A question-and-answer session with new USC full-time head baseball coach Frank Cruz, from the team hotel in Corvallis, Ore. on Thursday night, as his Trojans ready to face No. 2 Oregon State in a three-game weekend series beginning tonight:
Q: How are you feeling on a travel day such as today, one that started with you being promoted to the full-time head-coaching position at USC and ended with you in Corvallis preparing for a key series?
A: To have a guy like Pat Haden hire you full-time and know that he's done his due diligence and he trusts you with the most storied program in college baseball history is just an unbelievable feeling. And (school administrators) Don Winston and Steve Lopes -- they've just been unbelievable to me. I know they did a lot of checking-out (of other options), and it's just an unbelievable feeling to have this opportunity.
Q: Describe to me how you learned of Haden's decision and how your players later learned of it and your guys' reaction to the news.
A: I met them this morning at 7 a.m. I met with Don, Steve and Pat. And, if you could believe it, they asked the question of if I would accept the job. I was like, 'Absolutely!' And then we were going to practice at 9 a.m. because we were heading up to Corvallis today and at 8:45 they came and addressed the team and told the team they were going to allow me to take the team. It was pretty amazing -- they give me a frickin' standing ovation for a couple minutes. It was one of the most unbelievable feelings I've had in my life for those guys to do that. I should've been giving them a standing ovation -- they've worked so hard for our coaching staff and for themselves to try to restore the program. We know that the results aren't there like we wanted, but it's not because of a lack of effort on their parts.
Q: Simply, why do you think it happened the way it did? What have you done, in your opinion, to show them you're ready for the job in a full-time capacity?
A: We've had seven Pac-10 series. We've won four of them. We had a chance to win the series against Cal and we won a ballgame at UCLA, so I think they liked that. But I think what they all said was that they really liked the way the atmosphere was with the program. The players are working hard, the players are battling, the players are going to class every day. They're involved in the community, they're supporting other teams, and they just like the overall atmosphere of what the players are doing. Somehow, someway, I got the job.
Q: Are you surprised at all that this happened right now, with eight games left in the season? Regardless of the decision, simply speaking about the timing of it.
A: I did think it would happen at the end of the year. I did think that. I had a meeting with them Monday and they indicated to me that they were going to make a decision pretty quickly on whether they were going to stick with me or go in a different direction. I had told them that whatever decision they made I was going to support 100 percent and be committed to trying to get this program to where it's supposed to be. I told them that, and if they would've said they were going in a different direction I would've hung around and tried to give the next person all the information he needed about these players and everything in the program. I was just blessed to be the one that they decided on. Mr. Haden did his due diligence and his homework -- and believe me, he did his homework -- and he felt comfortable making decision, and I can't ever, ever thank him enough and Don and Steve for having trusted me in trying to make this work.
Q: You're 48 games into your tenure, and each game up until this point you had essentially been coaching to keep your job. Now, you're not. Does your perspective change at all for the long term of this program?
A: Well, I really don't. I just know that there's going to be some very, very important decisions to be made in the next couple weeks, with us finishing our year here soon and trying to compete. We're gonna be playing in front of a full house of four or five thousand people out here in Corvallis and the No. 2 team in the country. We stopped to get something to eat here earlier tonight and some people stopped us and said, 'Hey, way to whip on the Sun Devils!' They told us that. In L.A., nobody even knows who the Sun Devils are. It's kinda cool, it's kinda exciting. But, yeah, there's gonna be decisions to be made to make this program into one of the elite programs in the country. That's what we're shooting for, and that's the only thing we're shooting for. And Pat, Don and Steve, they said everything you've done is good -- I think they said A+ -- with the exception of the W's. And we think the W's will come if you continue to do what you and the guys are doing. And I think that's where the confidence comes in the administration.