"Just know, 1976 was the last time Washington State's been to Omaha. I think that’s far too long."
Welcome to Pullman, Marty Lees.
Less than a week and a half after athletic director Bill Moos opened the position of head baseball coach by firing Donnie Marbut, he was standing at the podium introducing his new coach Wednesday. Moos is famous for always keeping a short list of coaches on hand should he find himself in need of a new one. He zeroed in on hiring Lees quickly, praising his reputation with baseball experts around the country.
"I got my guy," Moos said. "I think he’s the perfect fit for Washington State baseball. Not only is he a proven champion at two different schools, he’s a native of the Northwest."
Lees comes to Pullman from Stillwater, where he served as an assistant coach and recruiting coordinator at Oklahoma State. When Lees got there, he found a program in bad shape but Moos was impressed with that coaching staff's ability to right a sinking ship quickly.
"That program was in disarray; there were all kinds of problems," said Moos. "Their first year getting that program back together and getting that culture changed, they finished up second in the Big 12. The following year, they won the conference championship. Here you have a coach who has been part of two programs that were really built. A lot of similarities with Washington State at Oregon State and Oklahoma State."
Moos also praised Lees' coaching prowess and baseball publications certainly back him up: Lees was recently ranked as the sixth best assistant coach in the country by Baseball America. Before his stint in Stillwater, Lees served as an assistant and recruiting coordinator under Pat Casey at Oregon State, where the Beavers won two straight national titles and had 30 all-conference players during Lees' tenure.
Lees' is the 15th coach in Washington State's history but just the seventh since Arthur "Buck" Bailey was hired in 1927. For nearly seven decades after that, WSU's coaching stability was unlike any you'd find anywhere. After Bailey left following the 1961 season, Arthur "Bobo" Brayton would take the reigns for another 32 years.
"The history at Washington State is very big," said Lees. "You look at (Bailey and Brayton), and I had a chance to play that team at the very end. To see that I'm coming into an area where people like that have coached is very, very humbling. To take over for coaches like that, I'm forever honored and grateful."
Before his departure from Washington State ten days ago, Donnie Marbut told Jacob Thorpe of The Spokesman Review he was "disappointed" with the lack of support he was getting from the athletic department when it came to fundraising. While Marbut's comments may be seen as a parting shot at Moos', his concerns over the lack of facilities at Washington State aren't unfounded. Washington recently rebuilt their stadium and erected a new clubhouse while Oregon spent millions revitalizing their program.
WSU is behind in the facilities race; the ten minute walk from the locker rooms in Bohler to Bailey-Brayton Field for practice is proof enough. But Lees' doesn't think they're the most important thing when it comes to recruiting.
"I think there is something out there kids are turning to," Lees said. "However, I was just at two places that were built from scratch. When I think about facilities and I see the way recruiting is going, I think about a parent investing. I think about them investing in a coach. Those things to me are the most important things. Everything you have that's nicer than someone else is good. (Parents) want a good experience and a good education. Those are the things I know we're going to provide."
The Lakeview, Oregon native says he'll spend some time in the coming days putting a staff together and reaching out to players currently on the team to try and make them feel comfortable with the transition. After that, Lees says the team will be taking the rebuilding effort one day at a time.
It's a tough rebuilding effort to take on in your first head coaching position. But listening to Lees talk, he sounds like he wants it to be his last.
"We grew up in a small town and I want to be raising my kids in a place that is fun," said Lees. "A place that they can learn the same things we did growing up.
"We can win a championship here. There's no question."