It does not take long while listening to the Oklahoma Sooners Skip Johnson on the College Baseball Now podcast to realize why University of Oklahoma Vice President and Athletics Director Joe Castiglione hired Johnson as the 10th head coach of the OU baseball program on June 19, 2017.
In the College Baseball Now podcast, Johnson gives listeners insight into the Sooner baseball program, including outfielder Steele Walker, who spent this past summer on USA Baseball’s Collegiate National Team and will enter the 2018 college baseball campaign as one of the top players in the game. He also talks about developing confidence in players and describes the type of players who wants in the Sooner program. He also discusses his career, which includes spending 10 years on the staff at the University of Texas with legendary head coach Augie Garrido.
Johnson served as the Sooners’ pitching coach in 2017 after a 25-year coaching career in the state of Texas, including the most recent 10 years as an assistant and associate head coach at the University of Texas. As the Sooners’ pitching coach this past spring, he helped OU to its first NCAA Tournament appearance since 2013.
“It’s an exciting new day for Sooner baseball with the hiring of Skip Johnson as our head coach,” said Castiglione. “Once our search got underway last week, we spoke to many people throughout the youth, college and professional baseball worlds about the candidates we were considering, and the information gleaned from those conversations further validated our belief that Skip is the right and the best choice for our program now and going forward.
“Our main focus with any coaching search is making decisions grounded in what’s best for our student-athletes and our program overall. Skip emerged as the best candidate and he’s diligently prepared for this special opportunity. We obviously got to know Skip this past year as a member of our coaching staff, but we also know about his career of success, his previous head coaching experience and him being mentored by the winningest coach in the history of college baseball, Augie Garrido. Skip’s been part of championships and he’s been to Omaha. That’s where we want to be. Knowing the passion he possesses, he will hit the ground running. We’re looking forward to officially introducing him as our head coach at tomorrow’s news conference.”
Johnson made an immediate impact on the Sooner pitching staff last season. Oklahoma pitchers surrendered the least amount of home runs in the Big 12 Conference in 2017, and combined for 531 strikeouts to rank fourth in the league and fourth in OU single-season history. The Sooners’ 9.26 strikeouts per nine innings ranked second in the conference. As a team, OU pitchers struck out 10 or more batters on 24 occasions.
Sooner pitchers combined for 17 starts of six innings or more in 2017, including the first two games of the Louisville Regional. Last week, three Oklahoma pitchers were selected in the Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft. Sooner closer JB Olson was drafted in the 10th round to extend a string of seven straight years with an Oklahoma player chosen in the first 10 rounds. OU saw starter Devon Perez and reliever Vincenzo Aiello selected on day three of the draft.
“I’d like to thank the OU Board of Regents, President David Boren, Joe Castiglione and (Senior Associate AD) Greg Tipton for giving me this opportunity to lead the University of Oklahoma baseball program, and for the confidence in me they’ve shown,” said Johnson. “More than anything, I’m honored. As head coach at OU, I’m going to do everything I can to make our alumni and our fan base very proud. We’re going to recruit and develop student-athletes who possess the intangibles and the heart necessary to win conference and national championships, we’re going to abide by a set of core values that our players will clearly understand, and we’ll have a player program that is going to develop young men on and off the field. OU baseball is going to be here for a long, long time, and I’m excited and honored to have the opportunity to leave a positive mark on this tradition-rich program.”
Johnson was hired as the pitching coach at Texas for the 2007 season under Augie Garrido, who stepped down from his position as the winningest coach in college baseball in May 2016 to take on new duties in the UT athletics department. In 10 seasons, Johnson helped the Longhorns to seven NCAA Regional appearances, four Super Regionals and three College World Series appearances.
During his tenure in Austin, 32 Texas pitchers were selected in the MLB Draft, including 14 in the first 10 rounds and three first-round picks. Johnson also oversaw the development of six Longhorn pitchers who have made it to the big leagues. The Texas pitching staff produced a team earned run average below 3.00 on five occasions and struck out better than 7.5 per-nine-innings in five of his last eight seasons. As Texas reached its second CWS with Johnson on staff in 2011, his pitchers led the Big 12 in ERA (2.35), batting average against (.198) and strikeouts per nine innings (8.28).
Prior to his time in Austin, Johnson was the head coach at Navarro College of the NJCAA’s Texas Eastern Athletic Conference. From 1994-2006, he guided the Bulldogs to 13 NJCAA Regionals, nine TEAC championships and four regional titles while compiling 450 wins.
Johnson has also mentored a number of players outside of those he coached at Navarro and UT. Johnson regularly works with three-time Cy Young Award winner Clayton Kershaw of the Los Angeles Dodgers and Homer Bailey of the Cincinnati Reds. He’s also worked with Chris Davis of the Baltimore Orioles, among others.
A standout baseball player at Denton High School, Johnson began his collegiate playing career at Ranger (Texas) College. After a two-year career there, Johnson moved on to play baseball at the University of North Texas in 1988 before the school dropped its baseball program. He completed his collegiate playing career at UT-Pan American, lettering for the Broncs in 1989 and receiving his bachelor’s degree in 1990. Johnson earned a master’s degree in education from UT-Tyler in 1993.
A native of Denton, Texas, Johnson and his wife, Cathy, have two sons, Tyler and Garrett.