Shockers alum Dirks talks Stephenson's departure
DETROIT -- It's easy to name the top college coaches in football and basketball -- Mike Krzyzewski, Nick Saban and Urban Meyer all come quickly to mind. When it comes to college baseball, Gene Stephenson enjoyed that same pillar of success at Wichita State, but he announced on Tuesday that he had been dismissed with a year remaining on his contract.
During his 36-year career, Stephenson managed more than 50 All-Americans, including outfielder Andy Dirks. He led the Shockers to 28 NCAA tournament appearances, 20 regular-season conference championships and a national championship in 1989.
"Everything comes to an end eventually, and he did a great job while he was there," said Dirks, who led the Shockers to back-to-back regional appearances in 2007 and 2008. "I know that he's going to be very proud of what he's done throughout his whole career and what he's done for the community. You know those are things that bring a city together. He brought a lot of really good moments, and a lot of national attention to Wichita."
This season the Shockers won the Missouri Valley Conference Tournament before being defeated by Kansas State and Arkansas in the NCAA tournament.
"I don't know if it's just one of those things. You know, sometimes people get a little spoiled, I guess, and they were looking for a change," Dirks said. "Everything hasn't gone the way the school and community has wanted the last few years, but he did a great job, and he was obviously a huge figure in the community, and he'll move on."
Stephenson coached multiple Major Leaguers throughout his tenure, including Joe Carter, Eric Wedge, Darren Dreifort, Casey Blake and Mike Pelfrey. Wichita State disbanded the baseball program after the 1970 season before Stephenson helped restart it in 1977.
"Those are things that won't ever be forgotten," Dirks said. "The facilities there and the way the community rallies around the baseball team are pretty much all because of what he's done and what he's been able to do there."