I highly doubt any casual fan of SEC sports even knew Auburn University had a softball program prior to 2014. Tina Deese deserves a lot of credit for nurturing the program from infancy in 1997 until 2013, but the Tigers simply weren’t very good for the majority of those 17 years.
Clint Myers, a legend in softball circles, was hired and practically overnight turned Auburn into a national power. The program quickly developed a loyal fan base of substantial proportion and a well-known reputation around the conference just as quickly.
The Tigers were feared. No one enjoyed seeing them on the schedule. Auburn was one game, one inning, one run away from a national championship. Then accusations were made and some allegedly inappropriate behavior came to light. Myers “retired” and the program moved on with a new head coach. That man was Mickey Dean from James Madison.
Auburn just completed its regular season in Year 2 of the Dean era and lots of people are asking some very hard questions. Paramount to them all, is Mickey Dean the right man for the job?
I can’t truthfully answer that question today. I don’t believe anyone else can either, so I’m not even going to try. However, I am going to attempt to determine if it’s even a fair question.
As I mentioned earlier, this is only his second year on the job and the Tigers have been nationally ranked for practically the entire time. In Dean’s first season, Auburn finished with a record of 11-12 in the SEC and 41-17 overall.
The Tigers were knocked out in the first round of the NCAA tournament in Tallahassee. Florida State went on to win the national championship.
Auburn finished up the 2019 regular season with a conference record of 10-14 and an overall record of 35-18. I fully concede neither of Dean’s first two years come close to the colossal success of Myers last three years, but does that justify the current angst? Let’s dig a little deeper.
April 7, Auburn played a doubleheader against No. 5 Tennessee in Knoxville. The Tigers won the game, just as they did the night before against the Volunteers. That victory brought Auburn’s record to 32-7 overall and 8-3 in the SEC. It also elevated them into a tie for first place in the conference. The Tigers couldn’t complete the sweep in the finale later that day, but it was still an incredibly impressive performance.
Since that win over the Vols, Auburn has gone into a complete tailspin with a record of 2-11 in SEC play.
The offense that sat atop practically every offensive category in the league has plummeted in the rankings. The Tigers scored 79 runs in the first 11 conference games. In the final 13, they scored a grand total of 20 runs. Mickey Dean hasn’t taken a single at bat this season, but it’s the coach’s responsibility to put his players in the best position to be successful. Apparently, something is being lost in translation.
Auburn also lost its ace pitcher Makayla Martin after the first conference series of the year to a broken hand. That’s devastating in the sport of softball.
Again, that’s not Dean’s fault, but quality depth in the pitching staff is his responsibility.
In the end, I believe it’s foolish to call for Dean’s ouster at this point, but it’s absolutely fair to question if he’s the right man for the job. Perhaps, we’ll get an answer sooner rather than later.