back to college? He had a big impact on my life and I think about what he has done for me and I want to do it and do it for these young men as well. I want them to feel like someone is in their corner and not just in baseball, but in life as well.

DT: I am on. Yeah. I mean, any career where you get to the big show, I’m sure there’s a lot of adversity you’ve been through.

AS: Yeah. And so I think, you know, it’s not easy, man. What these young men are trying to do is be great baseball players, be students, be great citizens, and be great teammates. There’s a lot of stuff that comes into play and so we want to be able to share all of that with them… More than anything, I want players to know that I support them, man. I’m in the area with them and that’s what we have to show them from the start.

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