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Utah hires Gary Henderson as new head coach over baseball

Ute batters warm up prior to the start of the the Utah vs. BYU baseball game at Smith's Ballpark in Salt Lake City on Tuesday, May 14, 2019.

Ute batters warm up prior to the start of the the Utah vs. BYU baseball game at Smith's Ballpark in Salt Lake City on Tuesday, May 14, 2019. (Steve Griffin, Deseret News)

SALT LAKE CITY — After longtime baseball coach Bill Kinneberg retired from the sport in May, the University of Utah decided to stay in house with the hiring of its next skipper.

Gary Henderson, who previously served as Kinneberg's associate head coach for the last two seasons, was named as the next head coach for the Utah baseball program. Henderson becomes the ninth head coach to oversee Utah baseball after 31 years coaching the sport all around the country.

"The last two years have been wonderful to immerse myself into the Utah athletics family," Henderson said. "It has been a joy to develop relationships with our student-athletes and I am excited for the opportunity to continue to help them reach their academic, athletic and personal goals. This community, campus and city make the University of Utah one of the best places to be in collegiate athletics."

Utah athletic director Mark Harlan said there was a "high level of interest" in the position, with coaches from "prominent programs across the country" spoken to as part of the search. But Harlan notes that "it became clear that we had someone very special on our coaching staff" and the decision was to promote Henderson to the top spot.

"To have a coach of Gary Henderson's caliber and experience, who also has such familiarity with the young men in our program, makes him an ideal leader for the next era of Utah baseball," Harlan said in part in a statement. "He has produced tremendous results both as a head coach and pitching coach with some of the premiere programs in the most competitive conferences in the nation, along with recruiting and coaching many young men who have gone on to major league careers.

"In his two years as our associate head coach he has demonstrated all of the qualities that translate to success, and I'm thrilled that he is the new head coach for our program."

Prior to joining Utah, Henderson was named the NCBWA 2018 National Coach of the Year after taking Mississippi State to the College World Series as the interim head coach. He had previously served as the pitching coach at Mississippi State from 2016-17 before taking the temporary assignment.

Henderson spent 13 years at Kentucky, where he was an assistant from 2003-08 before taking over as the head coach in 2009. While head coach, Henderson won at least 30 games in five-straight seasons for the first time in school history and reached 200 wins faster than anyone before him at Kentucky. Following the 2016 season, Henderson joined Mississippi State.

Henderson also spent time as a pitching coach and recruiting coordinator at Oregon State and a similar position at Florida from 1995-98 when the Gators claimed the SEC Championships and the College World Series in 1996 and 1998. He was named the National Assistant Coach of the Year in 1996.

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