O'Connor working with pitchers as UVA seeks Kuhn's replacement

CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (CBS19 SPORTS) -- The Virginia baseball program began fall workouts this week with head coach Brian O'Connor overseeing the Cavaliers' pitching staff.

"I'm taking over the pitching and handling it this fall, until we get somebody here that's going to be the best fit for our baseball program," O'Connor confirmed before a bullpen session on Wednesday afternoon.

O'Connor's 17th season as UVA's head coach will be his first without former pitching coach Karl Kuhn, who left the program last week to become the new head coach at Radford. O'Connor said Wednesday that Kuhn will be "dearly missed" at Disharoon Park.

"Karl has made as much of an impact on our baseball program, the success of our baseball program the last 16 years as anybody," O'Connor said. "He made such a huge impact with our pitching staff and our program as a whole, and recruiting, and everything that he did."

This fall will be O'Connor's first time working full-time with a college coaching staff since spending nine seasons as the pitching coach at Notre Dame, under current LSU head coach Paul Mainieri -- a run that ended when O'Connor was hired at UVA prior to the 2004 season. O'Connor also served as Mainieri's pitching coach with the USA Baseball Collegiate National Team last summer.

O'Connor said Wednesday that he had no timetable for finding a replacement for Kuhn. He conceded that the search could be complicated by the timing of Kuhn's departure, with fall semesters starting at schools around the country.

"I'm taking my time to assess who's out there, who's available to potentially take this job. Having some conversations with people that I trust," O'Connor said. "This is one of the attractive jobs in this country, to be the pitching coach at the University of Virginia. And I'm sure we'll find somebody that can do a very, very high-quality job."

Kuhn's UVA pitching staffs ranked in the top 20 nationally in nine of his 16 seasons as pitching coach. The 2011 team led the country with a 2.24 ERA, while the 2014 team finished with a 2.23 ERA that finished second nationally and was the lowest at the school in 40 years. Kuhn was on staff for all four of UVA's College World Series teams, including the 2015 national championship season.

But UVA pitchers have struggled since that 2015 NCAA title run, finishing with a team ERA above 4.00 in each of the past four seasons. This year's staff ranked 121st nationally with a 4.68 ERA, as the Cavaliers missed the NCAA tournament for a second straight year after 14 straight postseason appearances.

O'Connor said Kuhn's departure could prompt the UVA coaching staff to reassess its methods heading into the 2020 season.

"There's an adjustment period, but there can be good things that can come from change," he said. "And sometimes when changes happen, we're maybe forced to do things that we haven't traditionally had to do. And look at the program as a whole, and how can we make improvements."



 
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