NATCHITOCHES – Mississippi State assistant coach Lane Burroughs, who has coached eight NCAA Regional tournament teams and helped guide Northwestern State to the 1998 Southland Conference championship, is the Demons' new head baseball coach, NSU director of athletics Greg Burke said Wednesday.
Burroughs, 39, succeeds J.P. Davis, who resigned May 31. The hiring is subject to the approval of the University of Louisiana System Board of Supervisors, who oversee Northwestern. Burroughs will be officially introduced Monday at NSU as he takes over a program which is the winningest in the Southland Conference since 1990 with an average of nearly 36 victories per season, while the Demons captured nine Southland championships in a 14-year span (1991-2005).
"It's time to get back to Demon baseball, which means having a program that will challenge for conference titles and postseason berths, and Lane Burroughs' background and personal qualities make him the person to help achieve that goal," said Burke.
The 17-year coaching veteran received ringing endorsements from former Demon baseball coaches Jim Wells, Dave Van Horn, Rob Childress, John Cohen and Mitch Gaspard, among others. He worked under Van Horn and Cohen, and with Childress, in 1997-98 at Northwestern, and has been on Cohen's Mississippi State staff for the past four years.
Burroughs has been a key factor in the Bulldogs' recruiting efforts which have garnered top 25 national ranking in each of his first three years, with the 2012 rankings to come later this summer. Mississippi State won the 2012 Southeastern Conference Tournament championship and made a second straight NCAA Regional appearance a year after nearly making the College World Series field, falling in a nailbiting NCAA Super Regional loss at Florida.
Burroughs helped Kansas State emerge as a Big 12 Conference contender, coaching under Brad Hill as the Wildcats reached the Big 12 Conference Tournament champion game in 2008. Burroughs spent nine years on Corky Palmer's staff at Southern Mississippi from 1999-2007, serving as recruiting coordinator, hitting coach, infield coach and third base coach as the Golden Eagles made their first six NCAA Regional appearances.
He steps into a post that has been held by some of the finest coaches in college baseball.
Wells retired in 2009 as the greatest coach in Alabama history and Gaspard succeeded him and nearly reached the College World Series two years ago. Van Horn left NSU to take over at Nebraska, and has just steered Arkansas into another CWS berth, the fifth of his career along with a Division II national championship. Childress was Van Horn's pitching coach at NSU and Nebraska, then took over at Texas A&M and has developed a Top 10-ranked program. Cohen sparked Kentucky to a Southeastern Conference championship before engineering Mississippi State's return as a college baseball power.
Wells, Van Horn, and Cohen each have won national Coach of the Year honors.
"Our goal is to bring Northwestern State back to being the premiere baseball program in the Southland Conference, and in the process prepare young men for unlimited possibilities in their future," said Burroughs.
Said Burke: "Lane is the right hire at the right time for Demon baseball. He brings a wealth of baseball experience to NSU, having worked side by side with some of the best coaches in the country, along with having a strong network of contacts in the baseball world which will be helpful in both the recruiting and coaching aspects of his job.
"Baseball acumen aside, Lane will be good for our department and for our community. He is a players' coach who will hold his young men accountable while at the same time creating an encouraging atmosphere in the clubhouse and in the dugout," said Burke, who gave Cohen and Gaspard their first head coaching jobs. "The Natchitoches community is going to love him because he is going to love the community. You will see him immersed in activities and organizations around town and just as importantly, he understands the importance of reaching out to surrounding communities and to connecting with the baseball alumni."
"It's his (Burroughs') time and he is certainly qualified to do that job," said Wells, a Northwestern alumnus. "He has SEC experience, has a stable demeanor and is level-headed, he has acquired baseball knowledge, and is well-respected. He specifically has great reputation regionally, which is where Northwestern State will get most of its players.
"The bottom line is this - when his name was mentioned to me as a candidate for the Northwestern State job, I just thought to myself ‘yeah, that sounds right,' " said Wells, 192-89 with three Southland titles and two NCAA Regional appearances from 1990-94 at NSU, before guiding Alabama to three CWS appearances including a 1997 national runner-up finish, six SEC Tournament crowns and five regular-season championships from 1995-2009.
Cohen, whose 2012 team posted a cumulative 3.31 grade point average, was effusive in praising his assistant coach.
"People there are going to love Lane Burroughs! He has worked hard for this head coaching opportunity and can handle all aspects of that job at Northwestern State," said Cohen, 146-84 from 1998-2001 as the Demons' coach, with SLC titles in 1998 and 2001. "He relates to well to our players. I asked him step in for me and give a pre-game speech during a tough stretch for us this past year and he knocked it out of the park to the point that I had him speak several more times during the season. He is that guy that I can envision speaking to the Kiwanis Club and immediately winning over fans and alumni."
Said Van Horn: "Lane is a great choice for that job. He is a really good recruiter and is well-liked by his players. He had to develop an eye for talent while at Southern Miss and that will carry over to his recruiting at Northwestern State."
"He has a fire in his belly that will help him be successful," said Childress, who helped Van Horn's NSU teams win Southland titles in 1995 and 1997, and has guided the A&M Aggies to the 2011 CWS and two more NCAA Super Regionals after his Nebraska pitchers helped Van Horn's Cornhuskers make CWS appearances in 2001 and 2002.
"Lane can 100 percent do that job," said Gaspard, who led the Demons a 210-138 record, Southland titles in 2002 and 2005, and a 2005 NCAA Regional appearance, and has since added two more NCAA berths in his first three years running the Crimson Tide program. "He is very, very well-respected in baseball circles and he will do things the right way. He is very professional and will represent the program and the school well. He can sit down with anybody from a booster to an administrator to a player and they're going to walk away saying ‘that's a classy guy.' "
Burroughs and his wife Susan have three children, Parker Grace (10), Camryn Laine (8) and Thomas Jackson (4). He was a catcher and outfielder and a pre-law major at Mississippi College, where he earned an undergraduate degree in 1995. A year later, he received his master's in social sciences as a graduate assistant coach and he moved to East Mississippi Community College as an assistant coach in 1997 before getting hired at NSU by Van Horn that summer.
Burroughs coached 12 Mississippi State players chosen in the Major League Baseball Draft, including three top 10-round picks and 2012 first-rounder Chris Stratton. The Bulldogs have had 47 All-SEC Academic Honor Roll selections in his first three seasons.
In a year at Kansas State, he coached hitters, outfielders and was in charge of recruiting with 14 players drafted and seven top 10 round selections.
During his seven years at USM, the Golden Eagles had five top 10-round draft picks and produced four major league players while winning their first Conference USA title in 2003 and winning 47 games a year later while setting school records for hits, runs and RBI.