University of Hawaii selects San Diego’s Rich Hill as next baseball coach

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San Diego head coach Rich Hill reacts during an NCAA regional college baseball tournament game against Cal Poly, Friday, May 31, 2013, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Bret Hartman)

The University of Hawaii has selected its new baseball coach.

Rich Hill, who was the head coach at the University of San Diego from 1999 to 2021, is set to leave the Toreros in order to become the new baseball coach in Manoa.  

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Hill has 34 years of college coaching experience, all as a head coach. He was just 24 years old when he took over at California Lutheran, his alma mater, in 1988. Hill also coached the University of San Francisco from 1994 to 1998 before making the intraconference move to San Diego in 1999. His career record is 1079-738-4.

The most notable player Hill coached during his time at USD was Kris Bryant, the 2013 Dick Howser Trophy and Golden Spikes Award winner. That year, he was the second overall selection in the 2013 MLB Draft. Bryant, a three-time MLB All-Star, was the National League Rookie of the Year in 2015 as well a World Series champion and NL MVP in 2016.

During his time at San Diego, Hill took the Toreros to eight NCAA Regionals, but never got further than that. Over the last two seasons, USD went a combined 45-16, including a 33-12 mark in 2021 that fell just short of an at-large bid in the NCAA Tournament.

A handful of players with Hawaii ties were coached by Hill at San Diego, including Mililani alumnus Gavin Ng, Punahou alum Zach Kometani and Kamehameha’s Kalei Hanawahine. Most recently, former Mid-Pacific pitcher Carter Rustad compiled a 9-1 record as a starter for Hill from 2020 to 2021, emerging as a serious prospect for the 2022 MLB Draft after choosing not to sign with the Milwaukee Brewers in 2019 after getting selected in the 23rd round.

Hawaii cast a wide net in its search to replace Mike Trapasso, who was not extended as the UH baseball coach on June 1. The job opening proved to draw plenty of interest from coaches at both the college and pro levels. Additionally, a handful of current Division I head coaches, including Hill, applied for the job.

Ultimately, UH gave Hill and his experience the ultimate vote of confidence. When Trapasso was hired in June 2001, he was 37 years old with no previous college head coaching experience. Hill, meanwhile, turns 59 on June 30.

Sources tell KHON2 that Hill is eyeing Kaiser alum and college coaching veteran Dave Nakama as an addition to his staff. Nakama was the head coach at San Francisco State from 1999 to 2001 and San Jose State from 2013 to 2016. Nakama also signed Mid-Pacific’s Isiah Kiner-Falefa to a Letter of Intent in the fall of 2012. Although Kiner-Falefa ultimately signed with the Texas Rangers after getting selected in the fourth round of the 2013 MLB Draft, the University of Hawaii never offered him a baseball scholarship. Nakama had various stops in the West Coast, but not at UH.

Due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the NCAA Division I level was in a recruiting dead period since March 13, 2020. On June 1, the NCAA recruiting calendar was finally able to resume. Hill will look to put the pieces together for a 2022 Rainbow Warriors squad that could look significantly different than the team that went 24-26 in 2021, as numerous players are expected to explore opportunities either in the NCAA transfer portal or professionally, with the MLB Draft taking place from July 11-13.

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