A former Spartan All-American himself, Joe Urso is set to begin his 16th season as the head coach at the University of Tampa. In addition to defending their 2015 national title, UT’s all-time winningest coach looks to add to a lengthy list of accolades in 2016, which include 10 Sunshine State Conference titles, 10 NCAA South Regional championships and four national championships (2006, 2007, 2013, 2015).
IP: When did you know that you wanted to coach for a living? How did you get your start?
I knew once I was in the minor leagues that once my playing days were over, I wanted to get into coaching. The Angels gave me a shot, I was able to coach with them for four years and when the job opened up, I knew it was a perfect fit. We were about to have our first child, so I was able to come back home to an amazing job. It was always a dream of mine to come back and take over.
IP: What does the word ‘tradition’ mean to you and how did you build it at the University of Tampa?
We talk a lot about tradition, I take it personal. The tradition is so strong; you’re only recognized as a ‘great’ team at Tampa if you win a national title. So these guys know coming in the expectations are high to keep this tradition going. We take a lot of pride in it and take it personal when things aren’t going the right way.
Last year was a great example- the first regional poll came out and we were possibly going to be left out of the tournament. That’s where we saw the seniors especially take it personal; they weren’t going to let that tradition be compromised. We won 18 of 20 down the stretch to finish it off and win the national title. It’s great to watch people come through our program and take so much pride in trying to keep us on top.
IP: What are the first things you do with your incoming players?
When we get our new guys, they come in to us from a lot of great programs and they’re obviously good players. We preach to them that there’s a process at Tampa that we believe in and that you’re going to have to buy in to if you expect to win a job here, and especially if you’re going to be a part of a championship team. Development is a huge part of that, and we tell the guys that we bring in that hopefully by the time they’re done here that they’ve gotten better and they’re ready for professional baseball. We’ve had a lot of guys get that opportunity and that’s something that we’re very proud of.
IP: What have you taken from your experience in professional baseball that you’ve implemented at UT?
I’ve taken everything I learned in the Angels organization and brought it into our program. The development piece in the minors is about winning, and with college ball obviously winning is the priority, but we’ve been able to really push development as well. From our practice plan all the way through how we manage our pitching and everything we believe in here, all that comes from pro ball.
IP: What is your advice to aspiring college players?
I think that there’s a program for everyone out there. It’s just about finding a program [in which] you can play right away to develop. It’s tough to develop if you’re not getting the reps.