Column: Pierce primed to navigate Longhorns culture

Michael Shapiro

A head coach at Texas has two jobs. There’s the work that’s done on the field or court with the team, but there’s also another aspect of the gig: a head coach’s role as schmoozer-in-chief. 

The athletic culture surrounding the 40 Acres often resembles a circus. Longhorn coaches answer directly to men’s athletics director Mike Perrin and women’s athletics director Chris Plonsky, but also to the litany of boosters, donors and contributors who want a piece of the burnt orange pie. 

David Pierce was introduced to the media on June 30 as the fifth head baseball coach since 1911, tasked with replacing the legendary Augie Garrido. Garrido was beloved in Austin not just for his extensive list of accomplishments — including two national titles at Texas — but also for his conversational nature and affability toward those associated with the program. 

“I want to recognize coach Garrido for building this wonderful program,” Pierce said in his introductory press conference. “I’m privileged and honored to follow [him] and hopefully lead this program to great things.”

With Garrido now out of the dugout, it’s Pierce’s turn to lead the Longhorns. And while he has massive shoes to fill in Disch, he doesn’t face anything near the type of uphill battle Charlie Strong faced after being named head coach of the football program in 2014. 

Strong was hired following an exhaustive search, which included the pursuit of Alabama head coach Nick Saban. Many lauded Texas for selecting Strong, but things were far from amicable behind the scenes. Boosters like Red McCombs criticized the University for failing to involve them in the decision process.

But there was no kicking and screaming when Pierce was deemed the man to lead a scuffling Longhorns squad. Pierce had significant success at Tulane and Sam Houston State, winning his conference four times in five years. 

“I’ve known David for a number of years since he’s been at Rice,” Sam Houston State head coach Matt Deggs said. “It’s not a surprise to me that he’s at Texas. One thing you can count on with [Pierce] is his teams are going to to compete and put a very complete team on the field.”

Pierce’s ability to build programs may be even more important than his winning resume. Pierce was noted for his hands-on approach at Sam Houston State, taking part in everything from groundskeeping to fundraising. 

“[Pierce] really raised the bar and set a very high standard for the program,” Deggs said. “His imprint was multi-faceted. It was from a fundraising standpoint, a facility standpoint, and with the product on the field.”

Baseball may not hold the same acclaim as basketball or football in Texas athletics, but it’s a pressure cooker nonetheless. Expectations are high, and Pierce will have a bevy of responsibilities on his plate. But he seems ready to become the face of the Texas program, shaking hands before he can start accumulating wins.