Editor's note: Previous publishing has been updated to reflect the correct franchise associated with Miami.
In early June, the Oregon State Athletics Department officially opened the national search for the open position of OSU Baseball head coach. On June 14, OSU Athletic Director Scott Barnes held a press conference and introduced the new head coach as former OSU Baseball catcher Mitch Canham.
Canham joins the ranks of two other OSU alumni as head coaches for an OSU athletic team. Canham was an OSU Baseball catcher from 2004-2007 and was part of OSU Baseball’s 2006 and 2007 NCAA National Championship teams. OSU Women’s Basketball head coach Scott Rueck attended OSU from 1987-1992, including both undergraduate and graduate school, and OSU Football head coach Jonathan Smith was the quarterback for the OSU Football team from 1998-2001. Smith was part of the 2000 team which won the PAC-10 championship and the Fiesta Bowl.
Canham is taking the role as head coach following a few years as a manager for minor league programs. He was the 57th overall draft pick in the MLB Draft in 2007 for the San Diego Padres. After a few years with different minor league programs, Canham became the manager for one of the Miami Marlins’ minor league programs in 2016. He then was a manager for the Seattle Mariners minor league programs from 2017-2018. His position as the OSU Baseball head coach is his first job within collegiate athletics.
When asked about how his experience as a manager in the minor league programs would benefit his experience as head coach, Canham referenced the similarities of juggling multiple responsibilities. He spoke about how the responsibilities have developed his ability to balance and attack tasks.
“You learn the value of communication, you learn the value of organization,” Canham said about working as a manager and transitioning to head coach. “You’re always on the move and playing every day of the week, week in and week out. You build a lot of mental toughness and endurance on how to go about these things. You have to be present.”
Canham understands the importance of continuing the culture and legacy of former OSU Baseball head coach Pat Casey, who retired at the end of the 2018 season, and OSU Baseball assistant head coach Pat Bailey. Bailey was the interim head coach for the 2019 season.
“To not get too far ahead,” Canham said when describing his goal for the upcoming season. “At the end of the day, the [goal of the] season is to get trophy in Omaha, but really you don’t do that unless you raise the trophy each and every day at practice, in classes, and on the field. The goal for myself and each player is to stay present in the moment and to serve each other.”
Smith looks to begin his second full season as OSU Football head coach. In his first season, Smith led the team to their first away game win since October 2014 and first conference win since November 2016 when the team gained victory in Colorado on October 27, 2018. The team finished with a record of two wins and 10 losses.
When asked about how his experience has been thus far as a head coach, Smith reflected on how it has well lived up to his expectations.
“I can draw from my past experiences as a student-athlete at OSU and describe what it is like to a potential recruit and their families, and to current team members,” Smith said via email about being a head coach for his alma mater. “The memories I have from the community support of this university and specifically the football program, continue today. I’m honored to be the head football coach at my alma mater and I’m excited about the prospects of this program.”
Bringing knowledge and experience as a former OSU student-athlete, Smith’s experiences with former coaches and successes as influences as a head coach now.
“When I first came to OSU, the football program hadn’t had a lot of success on the field, Smith said. “Coach Riley and Coach Erickson changed the culture, created an atmosphere where you could be successful and otherwise stressed the positives that Oregon State offers. Both those coaches have had a tremendous influence on how I envision this program moving forward.”
Rueck will enter his 10th season as the OSU Women’s Basketball head coach. His record to date with the program has been 205 with 96 losses. The team has had six appearances in the NCAA Women’s Basketball tournament under Rueck, including two NCAA Sweet Sixteen, one NCAA Elite Eight, and one NCAA Final Four appearances.
As an OSU alumnus, Rueck also reflected on his experience being a head coach for his alma mater. Rueck addressed this question in a recent podcast episode by Pamplin NW Sports Podcast with the Portland Tribune’s Kerry Eggers. The episode aired on June 25 and is accessible on the podcast’s page on SoundCloud.
“I’m fortunate,” Rueck said via the podcast on coaching at his alma mater. “I understand this place, and I see the value in it. I think there’s so much power in being able to work at a place that you know so well, and that is actually a part of who you are. My love affair for this place has continued to grow. It means the world to be able to share this place with other people, and for them to have incredible experiences like our athletes are having.”
Eggers asked Rueck about the program’s ability to win a national title at some point. With six NCAA Women’s Basketball Tournament appearances for a program that struggled when he began the job, Rueck looks forward and sets high goals for the team.
“I say why not? That’s my opinion,” Rueck said about the program’s future. “I’m a ‘why not’ kind of guy. I’ve learned that’s the only way to live. I learned a long time ago to never limit yourself and anything’s possible. That’s the platform we operate from here so that’s my expectation. I want to make this a destination for women’s basketball. We’re recruiting from around the world so I would say, why not us?”