June 8, 2006
Los Angeles - UCLA head coach John Savage was named a finalist for National Coach of the Year honors by Collegebaseballinsider.com, the website announced Thursday. Savage has been a finalist for the award two of the last three years, as he was also honored in 2004.
Kentucky head coach was named John Cohen the 2006 CBI National Coach of the Year, and Hawaii's Mike Trapasso was also a finalist.
Savage earns his second-career finalist honor after leading a team that finished 15-41 in 2005, his first year at UCLA, to a 33-25 record in 2006, an 18-win improvement. The Bruins posted a third-place finish in the Pac-10, and a NCAA Regional appearance.
UCLA accomplished its impressive turnaround this season under Savage against the toughest schedule in the country. The Bruins played 10 teams during the regular season that were selected among the NCAA tournament field of 64. UCLA went a combined 15-12 against Cal State Fullerton, Fresno State, Pepperdine, UC Irvine, Arizona State, Miami, Ole Miss, Oregon State, Stanford, and NC State during the 2006 regular season.
18 of the Bruins' first 22 games this season were against nationally ranked opposition, with a streak of 12-consecutive games versus ranked opponents once in effect. UCLA went 11-10 against ranked opposition during the season, and posted a series sweep of then-No. 17 ranked NC State on the road, and home series wins against No. 19 Ole Miss and No. 10 Arizona State.
Savage led the Bruins to a sweep of Long Beach State in a home-in-home series for the first time since 1995. UCLA also won at No. 5 Oregon State, as the Beavers were 22-3 at home before losing to the Bruins.
Savage got UCLA to respond to the challenging schedule, as the Bruins were ranked in the national polls for the week of April 24-30. UCLA entered that week ranked No. 22 in the nation by Baseball America, and No. 25 by the Rosenblatt Report. The week marked the first time since March of 2001 that UCLA has been ranked in the Top-25 by Baseball America.
The Bruins rebounded from a 5-9 start to go 28-16 (.636) since Feb. 28.
Savage installed his philosophy in the UCLA program that was a basis of the team's success this season. That philosophy is "win at least two out of three." UCLA beat Stanford two times in a three-game series for the first time since 1997, marking the six-straight home series win at Jackie Robinson Stadium, a program first in more than 30 years. UCLA won nine of 14 three-game series during the regular season, including six of its last seven series, and eight of its last 10 series.
Another principle of Savage's coaching philosophy that was seen in 2006 was to win with pitching and defense, both of which were essential parts of UCLA's success during the season. UCLA posted a 3.77 team ERA in 2006. That mark is the lowest mark at UCLA since 1980 when the Bruins finished the year with a 3.55 team ERA. Also, UCLA's defensive fielding percentage of .977 was the No. 1 mark in the Pac-10 Conference this season, a mark that was top-10 in the nation most of the year.