After Dave Serrano’s “decision” to step down, Tennessee athletic director John Currie has finally found his replacement in Tony Vitello in an official announcement on Wednesday. An introductory press conference will be held Friday. Details on the time and location have yet to be announced.
Vitello, 38, arrives in Knoxville after a four year stint as an assistant at Arkansas. While with the Razorbacks, Vitello was ranked as high as the No. 2 recruiter in the nation, as well as No. 1 in the SEC. Vitello also helped bring in eight top-15 classes, with his 2014 class being ranked No. 1 in the country.
In his 14 years of coaching D-1 baseball, Vitello has signed and developed six first-round MLB picks and 12 players that made it to the majors. Some of his former players include: Andrew Benintendi (National Hitter of the Year, 2015 7th overall pick), Brandon Finnegan, Kyle Gibson, Aaron Crow (All-Star), Ian Kinsler (4x All-Star, Golden Glove winner) and Max Scherzer (4x All-Star, 2x Cy Young winner).
Vitello’s coaching history prior to UT:
- Arkansas – Assistant Coach/Recruiting Coordinator (2013-2017)
- TCU – Assistant Coach/Recruiting Coordinator (2010-2013)
- Missouri – Assistant Coach/Recruiting Coordinator (2002-2010)
- Salinas Packers – Assistant Coach (2002)
As an assistant coach, Vitello has 12 NCAA appearances under his belt, including a trip to the World Series in 2015 with Arkansas. In the last four years, Vitello has recruited and produced three SEC All-Freshman players. Currie seems to be high on him:
I believe that Coach Vitello is the right person to build our program into a perennial contender and bring championship baseball back to Knoxville.
The hire comes as somewhat of a surprise, given that many fans wanted VFL Chris Burke or even former assistant Ash Lawson. But as we’ve seen with Currie, he seems to make moves that people don’t see coming.
Although Vitello has never been a head coach at this level, he does seem to have potential. He’s a fairly young guy and has shown the ability to recruit at an elite level. In terms of actual coaching and managing, that’s yet to be seen. Currie is going against the grain and it’s kind of refreshing to see. For now, we’ll all just have to take the wait-and-see approach with this hire.