A disillusioned Meggs enrolled at the Case Western School of Law in San Diego, only to find out after a year that the profession wasn’t for him. “That almost drove me back into the game and into coaching,” Meggs said of his year in law school. “From there, it’s been 23 years in coaching.”
UW’s Meggs: ‘We’ve got nothing to lose’
By Scott M. Johnson
February 15, 2010
SEATTLE — Lindsay Meggs wants to make a couple of things clear about the Lindsay Meggs era.
The University of Washington’s new baseball coach admits he was pleasantly surprised by the cupboard of talent his team has this year, yet he’s not making any promises about how many years it will take to turn the Huskies into Pac-10 contenders.
Historically speaking, that magic number might be three.
During a career that has spanned 23 years and six previous stops, Meggs has had numerical similarities in terms of his road to success. It took him three tries to fall into the right profession, three coaching jobs to win a national title, and three years to turn around programs at Chico State and Indiana State.
So if UW baseball fans are looking for a benchmark from their new bench boss, it might be three years.
“We’re living in a world of immediate returns, and typically, unless you’re in this profession, you’ll never know how much time it will take,” Meggs said earlier this month. “… I don’t expect to be competing for a Pac-10 championship until Year 3. That’s kind of what we felt like was realistic.”
And yet UW’s new baseball coach isn’t conceding anything in regards to the 2010 season. Despite playing with a roster made up exclusively of recruits from former Huskies coach Ken Knutson, Meggs is optimistic that his first UW team might make some noise.
“What I like about this team is I feel like we’ve got nothing to lose,” he said. “Because of the change in the coaching staff and because of the mediocre record last year, I told the guys: ‘I don’t think people expect much from us.’ I don’t think Oregon State’s worried about us. I don’t think UCLA’s worried about us.
“And in a way, we might be able to sneak up on some people. And maybe that’ll give us some time to figure it out, and maybe we can make a run at the end, and who knows what could happen?”
Quick turnarounds have been a staple of Meggs’s 23-year coaching career. He took a seven-win Chico State program and turned it into a national contender by Year Three, then won the first of his two NCAA Division II national titles the following year. Meggs moved on to Indiana State in 2007, turning the Sycamores around while earning Missouri Valley Conference coach-of-the-year honors in his third season there.
Meggs, who also was a head coach at California junior colleges in Oxnard and Long Beach, has been a success at every stop.
But to become a successful head coach, Meggs had to give up on two other careers.
A star infielder at UCLA in the early 1980s, Meggs flamed out as a player after one season of Class-A ball with the Kansas City Royals organization, thanks in part to a torn labrum. He had realized a dream of playing professionally, and yet Meggs soon found that a major-league career was, in his own words, “a long, long, long shot.”
And so a disillusioned Meggs enrolled at the Case Western School of Law in San Diego, only to find out after a year that the profession wasn’t for him.
“That almost drove me back into the game and into coaching,” Meggs said of his year in law school. “From there, it’s been 23 years in coaching.”
In some ways, Meggs’s 24th year could be his most challenging. While he has better athletes than ever, he’s trying to compete in a conference that includes national powerhouses like Oregon State, UCLA and Stanford, and he’s also trying to recruit players whose other options often include the pros.
“It’s unrealistic to believe that we can get to Omaha anytime soon unless we get the best players that the Northwest has to offer,” said Meggs, who was 46 when he was hired by UW in July. “Above and beyond that, you’ve got to filter around those guys with kids from California who are going to have many options themselves.”
Meggs has already made an impression on his new players. He won over junior pitcher Geoff Brown during a phone conversation shortly after getting hired.
“I could just get that presence that he’s here to work and ready to turn this program around and get us to (an NCAA) regional,” said Brown, a southpaw from Mill Creek. “I don’t know how long it’s been since we’ve been to a regional, but I’ve been here two years, and that’s something I’ve always wanted to do. Hopefully, it’ll happen this year with the new coach.”
Meggs’s credentials, including the D-II national championships, definitely caught the attention of the returning Huskies.
“He knows what he’s doing,” said pitcher Aaron West, a sophomore from Snohomish. “He knows what it takes to push us to that level.”
UW opens play this Friday, facing New Mexico State in Tucson, Ariz. Meggs, who follows Knutson and Bob McDonald as the program’s third head coach in 34 years, is hoping to get the Huskies back on track after a 25-30 season last year and five straight seasons of sub-.500 records in Pac-10 play.
It’s a challenge, but Meggs knows what it takes to meet them head on — no matter how long it might take.
“This place is in much better shape across the board, roster-wise, than either one of those programs was when I got there,” Meggs said, referring to the three-year turnarounds at Chico State and Indiana State.
“… I haven’t changed my approach to coaching between the lines. We’re going to do everything the same way; it works. It’s proven through time to allow you to compete. All the other things are different now, but it’s the same game.”