Sean Allen from Texas • D1Baseball
2019: Jake Gautreau, State of Mississippi
2018: Jason Kelly, Washington
2017: Nate Yeskie, State of Oregon
2016: Kirk Saarloos, TCU
2015: Paul Evans, State of Missouri
Texas assistant and pitching coach Sean Allen really is a jack of all trades.
He excelled at the highest level as a batting coach. He has now excelled at the highest level as a pitching coach after leading the Longhorns to one of the most successful seasons on the mound in program history. And because of that accomplishment, he earned the 2021 D1Baseball Assistant Coach of the Year award.
“I think the first thing that stands out about Sean is that he has such a high baseball IQ,” said Texas head coach David Pierce. “He understands both sides of the ball very well and I think it was very easy for him to move from player to coach. He has always been an excellent listener. He’s very curious, and then he goes and does a lot of his own research. He has convinced himself of what he truly believes in over the years as a player, and now as a coach.
“For me, it really is a rough diamond,” he added. “He can be good at anything. “
To excel at everything he’s been in Sean Allen’s DNA since playing at the University of Houston. He still holds the school record for assists over a four-year career with 542, and immediately made an impact from a coaching perspective after graduating and becoming a student assistant for the Cougars. He stayed with the Cougars throughout the 2007 campaign.
From there, Allen went to Florida International from 2008-2011 before hitchhiking on the David Pierce express at Sam Houston State. Allen was with Pierce for three seasons in Huntsville and helped the program not only win three straight SLC championships, but also compete in three back-to-back NCAA tournaments.
Allen and Pierce’s baseball marriage didn’t end there.
When Pierce took the head coach job at Tulane, he wanted Allen with him. Allen was the associate head coach during his time with the Green Wave. The relationship, of course, continued when Pierce got the head coach job at the University of Texas, and Allen joined him again in 2017.
Allen’s tenure at UT has been unique in some ways.
He came to Austin as the program’s batting coach. And although he has done so throughout the 2019 campaign, Pierce had the idea to go in a whole different direction not only with Allen, but with other coaches on the program after this season. Allen went from hitting coach to pitching coach and the Longhorns hired big league Troy Tulowitzki as hitting coach.
After the way the 2019 season has unfolded, it was a risky decision on all fronts for Pierce… to say the least. But this was the one he felt fully confident in due to the versatility of a guy like Sean Allen. Allen has proven he can coach hitters and pitchers, while being the backbone of the program from a recruiting standpoint.
“Those were two pushes for me… after 2019,” Pierce said. “In 2019 we weren’t good overall, and if we bring Tulo and it’s a bust… then we move Sean to the pitching coach and it’s a bust… it’s probably not not a good ending for me. But these two guys worked a lot together, and they all validated what I thought was the case… I knew they both could do it. I knew Sean could do it.
The list of assistant coaches who have excelled at the highest level as batting and pitching coaches is not long. In fact, through all of my research and discussions with coaches across the country, we were only able to find a few prominent names.
One of those names? David Pierce.
Pierce has long been considered one of varsity baseball’s best assistants during his time at Rice. The current Longhorns skipper spent nine seasons with the Owls under the direction of legendary head coach Wayne Graham. And while he dealt with the hitters in his first three seasons, Graham gave him the opportunity to have a different perspective – he wanted him to deal with the pitchers, and he did so in the during his last six seasons on South Main.
You would think it would be a difficult transition to make. Pierce thought the opposite.
“Pitching or hitting I honestly thought it was an easy transition,” said Pierce. “You are able to look at pitching from the point of view of how I attack a batter. You know a bit more about the ins and outs of typing, approaches and things like that. You can then relay these things to the launchers.
“And so, it gives you a global perspective on things,” he added. “I was really blessed when Coach Graham took me from hitters to pitchers. It allowed me to be very flexible with guys who had a certain flexibility. Frankly, this is something that helped me become a head coach. It’s a great perspective from both angles.
Other coaches who have excelled as batting and pitching coaches include North Carolina head coach Scott Forbes, Oklahoma State head coach Josh Holliday, the TCU assistant Bill Mosiello and Illinois State Head Coach Steve Holm, among others.
Allen is now part of this distinguished list. He gave the Longhorns a good start on the mound in 2020 before the season closes. And this successful trend continued at a high level last spring.
The Longhorns had one of the best pitchers and prospects in the country along with right-hander Ty Madden. He ran an All-American campaign and gave the “Horns are a Dominant Weapon on Friday Night”. Tristan Stevens, who recently announced his return for the 2022 campaign, had a strong 2021 campaign, and southpaw Pete Hansen, who got off to a slow start due to COVID, ended the season stellar. He too is back for the 2022 season.
Overall, the Longhorns pitching staff collected video game numbers. They finished the season with a best national average of 2.94 earned points. The next team behind the Longhorns in the overall standings? Fairfield at 3.14. And in the Big 12? The second-best team ERA was Baylor at 36 nationally with a 3.96 ERA.
Stellar pitch and defense, along with timely strikes, is what ultimately propelled the Longhorns to another in-depth College World Series run, and what set them up for a seventh national title in ’22.
“I knew he was smart enough to do it and I knew he would be very good at it,” Pierce said of Allen’s transition. “I really think his behavior, especially on the pitching side, is a big bonus for him. He has a good balance. When I’m excited he has a cool with him with pitchers and receivers. It’s not easy for everyone, but Sean made it pretty easy.
“I thought he would do a hell of a job as a batting coach, and I thought he would do a hell of a job with pitchers,” he added. “The transformation for him into a pitching coach and having the # 1 ERA in the country… and doing what our staff have been doing is impressive.
“He just did a hell of a job. I’m just one of those people who will get involved if I have to get involved. But honestly, with Sean and this staff, I’ve rarely had to. I think he can excel in both cases.
What about Pierce’s preference for Allen’s strengths as a batting or pitching coach?
“I thought he was a really good third baseman, I thought he was managing the infield well. He’s a great bench coach for me, ”he said. “He will see things that I don’t always see. At the end of the day, I like him more as a pitching coach. But more importantly, I think he will one day be a great head coach.
Sean Allen is ready for the next big step in his coaching career: a solid head coaching job.
Allen, 42, has had a few opportunities over the years. He was a finalist for Rice’s head coach when Matt Bragga was hired as the Owls’ head coach. He was a finalist for Rice’s manager again last summer, but influential donors around Rice preferred one of their own – Jose Cruz Jr. – to the ultra-talented Allen. And in the midst of those two openings, Allen was in the mix for Sam Houston’s state head coach job. However, the Bearkats ultimately decided to promote associate head coach Jay Sirianni to head coach.
It hasn’t been easy at times for Allen to be patient when it comes to head coaching positions. But as Tom Petty’s song says, “Waiting is the most hard part”.
Allen’s day is approaching.
“I’ve been through it, and it’s sort of going through it now. We won a lot of games at Rice and I felt like it was my time, ”said Pierce. “But the right job or the right situation weren’t found until Sam Houston State. And from there, it was just kind of a domino effect for me.
“It’s just a matter of timing,” he added. “My advice to Sean was not to force him. Don’t take a job just because you want to be a head coach. My first job as a head coach was at the age of 49. He is 42 years old. There is a bright future ahead in this department… it will be the right school at the right time.
In the meantime, the Longhorns will continue to reap the benefits of having an exceptionally skilled assistant in a variety of ways.
Sean Allen is a cut above the rest.