Through 11 seasons as UCLA’s head coach, John Savage has established the Bruins as a consistent national championship contender. Savage helped UCLA reach college baseball’s pinnacle in 2013, as the Bruins won their first-ever NCAA baseball title. Under his guidance, UCLA has advanced to the postseason in eight of the last 10 seasons, hosting an NCAA Regional in five of the last six, including four-straight from 2010 through 2013.
Savage will begin his 12th season as UCLA's head coach in 2016, following his 11th campaign which earned him his first ever Pac-12 Coach of the Year honor. He is currently the third longest-tenured head coach in UCLA baseball program history and has gone 394-270-1 in the past 11 seasons.
In eight trips to the postseason at UCLA, Savage has compiled a 35-16 record (.686 winning percentage), recording the most postseason victories of any head coach in program history.
With Savage at the program’s helm, UCLA advanced to the College World Series in 2010, 2012, and 2013, and reached the best-of-three championship series in 2010 and 2013. UCLA defeated Mississippi State, two games to none, at the 2013 College World Series. In 2010, the Bruins advanced to the championship series for the first time in school history, falling two games to none to South Carolina.
Savage’s strong work with UCLA’s program has been equally evident in player development and the MLB Draft. Over his 10 seasons in Westwood, UCLA has produced 77 draft selections. In addition, he has coached 13 players at UCLA that have competed in the major leagues.
Savage is one of just five head coaches in college baseball history to have guided his team to a College World Series title, produced the first overall pick in the MLB Draft, and coached at least one Golden Spikes Award winner. Also included in that illustrious group are former head coaches Skip Bertman (LSU) and Jim Brock (Arizona State) and current head coaches Tim Corbin (Vanderbilt), Augie Garrido (Cal State Fullerton, now at Texas) and Jim Morris (Miami).
A tenacious recruiter with a keen eye for developing talent, Savage and his coaching staff has found success on the recruiting trail. Eight of his 10 recruiting classes have been nationally ranked in the top-25 by Baseball America. UCLA’s incoming class in the fall of 2012 was rated No. 2, nationally, by Baseball America, the highest-such ranking of any of Savage’s recruiting classes. UCLA’s incoming group in the fall of 2006 was ranked No. 5, followed by No. 13 (fall 2007), No. 7 (fall 2008), No. 7 (fall 2009), No. 19 (fall 2010), No. 3 (fall 2011), No. 2 (fall 2012) and No. 7 (fall 2014).
Most recently, Savage led the Bruins to a 45-16 overall record, including a school record 22 conference wins, in 2015. The team’s success resulted in the program’s 11th Pac-12 Conference Championship and the number one overall seed in the NCAA Tournament. The Bruins lost just one weekend series all season and won as many as eight games in-a-row. For the first time in his career, Savage was named Pac-12 Coach of the Year as he led his pitching staff to the lowest earned run average in the nation (2.17). The team ERA also set a new UCLA record for lowest team ERA in a single season.
Known for his ability to coach pitching, the 2015 staff was one of the best in school history. For the second time in his career, David Berg earned both the Pac-12 Pitcher of the Year and NCBWA Stopper of the Year awards. Berg broke the NCAA record for most career appearances, finishing his four-year run with 175 appearances. Senior left-hander Grant Watson also had a record-breaking year, making the most career starts (63) in school history and moving into second in UCLA history in career wins (30). Serving as the staff ‘ace’, James Kaprielian led the conference in strikeouts (114) for the second-straight year and threw nine no-hit innings to combine with Berg for the program’s first ever no-hitter on May 15. Eight Bruins were selected in the 2015 MLB Draft, including Kaprielian (16th overall), who went in the first round, and Kevin Kramer (62nd overall), who went in the second round.
UCLA’s 2014 ballclub fought through an injury-plagued season and missed postseason action after going 25-30-1. Relief pitcher David Berg secured All-Pac-12 honors for the third time in as many seasons, earning all-conference acclaim with right-hander James Kaprielian and catcher Shane Zeile. Kaprielian became the third pitcher under Savage to lead the conference in strikeouts (108), joining Trevor Bauer and Tim Murphy in that category. UCLA finished the season with four selections in the MLB Draft, including two top-10 round picks (Shane Zeile, fifth round and Max Schuh, seventh round).
Savage helped UCLA post a perfect 10-0 mark during its 2013 run to the NCAA title, going 4-0 against national seeds in the tournament while eliminating two of them – No. 5 Cal State Fullerton in Super Regional action and No. 1 North Carolina at the College World Series. The Bruins’ pitching staff limited the opposition to four runs in five College World Series games. In the 68-year history of the CWS, only one national champion has surrendered fewer runs than UCLA’s 2013 ballclub (California allowed three runs in 1957).
UCLA went 49-17 in 2013, marking the program’s second-highest single-season victories, and matched the school record with 21 conference wins. For the eighth consecutive year, UCLA finished with no lower than a third-place finish among Pac-12 teams. Berg became the conference’s first-ever reliever to earn Pac-12 Pitcher of the Year honors. Three-year starting shortstop Pat Valaika became UCLA’s first player to secure Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year acclaim.
Savage was named the 2013 National Coach of the Year by Collegiate Baseball, Baseball America, the American Baseball Coaches Association (ABCA) and Perfect Game USA. His work with UCLA’s pitching staff that season was no more evident than with the success of starting pitchers Adam Plutko, Nick Vander Tuig and Grant Watson. Plutko and Vander Tuig capped their UCLA careers in 2013 as the winningest pitching tandem in school history (56 total wins in three seasons).
In 2012, UCLA didn’t miss a beat despite losing the No. 1 and No. 3 overall MLB draft selections (Gerrit Cole, Trevor Bauer) from the pitching rotation. The Bruins went 48-16 and returned to the College World Series for the second time in three seasons. In addition, UCLA won the Pac-12 co-championship (tied with Arizona), marking the first time in school history that the Bruins had won back-to-back conference titles. UCLA hosted the NCAA Los Angeles Super Regional for the second time in three years after hosting its third consecutive NCAA Regional. The Bruins entered the 2012 postseason as the NCAA Tournament’s No. 2 overall seed and had seven players selected in the first 15 rounds of that season’s MLB Draft.
In 2011, the Bruins captured their first outright Pac-10 title since 1986 just days before seeing top pitchers Cole and Bauer selected No. 1 and No. 3, respectively, in the MLB Draft. No college program had seen two of its players selected within the draft's first three selections since 1978 (Arizona State). Bauer was named UCLA’s first-ever Golden Spikes Award winner and became the first player in school history to earn National Player of the Year honors from either Baseball America or Collegiate Baseball.
Savage helped UCLA's 2011 pitching staff post the nation's third-lowest ERA (2.44), the lowest mark on record in school history. Likewise, the Bruins' staff finished the year second, nationally, in strikeouts per nine innings (9.8) and hits allowed per nine innings (6.61).
In 2010, UCLA set the school record for single-season victories, compiling a 51-17 overall record after opening the season with a school-record 22 consecutive wins. The Bruins also won a program-best 43 regular-season games and landed their first-ever national seed (No. 6-seed) in the NCAA Tournament. UCLA hosted postseason games at Jackie Robinson Stadium for the first time since 1986 and swept all three NCAA Regional contests. The Bruins overcame a Game 1 loss to Cal State Fullerton with consecutive victories in the next two games of the NCAA Super Regional to advance to Omaha for the first time since 1997.
UCLA finished second in the Pac-10 Conference, a league that sent eight of its 10 teams to the postseason. The Bruins’ pitching staff set the school and conference records for most strikeouts in one season (700). Additionally, UCLA logged the country’s second-lowest ERA (3.00) and ranked first in the nation in strikeouts per nine innings (10.2) and ranked second in hits allowed per nine innings (7.31). Savage was named the National Coach of the Year in 2010 by CollegeBaseballInsider.com.
The development of Cole and Bauer proved instrumental to UCLA’s success in 2010 and 2011. In his career at UCLA, Bauer (2009-2011) established UCLA's all-time records in strikeouts (460), wins (34) and innings (373.1) and set the program's top two marks in single-season strikeouts. Bauer logged a nation-leading and Pac-12 record 203 strikeouts in 2011 after having led the country with 165 strikeouts in 2010. Cole served as UCLA's Friday night pitcher in each of his three seasons (2009-11), logging 376 strikeouts, the second-highest career total in program history and becoming the first pitcher in program history to record at least 100 strikeouts in each of three seasons.
Savage’s work at UCLA during his first five seasons (2005-2009) paid major dividends in setting up the program for long-term postseason success. He became UCLA’s first-ever head baseball coach to lead the program to at least three consecutive NCAA postseason appearances (2006-2008).
In 2009, Savage led UCLA to a third-place finish in the Pac-10 for the fourth consecutive season. The Bruins went 27-29 with a 15-12 mark in Pac-10 play. That year, UCLA's pitching staff finished ninth in the nation in strikeouts per nine innings (9.3). The team's success on the mound was fueled by the emergence of Cole and Bauer, who finished their freshman campaigns as two of the conference's three freshmen to earn All-Pac-10 team honors. Bauer captured National Freshman Pitcher of the Year honors from Louisville Slugger/Collegiate Baseball. Cody Decker became the only Bruin to hit 20 or more home runs under Savage in one season. He finished his senior season with 21 homers, becoming UCLA's first Pac-10 home run leader since 2002.
In 2008, UCLA went 33-27 with a 13-11 Pac-10 record, culminating in an NCAA Regional Final berth at Cal State Fullerton. Left-handed starter Tim Murphy became UCLA’s first pitcher to lead the conference in strikeouts (111) since 1996, when Jim Parque totaled 116 strikeouts. The Bruins' regular-season schedule featured 26 games against teams that advanced to NCAA postseason play. UCLA’s 2008 ballclub was led by a strong mainstay of talented infielders, including Jermaine Curtis at third, Brandon Crawford at shortstop and Alden Carrithers at second.
In 2007, Savage helped UCLA overcome an 8-14 start and record a 33-28 overall record, en route to the program's first NCAA Super Regional appearance since 2000. The Bruins went 14-10 with a third-place finish in the Pac-10, winning 19 of 23 games midway through the season. UCLA swept the NCAA Long Beach Regional with a trio of masterful starting performances from Tyson Brummett, Gavin Brooks and Murphy. The Bruins’ season ended with consecutive losses to Cal State Fullerton at the NCAA Fullerton Super Regional.
In 2006, the Bruins engineered a remarkably-strong turnaround with a 33-25 overall record and third-place finish in the Pac-10. Guided by the nation’s No. 5-ranked incoming class (Baseball America), Savage and the Bruins advanced to the NCAA Malibu Regional after having played the nation’s most challenging schedule, as ranked by Boyd’s World. The Bruins’ 2006 campaign marked the first year in which UCLA won each of its home conference series.
Much of the college baseball world noticed UCLA's success in 2006 and aimed their praise toward Savage. Following the 2006 campaign, Savage was named a finalist for the National Coach of the Year award by CollegeBaseballInsider.com. In July 2006, Baseball America hailed Savage as one of “10 People to Watch in the Future." The magazine listed the Bruins' head coach with other distinguished baseball personnel such as Mets all-star third baseman David Wright and then- L.A. Dodgers’ assistant general manager Kim Ng. Baseball America lauded Savage for his winning ways: "UCLA has always been viewed as a sleeping giant on the West Coast, and it looks like Savage has the giant stirring."
Savage was hired by UCLA Athletic Director Dan Guerrero on July 1, 2004, to replace the retired Gary Adams. Prior to taking over UCLA’s program, Savage had made stops as head coach at UC Irvine (2002-2004) and as an assistant coach at USC (1997-2000) and Nevada (1992-1996).
Coincidentally, Guerrero hired Savage at UC Irvine four years prior, giving him the unique opportunity to help launch a dormant college baseball program. Savage showed his ability to not just coach a team, but to resurrect a program in three seasons at UC Irvine. He used the 2000-01 school year to build the program from scratch, before turning on the lights at Anteater Ballpark and getting the season underway in 2002.
In their first season at the Division I level and under Savage’s guidance, UC Irvine posted a 33-26 overall record and the pitching staff set a school record with 487 strikeouts. After going 21-35 in 2003, Savage and the Anteaters broke through with an NCAA Tournament appearance in 2004. That season, UC Irvine went 34-23-1 and competed at the NCAA Notre Dame Regional. In his third season as UC Irvine’s head coach, Savage saw freshman pitcher Blair Erickson earn national Freshman of the Year accolades from Collegiate Baseball as well as Big West Conference Freshman Pitcher of the Year honors. The Anteaters earned their highest national ranking at the time, climbing to the No. 7 spot in Collegiate Baseball’s weekly rankings in April 2004. At season’s end, Savage was tabbed a finalist for National Coach of the Year honors by CollegeBaseballInsider.com.
As pitching coach and recruiting coordinator at the University of Southern California (USC) from 1997 through 2000, Savage helped the Trojans produce consecutive Pac-10 Pitcher of the Year selections in Seth Etherton, Rik Currier and eventual American League Cy Young Award winner Barry Zito. Etherton was named the 1998 Sporting News National Player of the Year, helping guide the 1998 USC program to the NCAA Championship. Also under Savage’s mentorship was former Chicago Cubs right-hander Mark Prior.
As the Trojans’ recruiting coordinator, Savage helped facilitate the nation’s top-ranked recruiting class in 1999-2000, as ranked by Collegiate Baseball, and served as an assistant coach to then-USC head coach Mike Gillespie for the USA Baseball Collegiate National Team in the summer of 2000. Team USA went 27-3-1 that summer, bringing home a gold medal from the Haarlem Baseball Week Tournament in the Netherlands.
Savage was honored as Collegiate Baseball’s Assistant Coach of the Year in 1998, following the Trojans’ run to the College World Series title. USC advanced to the NCAA Super Regional in 1999 and back to the College World Series in 2000.
Savage served as an assistant coach at the University of Nevada from 1992-1996, helping the Wolf Pack compile a 177-82 record in five seasons. During his tenure at Nevada, the baseball program won the 1994 Big West Conference title and strung together its first back-to-back 35-win seasons in school history. In five seasons as an assistant coach at Nevada, 24 Wolf Pack players signed professional contracts.
Savage began his coaching career as the pitching coach for Reno High School (Nevada) during the 1988-1989 school year.
A sixth-round MLB Draft selection by the New York Yankees in 1983 following his senior season at Reno High School, Savage chose to attend Santa Clara University, where he pitched for three seasons. He was selected by the Cincinnati Reds in the 16th round of the 1986 MLB Draft. Savage played two seasons in the Reds’ minor league system before moving on to help the independent league Salt Lake City Trappers set a professional baseball record with 29 consecutive wins in 1987.
Following his professional career, Savage earned his bachelor’s degree in secondary education, with an emphasis in physical education and history, from Nevada in 1991.
Savage, 50, and his wife, Lisa, have four children – Julia (20), Jack (18), Ryan (16) and Gabrielle (14).
John Savage's Year-by-Year Head Coaching Record