Blake Dean celebrates 200th win with return to LSU
He has been there and done that as a player and as a coach.
Blake Dean excelled as a player at LSU, as an integral part of a national championship team in 2009.
To this day, Dean remains one of the all-time leaders in many offensive categories in LSU baseball history as a rare four-year performer for the Tigers.
Dean has taken the opposite direction in his career of his mentor and former coach Paul Mainieri.
While Dean played at LSU and is making his mark at the University of New Orleans as its head coach, Mainieri played at UNO and made his mark as the head coach at LSU, winning a national championship.
While there is the genuine prospect of a national championship in sight this season for the Tigers, there is no national championship in sight for Dean and the Privateers.
Still, Dean has done an excellent job in what virtually all observers would acknowledge is a challenging situation.
The UNO athletic department and baseball program are not awash in financial gain.
Dean reached a milestone this past weekend, winning his 200th career game as head coach of the Privateers.
Snice taking over the job in 2016, Dean has posted winning record six times in seven seasons and UNO is off to an 11-5 start this season.
What makes the mark even more impressive is what Dean inherited.
The University of New Orleans was once the top baseball program in the state.
Ron Maestri built a tremendous program from scratch, reaching a Division II national championship game and becoming the first Louisiana Division I team to make the College World Series in 1984.
Fast forward to the current century.
From 2009-2015, UNO baseball wandered in the wilderness of the lowest end of the Division I baseball spectrum.
In those years, the Privateers posted an overall record of 90-270.
That included records of 4-50 in 2011 and 7-44 in 2013 as Maestri, who was asked to return to rebuild a program left for dead, started over again when he took over the baseball program in 2014.
The disastrous seasons were the result of an ill-fated flirtation with dropping UNO from being a Division I athletic program to a Division III program in 2009.
That precipitated the departure of an outstanding coach in Tom Walter, who became the head coach at Wake Forest.
Talk about killing recruiting!
Bruce Peddie took over and really had no chance.
UNO athletics paid the price across the board and baseball was Exhibit A.
Maestri, who loves his school and for whom the ballpark he made famous now bears his name, raised money. He slowly started to replenish talent. He hired Dean.
Tuesday evening, Dean returns to Baton Rouge, leading his Privateers against the top-ranked Tigers, who have been bludgeoning opponents and are 15-1 overall. You can listen to the game on NASH ICON 106.1 FM and at www.nashfm1061.com.
Before you dismiss it as another walk-over, bulldozing victory for LSU, keep in mind that Dean has been a bit of a thorn in the side of his former team.
UNO has gone 3-5 against LSU under Dean, including a memorable 7-4 win in 15 innings in 2017 at Alex Box Stadium.
Last season, the Privateers defeated the Tigers 9-4 in New Orleans.
The motivation will always be there for UNO against LSU.
Of course, this year’s version of the Tigers is more formidable than last year’s version and this is perhaps the best version of LSU baseball since Dean’s team in 2009.
LSU is deep in all phases, on the mound and at the plate.
Jay Johnson has amassed a very impressive roster of talent capable of withstanding injuries with significant depth.
The Tigers are a legitimate threat to win a seventh national championship this season.
LSU opens SEC play against No. 11 Texas A&M in a three-game series at College Station this weekend as the challenge of competing in the best conference in the country begins.
UNO makes a trip to play at always tough Texas this weekend in Austin, a place where LSU won 3-0 on Feb. 28 on a 3-run, ninth-inning home run by Gavin Dugas.
The Tigers have to make sure they are not looking ahead when they face the Privateers.
The Privateers will certainly avoid looking ahead, trying to rise to the challenge of facing the nation’s top team.
Reaching No. 201 will not come easy for Dean with LSU and Texas on the horizon but it will come. Many more figure to follow.
LSU will do everything in its power to prevent its former star from advancing toward the 300-win plateau.
In the meantime, let us recognize Dean for doing an outstanding job in New Orleans.
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Born and raised in the New Orleans area, CCSE CEO Ken Trahan has been a sports media fixture in the community for nearly four decades. Ken started NewOrleans.com/Sports with Bill Hammack and Don Jones in 2008. In 2011, the site became SportsNOLA.com. On August 1, 2017, Ken helped launch CrescentCitySports.com. Having accumulated national awards/recognition (National Sports Media Association, National Football…