Image Courtesy: Best of Arkansas Sports
Arkansas baseball coach Dave Van Horn has had as much success as anyone in the country. Van Horn has led Arkansas to multiple College Baseball World Series appearances, but he has not won the elusive College World Series title. He will probably coach at least until he wins it, but now that the legendary coach is 60 years old, he could retire at any time. When that time comes, here are the coaches that would be the top candidates to follow in Van Horn’s footsteps:
Tony Vitello, Tennessee head coach
Tony Vitello assisted Dave Van Horn on Arkansas’ coaching staff from 2014-2017. In four seasons in Fayetteville, Arkansas made it to the NCAA Tournament two times and made one appearance in Omaha. Vitello’s infamous Volunteers team that went 57-9 during the 2022 season raised many questions in college baseball but also vastly increased the viewership of the sport during the postseason. The Vols fell just a game short of the College World Series after losing in game 3 of the Knoxville Super Regional to Notre Dame. But, Vitello’s recruiting prowess, past at Arkansas, and relationship with Dave Van Horn make a lot of sense for the hogs to potentially hire him.
Wes Johnson, LSU pitching coach
Johnson was the pitching coach for the hogs from 2015-2018 and as a Sherwood, Arkansas native, was a true asset to Dave Van Horn during his time in Fayetteville. Following the 2018 season, Wes was hired away by the Minnesota Twins organization to be the same position. He was the first college coach to be hired by an MLB team since 1980 at the time. He is headed back to the college ranks as he has been hired by second year LSU coach Jay Johnson. Johnson makes the most sense to replace Van Horn because of his experience in both college baseball and the MLB.
Matt Hobbs, Arkansas pitching coach
Since 2019, Matt Hobbs has been one of the most underrated pitching coaches in college baseball in Fayetteville. Of course, Hobbs is most well known for the development of terrific (mostly) relief pitcher Kevin Kopps, who won the 2021 Golden Spikes Award and Dick Howser Trophy, which are both awarded to the best player in college baseball annually. It would not be surprising if Hobbs is picked to replace his boss but expect Arkansas athletic director Hunter Yurachek to commit to a more national search for the future of the baseball program.
All three of these coaches are viable options but I would expect it to be Wes Johnson. With Johnson being from Arkansas and his MLB coaching experience, I expect Yurachek’s top option has to be the now LSU pitching coach.