Bob Macaluso acknowledges he joined Bill Kernen’s coaching staff at Cal State Bakersfield a year ago to perhaps lay the groundwork to eventually become the Roadrunners’ head baseball coach.
That came to fruition Monday. Macaluso, 51, was introduced as Kernen’s successor before an Icardo Room crammed with his players and CSUB administrators, athletics department staff, boosters and students.
“Every coach would like to become a head coach of a Division I program,” said Macaluso, who spent nine seasons as a head coach at Division III Muhlenberg College (Pa.) from 1998-2006.
Kernen initially retired in the spring of 2014 but decided to come back for what many figured to be a one-year extension.
“I knew it was going to be his last year,” Macaluso said. “I’m not getting any younger. I’ve been coaching for a long time. I’ve been an assistant for a long time.
“I saw the opportunity. I knew the players in Bakersfield. I knew there was a chance to win. And, yeah, if things fell in the right place, maybe I would be considered for the position. So here we are a year later.”
Macaluso was among 20 candidates who applied for the job. He was one of four finalists. The others were lead assistants Jason Dietrich from Cal State Fullerton and Jordon Twohig from Cal State Northridge and Southeast Missouri State head coach Steve Bieser.
Ziggy Siegfried, CSUB’s athletic director, said Macaluso will have a three-year contract and added that financial terms have not been finalized.
“We had great candidates,” Siegfried said. “Those lead assistants are going to be head coaches one day. We just made the decision that Bob, with his experience and with him already understanding our program, that he was the right guy.”
CSUB is coming off a 37-24-1 season in which it won the Western Athletic Conference Tournament to earn the seven-season program’s first appearance in an NCAA Tournament. CSUB recorded the first D-I NCAA Tournament win in any sport when it eliminated Ole Miss 2-1 on May 30 at the UCLA Regional. Kernen announced his retirement — for good — shortly thereafter.
“I’m excited,” said Max Carter, a sophomore pitcher and first baseman. “It is tough losing coach Kernen, but coach Mac was with us last year. He’s been one of our coaches. We’ve already accepted him as our head coach. We’re all excited. He knows us; he knows how we play. He’ll do a great job.”
Macaluso was CSUB’s third base coach last season and was responsible for the offense and infielders. Kernen oversaw the pitchers, and Macaluso said he plans on adding a coach to his staff who will work with pitchers and catchers.
“I have not offered the job to anyone,” Macaluso said. “I have been on the road talking to coaches, and coaches have called me.”
Alex Hoover, who joined the CSUB staff a year ago, will return as an assistant, Macaluso said, and he said he hopes that Richie Escalera, a volunteer assistant last season, also will return.
The 30-player roster for the 2015-16 season is complete with 12 new players.
“My strengths are my on-field coaching, managing the game and connecting with my players,” Macaluso said. “I know the strengths and weaknesses of the players. They know how I coach and what I teach and what I want. … There shouldn’t be a hiccup.”
Macaluso said his goal is for all of his players to have at least a 3.0 grade-point average.
“The priorities will be for every student to earn a degree and develop into an elite level baseball player with the possibility of playing professionally,” he said.
Macaluso earned his undergraduate and master’s degrees in physical education from Springfield College (Mass.), where he was an infielder and pitcher.
He was an assistant at UC Irvine for seven seasons before his arrival at CSUB. Macaluso also spent a year as an assistant coach at Cal State Los Angeles following his nine-season stint as the Muhlenberg head coach, where his teams went 144-156-3.
He also managed for five seasons in the Cape Cod Baseball League and began his coaching career as a high school coach in Massachusetts.