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Cochell's Happy Not to Start From Square One : Titan Baseball Coach Inherits Winning Tradition and a Fairly Intact Team

September 10, 1987|ROBYN NORWOOD | Times Staff Writer

Larry Cochell, saying he prefers maintaining a good program to building one from the bottom, made his first official appearance as Cal State Fullerton baseball coach Wednesday in a news conference at the school.

"As a coach, you can build or you can maintain," said Cochell, 47, who last week was named the successor to 15-year coach Augie Garrido. "Going to a place like I did at Oral Roberts or like Augie did at Cal State Fullerton is not easy. I have a chance to reap the benefits of that work. My job is to maintain."

Garrido, who last month was named coach at Illinois, guided the Titans to NCAA championships in 1979 and '84.

"I'd like to thank Augie and his coaches and players for the work he did to build the program and tradition Cal State Fullerton has," said Cochell, who was presented by school officials with his first Fullerton baseball cap--several sizes too large--at the news conference.

Cochell's next order of business likely is to hire an assistant to replace pitching coach Bill Kernen, who followed Garrido to Illinois. Cochell said he "has some people people to talk to" about the position, adding that he would ask Dick Larner, a Garrido assistant who served as interim coach, and Rick Vanderhook, another assistant, to remain with the program.

Cochell inherits a program that returns six starters--three infielders, one outfielder and two pitchers--from a 42-17 club that finished the season ranked sixth in the nation and lost in the finals of the South II Regional in NCAA postseason play.

Several incoming players have decided not to stay with the program since Garrido's departure.

Donnie Carroll, an outfielder and a second-round draft pick of the Los Angeles Dodgers, signed a professional contract. Three players who had signed national letters of intent to play at Fullerton have chosen instead to follow Garrido to Illinois. Those players--Kevin O'Connor, an infielder from Mater Dei; Brian Roberts, a catcher from Loara, and Javier Alvarez, a shortstop from Sacred Heart--are required by NCAA regulations to sit out a season before they can play for Illinois.

Longo Garcia, a 25th-round draft choice of the Baltimore Orioles who considered turning professional after Garrido left, has decided to stay and is enrolled in school, Fullerton officials said.

Cochell, who coached at Northwestern University last year, coached at Oral Roberts for 10 years and also served as athletic director for the last three. He began his career at Emporia State and coached at Creighton and Cal State Los Angeles (1972-76) before going to Oral Roberts. In his 21 seasons as a head coach, his record is 685-384-2.

Cochell has recruited heavily in Southern California in the past, and said he will continue to do so. Two years ago, 18 of 24 players on the Oral Roberts team were from Southern California, Cochell said. His ties are particularly close with Golden West College, a school from which he said he has signed at least one player in 11 different years.

Cochell also said he was confident of his fund-raising abilities, addressing an aspect of the position that became an issue when several candidates said they did not want to be responsible for raising the $80,000 annually that is required in the job.

"I look at (fund-raising) from the athletic director's point of view, having been one," Cochell said. "With the economic situation in college athletics today, you are going to have to be involved in fund-raising. That wasn't a problem for me."

Asked whether the proposed baseball stadium that is to be completed by the spring of 1990 were an issue in his acceptance, Cochell said: "If there wasn't a stadium planned and there would never be a stadium, I'd still be here. Facilities help, but USC had the best program in the world for a long time with terrible facilities."

Cochell signed six Orange County players to attend Northwestern this year, five of whom discovered on the day they left together for Illinois that Cochell was going to Fullerton. They set out anyway, only to find upon arriving in Evanston, Ill., that housing had not been arranged as expected.

The group had been assured that the school would help secure a three-bedroom apartment, but had been told that there might be a problem getting into the apartment before Oct. 1, according to Cochell and Barbara Krueger, the mother of Todd Krueger, a former pitcher at University High School. But when the players arrived, there were no provisions for temporary housing and no apartment secured for Oct. 1.

Cochell accepted the Fullerton job last Thursday.

"The timing was bad, let's face it," Cochell said. "It was bad for the kids and I understand that."

Paul Stevens, acting coach at Northwestern, said there had been a problem but that it "had been handled Tuesday."

"It kind of got dumped in some people's laps," Stevens said. "It was just an uncomfortable situation."

In addition to Krueger, the playes included Frank Appice of El Toro, Bob Brucato of Mission Viejo, Greg Martin of Huntington Beach and Dave Van Winkle of Los Alamitos.

The players have been housed at a fraternity, two to a room, Krueger said, but do not know if the apartment will be available later in the term.

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