Feb. 27, 2003
by Simit Shah
Danny Hall is a winner. Tech’s 48-year-old baseball coach has never been a part of a losing team, spanning from his playing days in Little League to Miami University, and then his coaching career at Miami, Michigan, Kent State and Georgia Tech.
“I can’t remember one,” said Hall, whose 2003 squad is 6-0 and ranked No. 1 in the nation. “From Little League on up, I can’t remember a losing season. I just hope I never have one.”
Hall’s Yellow Jackets opens their 2003 home schedule on Friday, Feb. 28 against George Washington at 4 p.m. at Russ Chandler Stadium
There’s been very little losing since Hall came to Georgia Tech 10 seasons ago. The Jackets have won nearly 70 percent of their games under Hall, who last week registered his 400th career victory at Tech.
It was another impressive entry on his coaching resume. Interestingly enough, that’s how Hall made his first contact with Georgia Tech. Just like any other prospective job candidate, he submitted his resume.
It was the fall of 1993, and Hall was the head coach at Kent State in northeast Ohio. The Coolville, Ohio native had led the Golden Flashes program to two consecutive Mid-American Conference championships and NCAA Tournament appearances in six seasons following eight years as an assistant at Michigan.
Tech coach Jim Morris had just left to take over at the University of Miami, and Hall was intrigued by the opportunity to come to Atlanta.
He had no connection to the school, so he sent his resume to Dr. Homer Rice, director of athletics at the time. Hall also spoke to his friend Ray Tanner, then N.C. State’s head coach, who advised him to contact Tech alum Randy Carroll, the chairman of the search committee.
Hall didn’t have Carroll’s contact information, so he pulled out a Tech media guide and found an advertisement for Mountain National Bank, whose president and CEO is Carroll. He called the bank and spoke to Carroll about the opening.
After sending a resume and a Kent State media guide to Carroll, Hall did what most prospective job candidates do–he followed up with a phone call.
“Randy said, ‘Everybody else that has applied for this job, I know them personally, I’ve seen them play as a player, or I’ve seen their teams play against Georgia Tech. I don’t know a darn thing about you.’
“You don’t know how to take that, but I took it in a positive way,” remembered Hall.
They spoke for a while, and a few days later Hall landed an interview.
Dr. Rice had come to Tech from the Cincinnati Bengals, so he had some ties to the Ohio area and had heard positive things about Hall. The interview went well, and Rice voiced his support to the search committee.
“He asked them, ‘The guy at Kent State, is he winning?’ They said yes, he’s winning. So he said, ‘Well, he must be a good coach, because there’s no reason to win at Kent State.'”
In his first season at the helm of Tech’s program, Hall found himself with a loaded roster that featured five all-Americans including Nomar Garciaparra, Jason Varitek and Jay Payton.
The best team in Tech’s history made it all the way to the final game of the College World Series, raising the expectations surrounding the program.
“That team has set the standard, because it was the first Tech team to make it to the College World Series, and they played for the national championship,” Hall noted. “The only higher place to finish is first.”
Hall has since led the team to NCAA Tournament appearance seven more times, including a second College World Series berth last year. Tech has been ranked number one in the nation three times, including this season, during his tenure. The burden of having success year in and year out is a weighty one, but Hall wouldn’t have it any other way.
“We have a chance every year to compete at that national level,” he explained. “That’s what you want as a coach, and that’s what you want as a player.
“Anybody would want to coach in the situation I’m in. I realize that. I’m thankful that I have the opportunity to work with great players, guys that are interested in going to school, as well as guys that have an interest in going on to pro baseball. I feel like I can influence their lives in a lot of directions.”
Hall’s ability to attract top talent has allowed the program to reload each season. Younger players have been able to step in on an annual basis and thrive within Hall’s system.
“He knows the game of baseball, and he does a good job of keeping us focused and moving toward one goal–winning a national championship,” said senior pitcher Jeff Watchko.
Winning a national title is the primary goal that drives Hall, so he predictably downplayed his milestone victory. “To me, it was just another game,” he said. “We’ve had a lot of good players here. Anyone that gets to 400 means they’ve had good players, as well as good coaches.
“It also means you’re getting older,” he added with a smile.