A two-time Division II National Coach of the Year, Santa Clara University announced Thurs., June 30 it has hired Dan O’Brien as the new Bronco head baseball coach. O’Brien has spent the last 14 seasons as the head coach at UC San Diego, building that program into one of the premier programs at the NCAA Division II level. Dan O’Brien, the 36th head coach in school history in a baseball program that dates back to 1883, replaces Mark O’Brien after he stepped down in early June after 10 years at the Bronco helm.
Over the past eight seasons, O’Brien’s Tritons qualified for five NCAA Division II West Regional showings, two NCAA National Championship Finals appearances and set a school record for wins four times. O’Brien, a 1995 graduate of UCSD, was easily the winningest coach in program history, holding a career record of 454-283-1 (.616) through the 2011. In 2011, starting pitchers Tim Shibuya and Guido Knudson became UCSD’s first Major League Baseball draft picks since 2003. All told, 42 Tritons have earned all-West Region accolades since UCSD moved to Division II in 2001, while 72 student-athletes have been named to All-CCAA teams.
“We are so pleased to be bringing Dan O’Brien aboard to usher in a new era in Bronco baseball,” said SCU Athletic Director Dan Coonan. “He is a phenomenal baseball coach, as baseball people will attest to, but an even better person. He embodies the type of values Santa Clara holds so dear, and that manifests itself in his coaching style and philosophy. He is quite accustomed to running a successful baseball program at a top academic institution. He is a perfect fit for Santa Clara and is ready to bring the program to new heights. We can’t wait.”
“I am very humbled and honored to be Santa Clara’s head baseball coach and am thrilled about the opportunity that Dan Coonan and his staff has provided me,” said O’Brien. “Santa Clara is a very special place. Anyone who has associated with this University knows that, and I’m excited to create a similar culture within this program that will inspire people to want to be a part of it. I see greatness in the very near future for Bronco Baseball, and will tirelessly work to bring this program to the level that it’s capable of becoming.”
Under O’Brien’s guidance, the Tritons earned berths in the California Collegiate Athletic Association Championship (CCAA) Tournament eight years running, winning the tournament title in 2005, ’09, ’10 and ’11. UCSD has also made five consecutive NCAA Regional appearances and claimed back-to-back West Regional crowns in 2009 and ’10.
After reaching the national championship game in 2010, the Tritons lived up to their billing again in 2011, winning their third consecutive CCAA regular season and tournament titles. As the No. 1 seed, UCSD hosted the West Regional for the first time in program history. The Tritons were ranked in the national top-30 all season and held the No. 1 spot for two straight weeks in February. Ending the year at No. 6, UCSD finished with a 42-15 overall record and a 29-11 mark in CCAA play. The Tritons strung together a school-record 19-game win streak between Apr. 9 and May 14.
O’Brien was honored as the 2011 Daktronics West Region Coach of the Year, the NCBWA West Region Co-Coach of the Year and the CCAA Coach of the Year. Nine Tritons picked up all-West accolades and starting pitcher Tim Shibuya and utility player Blake Tagmyer earned all-American honors.
After going 41-15 and advancing to the DII College World Series for the first time in 2009, UCSD was even better in 2010. The Tritons recorded a remarkable overall record of 54-8 — the best mark in program history — and went on to capture conference regular season, CCAA Tournament and West Regional titles for the second year in a row. The top-ranked Tritons returned to Cary, N.C., where they defeated No. 4 Georgia College & State, No. 3 Central Missouri and No. 13 Franklin Pierce to reach the national championship game unscathed. Despite the perfect week, UCSD would come up short in the final game, losing a 6-4 heartbreaker to ninth-ranked Southern Indiana.
The Tritons wrapped up postseason play with a 9-2 record en route to the national runner-up finish. O’Brien was named the 2010 NCBWA National Coach of the Year for the second year in a row, while also taking home ABCA/Rawlings West Region and CCAA Coach of the Year accolades in consecutive seasons, as well.
The Tritons set a total of 19 program records in 2010. O’Brien reached a major milestone of his own during the season, recording career win No. 400 on Apr. 30 following a 19-3 rout at San Francisco State.
O’Brien’s squads posted the top fielding percentage in the nation in 2008, ’09 and ’10 (including a school record .984 in 2010) and he coached two-time National Defensive Player Year Vance Albitz in 2009 and ’10. In addition, the 2010 squad had six ABCA All-Americans and two National Gold Glove winners.
O’Brien was named head coach of the Tritons following the 1998 season, when he served as the interim head coach. He led UCSD to a 20-18 record in his first season, as that team broke a total of five school records. In 1999, UCSD again posted a winning record, going 19-18 overall, followed by an impressive 22-13 campaign in 2000, the team’s final year of Division III competition.
After going 14-34 in the program’s first season at the Division II level, UCSD surprised everyone the following year, posting an overall record of 30-23-1 and a 23-17 mark in the competitive CCAA. The Tritons reached the 30-win plateau for the first time since 1994 and had the second-largest turnaround in the country that season. O’Brien earned UCSD’s Excellence in Coaching Award for the first time in his career, an award he has won each of the last three years, as well.
In 2004, O’Brien led the Tritons to a 35-24 overall record and a 22-18 mark in conference play. Ranked as high as No. 10 in the nation, UCSD qualified for its first CCAA Tournament, defeating Sonoma State 6-2. In 2005, he directed the squad to 37 victories and a second consecutive conference postseason appearance. The Tritons won 10 of their final 11 games, including a 7-6 victory over Chico State to sew up the program’s first CCAA Championship. After another banner year in 2006, UCSD went 37-25 in 2007 and advanced to the NCAA Division II West Regional for the first time.
UCSD went 43-18 overall in 2008, setting a school record for victories. The Tritons went 25-11 in league play, advancing to the CCAA Tournament once again, and qualified for a second straight NCAA West Regional. UCSD won two regional games, before being eliminated by Chico State.
The Tritons defeated Sonoma State 12-4 in the West Regional Championship game to earn a berth in the Division II College World Series for the first time in program history. UCSD, which also garnered a No. 1 national ranking for the first time at the Division II level that season, recorded victories over West Chester and Dowling in Cary, before losing to Emporia State in the national semifinals.
After graduating from UCSD with a degree in communications in 1995, O’Brien served as an assistant for former head coach Lyle Yates before joining him in Greenville, Miss., as a player/coach with the Greenville Bluesman. O’Brien helped guide the minor league club to the 1996 Big South League Championship, before returning to UCSD for the 1997 season as an assistant under Robert Fletcher.
O’Brien played two seasons for UCSD in 1994-95, leading the Tritons to a 33-8 record and a third place finish at the Division III College World Series in his first year with the team. He led the team in home runs, was a two-time team captain, and won the John Rolph Memorial Award. O’Brien can be found among the school’s top-10 for career and single season putout totals.