OXFORD, Miss. (WCBI/Ole Miss Athletics) – Mike Smith, who led the McNeese State softball program to three-straight 30-plus win seasons in his three years with the Cowgirls, has been named the head softball coach at Ole Miss, athletics director Ross Bjork announced Thursday.
Smith, who led McNeese State to back-to-back Southland Conference regular season championships in 2013 and 2014, its first since 1994, brings 16 years of head coaching experience to Oxford and a career record of 748-224. He has been named the Southland Conference Coach of the Year in each of the past two seasons.
“As our process unfolded, it became crystal clear Mike Smith is the perfect fit to build our softball program into a contender in the SEC and on the national stage,” Bjork said. “His contagious persona, energy, passion and knowledge of the game of softball was evident within minutes of our first meeting. Recruiting is key in college athletics and Mike has the right relationships to showcase Ole Miss to the best and brightest around the country. Mike is highly regarded in the softball world and he is simply a winner in all aspects of coaching and life. We are excited to welcome Mike, Ellen, Ashlee and Tyler to the Ole Miss family.”
“From the first contact with Lynnette Johnson and Ross to every individual person I met, including the committee, I felt like it was home and family,” Smith said. “They made my family feel welcome and part of a family. It just felt like home. Family comes first and that was a big decision for us. There was no second guessing. It was a great fit for the Smith family.”
“We want to try to win right away,” said Smith about the Ole Miss softball program. “We will be committed to doing everything we can to being successful and that starts with myself and my staff going out and recruiting the best payers locally and across the country. We’re going to be as good as we can be and do all the small things. It’s not about the outcome, it’s about the process. It’ll be a tough process at first, but the goal at the end is to be a successful program. Something I’ve instilled everywhere I’ve been is to be the best you can be 100 percent of the time and give it your all and the rest will take care of itself.”
The Cowgirls went 40-17 during the regular season in 2014, a school record for wins in a season, and posted a 3-1 record against Southeastern Conference opponents Alabama, LSU and Texas A&M. The Cowgirls finished the season with an RPI ranking of No. 46 and won the Southland Conference regular season title by 4.5 games with a 20-6 record.
In addition to Smith being named SLC Coach of the Year in 2014, the Cowgirls also had the conference’s player of the year, hitter of the year and pitcher of the year. In all, the Cowgirls had nine players named to either the SLC first, second, third or honorable mention teams.
Under Smith’s tutelage, the Cowgirls had two players named to the National Fastpitch Coaches Association Division I All-South Region team this season in outfielder Alanna DiVittorio and pitcher Jamie Allred.
In 2013, his second season with McNeese State, Smith had five players named to the All-SLC team and four named to the All-SLC Academic Team. On the field, the Cowgirls tied a then-program record with 38 wins, going 38-13.
In his first season with McNeese State in 2012, Smith led the Cowgirls to a 3-1 win over Arizona State, the defending national champions and preseason No. 1 team in the country at the Kajikawa Classic in Tempe, Arizona. McNeese State went on to go 34-21 that season.
Prior to McNeese State, Smith coached for eight seasons at California Baptist where he won the NAIA National Championship in 2009, and finished in the top-six in the country all eight years, including seven years finishing inside the top-four. The Lancers won their conference championship and advanced to the NAIA World Series all eight years, and won 60 or more games in each of Smith’s final four seasons, concluding with a school-record 66 wins in 2011.
Smith was the interim head coach at UC Riverside prior to his time at California Baptist, and in the four years prior to that he served as head coach at Biola, where he won one league title, had a 50-win season and a 10th-place finish at the NAIA World Series.
In 2011, he served as the head coach of the USA team that played in the Prague International Softball Championships.
A graduate of The Master’s College in Santa Clarita, California, Smith was a two-time all-district pitcher on the college baseball team and went on to play in the St. Louis Cardinals organization, reaching the Class AA level. He also played for a number of independent league teams from 1994 to 2001.
Smith was a Western Baseball League Pitcher of the Year with the Mission Viejo (Calif.) team in both 1997 and 1998, and in 2000 was the MVP of the WBL championship series with the St. George team.
Smith also served as a pitching coach for the Biola baseball team from 1996-1998, and was a teacher and coach at Heritage Christian School in Anaheim, California, from 1993-96, where he was head coach for baseball and boys and girls basketball teams, an assistant coach in football and an assistant athletic director.
A San Diego native, Smith and his wife, Ellen, have two children, Ashlee and Tyler.