SALT LAKE CITY (Utah Athletics) – Gary Henderson, the NCBWA 2018 National Coach of the Year, has been named the ninth head baseball coach at the University of Utah, Director of Athletics Mark Harlan announced on Wednesday.
Henderson has been the Associate Head Coach at Utah the past two seasons to go along with 31 years of coaching experience at elite programs across the country. The seasoned veteran has coached at the University of Florida, Oregon State, University of Kentucky and Mississippi State prior to coming to Utah.
“It was extremely gratifying to have the high level of interest in this search,” said Mark Harlan, Director of Athletics. “Coaches from prominent programs across the country were involved and spoken to. However, as we all analyzed the candidates, it became clear that we had someone very special on our coaching staff. To have a coach of Gary Henderson‘s caliber and experience, who also has such familiarity with the young men in our program, makes him an ideal leader for the next era of Utah Baseball. He has produced tremendous results both as a head coach and pitching coach with some of the premiere programs in the most competitive conferences in the nation, along with recruiting and coaching many young men who have gone on to major league careers. In his two years as our associate head coach he has demonstrated all of the qualities that translate to success, and I’m thrilled that he is the new head coach for our program.”
Henderson joined the Utah program on June 20, 2019 and has already started making an impact in his two years with the program.
“The last two years have been wonderful to immerse myself into the Utah athletics family,” Henderson said. “It has been a joy to develop relationships with our student-athletes and I am excited for the opportunity to continue to help them reach their academic, athletic and personal goals. This community, campus and city make the University of Utah one of the best places to be in collegiate athletics. I can’t thank Mark Harlan, Charmelle Green and Steve Smith enough for the opportunity to lead this program.”
Henderson takes over for Bill Kinneberg, who retired after the 2021 season after leading the program for 18 years.
“I have known Bill Kinneberg for 35 years and consider him a great friend, colleague and mentor,” Henderson said. “The ability to lead a program that he has invested so much in over the last two decades is an honor. Bill has always done things the right way and I am eager to continue to build on his legacy, one that includes the first Pac-12 Championship in program history.”
“Vicki and I are truly honored to be given such a wonderful opportunity. We cannot wait to get back out on the field at Smith’s, the best setting in college baseball.”
After serving as the pitching coach at Mississippi State from 2016-17, Henderson became the interim head coach for the Bulldogs for the 2018 season and led the program to the College World Series in thrilling fashion.
After dropping their opening game in the Tallahassee Regional, Henderson led the Bulldogs to four straight wins to advance to the Super Regionals against Vanderbilt in Nashville. Mississippi State advanced to the College World Series when they took down Vandy in three games and the Bulldogs went on to win their first two games in Omaha, before falling to eventual national champion Oregon State twice in the semifinals.
The success he had as interim coach at Mississippi State came as no surprise, as he had been one of the most successful coaches in the University of Kentucky’s baseball history from 2003-2008 as an assistant and 2009-2016 as the head coach. The Wildcats won at least 30 games in five-straight seasons for the first time in school history. The team set the program record for wins on three separate occasions and rose to No. 1 in the nation for three weeks in 2012 for the first time in school history. He was voted SEC Coach of the Year by his peers after the school’s record-breaking 2012 season. In 2006, the program won its first and only SEC Championship in baseball under the guidance of Henderson and John Cohen.
Henderson reached 200 wins faster than any head coach in Kentucky history. In his tenure with the Wildcats, 72 players were picked in the MLB Draft or signed as free agents.
Well known for his ability to produce Major League talent on the mound, eight of Henderson’s pitching protégés have reached the Majors since 2012.
Prior to Kentucky, Henderson spent five seasons as pitching coach and recruiting coordinator at Oregon State. The Beavers notched the school’s first College World Series titles in 2006 and 2007, riding the arms of several players recruited by Henderson. The most notable was CWS MVP Kevin Gunderson, who pitched a brilliant postseason in leading the Beavers to the title.
At Oregon State, Henderson coached eight Beaver pitchers who were drafted by major league teams, five of whom were selected in the top eight rounds. With the help of Henderson’s recruiting efforts, the Beavers improved from 19 wins in 1999 to 31 in both the 2001 and 2002 seasons, finishing 31-24 and 31-23, respectively. In his time with the Beavers, two of Henderson’s recruiting classes were ranked among the top 30 nationally. Meanwhile, his pitching staff led the Pac-10 Conference in complete games in both the 2000 and 2001 seasons.
Before Oregon State, Henderson served as pitching coach and recruiting coordinator for the high-octane Florida Gators from 1995-98. In that time, he helped the Gators to the SEC Championship and the College World Series in both 1996 and 1998. Collegiate Baseball awarded national rankings to all four of Henderson’s recruiting classes at Florida, including a No. 4 spot in 1996. The 1996 season also saw Collegiate Baseball tab Henderson as the National Assistant Coach of the Year.
In his playing days, Henderson pitched one year at Linfield College before transferring to San Diego State. He compiled a 19-5 career record at the two schools, earning his first career win in a road matchup at Southern California.
“I want to thank our search committee of Charmelle Green, Steve Smith and Henry Ruggierofor their outstanding work on this hire, and extend my gratitude to our Faculty Athletics Representative, Karen Paisley, who has been so instrumental in our recent coaching searches,” Harlan said.