Maestri Returns to UNO to Rebuild Storied Baseball Program
The University of New Orleans looked to its past to help shape its future, announcing the hiring of Ron Maestri as head baseball coach at a press conference on Tuesday afternoon at Lakefront Arena.
"It is an exciting time for our university, UNO alumni, the campus community and Privateer fans everywhere," said UNO Director of Athletics Derek Morel. "We are thrilled that both Sue and Coach Maestri believe in President Fos' vision and made the commitment to join this journey with us.
"There could not be a better man to lead the renaissance of Privateer baseball and help Dr. Fos advance the mission of the University of New Orleans."
Maestri returns to UNO following eight-plus years of service as the Executive Director and Chief Operating Officer of the Triple-A New Orleans Zephyrs.
"I am very much honored that Derek Morel and President Fos would even consider me to come back for this position," said Maestri. "I feel a great sense of responsibility and I am ready to face the challenge of bringing back that UNO pride that we all had at one time."
Cited in the UNO Privateers 1977 media guide as the "sole architect" of the Privateers' baseball success, Maestri originally coached the squad from 1972 through 1985.
During his tenure, UNO posted a 518-247-1 record, with the resulting 518 wins and 67.7 winning percentage ranking No. 1 in school history. The Privateers never had a losing season under Maestri and qualified on nine occasions to play in the NCAA tournament.
The run of success for Maestri's teams included a runner-up showing at the 1974 NCAA Division II College World Series and in 1984, UNO became the first team from the state of Louisiana to qualify for the NCAA Division I College World Series.
Numerous players under Maestri have gone on to become head coaches among the high school, college and professional ranks, including: LSU's Paul Mainieri, Tim Jamieson of Missouri and former Chicago Cubs skipper Mike Quade. 1982 Golden Spikes Award winner and current Carthage College head coach Augie Schmidt also played for the Privateers under Maestri.
During Maestri's tenure, 42 different players were drafted and/or signed by professional clubs. Six of those players reached the Major League level, including two-time World Series champion Randy Bush.
In addition to his tenure as head baseball coach, Maestri served as Director of Athletics at the University from 1979-2000.
In this position, Maestri's ability to hire coaches like Benny Dees, Tim Floyd, Joey Favaloro and Tic Price allowed the Highland Park, Ill. native to put the Privateer program on the map nationally in both men's and women's basketball.
This time around, it was Morel who hired Maestri in an effort to duplicate the baseball coach's effort from the past and put the UNO program at the forefront of college baseball.
"We are humbled by the fine individuals who expressed interest in becoming the head baseball coach at the University of New Orleans," said Morel. "My team and I had the opportunity to visit with several great coaches who could have all made our program better.
"In the end, we found the man who has energy and experience to build the foundation for the future and unite the Privateer faithful and the city of New Orleans behind this program and our university."
A 1963 graduate of Bradley, Maestri initially arrived at UNO following four seasons as an assistant baseball coach and football coach for his alma mater. During his time in Peoria, he received bachelor's degrees in history and health and physical education in 1962 and a master's degree in education in 1966.
As an undergraduate at Bradley, Maestri was the second baseman on the 1962 Braves' team that won the Missouri Valley Conference title. He was also a member of Lambda Chi Alpha fraternity.
Following graduation, Maestri spent five years in the high school coaching ranks, including stints at Princeville High, Spaulding High and Pekin High – all in the Central Illinois Area. During that time, his high school teams compiled a record of 54-36.
The 2014 Privateer baseball team will compete as a member of the Southland Conference, a league that Maestri is very familiar with and believes fans will greatly enjoy.
"I am so excited about the Southland Conference because we played most of those schools when I was coaching," said Maestri. "Southeastern and Nicholls have great programs; Jim Gilligan is coaching at Lamar, then you have Northwestern State, McNeese State and schools like Central Arkansas and Sam Houston who have showed how good their baseball programs are.
"The Southland has always had a tradition of great baseball, so it is exciting to get into that conference. I think we can create rivalries in short driving distances for parents, families and friends, and boosters to go to Southeastern, Nicholls. Everything is within driving distance so that's exciting."
When Maestri takes the field on Feb. 14, 2014 at Alex Box Stadium against Mainieri's LSU squad, it will be his first appearance in a Division I dugout since UNO was defeated by Michigan in the NCAA Starkville Regional on May 26, 1985.
Maestri's first game on the Lakefront will occur one day later – Feb. 15 at 2 p.m. The Privateer head coach will direct his team at a renovated field named in his honor in 2002. Prior to first pitch, UNO will honor both the 1974 and 1984 College World Series teams.
"I would like to thank the family of (benefactor) Wick Carey and in particular Wick for his tremendous donation to make this possible," said Maestri."February 15 is going to be a time in which we can showcase the new addition to our beautiful field."
"It is awesome that we will be able to play LSU and I would like to thank Paul Mainieri for making that contest possible. It will be a time for Tiger fans and UNO fans to come out and enjoy a great day."
Maestri and his wife Sue are the proud parents of Krissy Dodson (Kevin) and Jon Maestri (Rhonda). They are also the grandparents to Jake and Noah Dodson, as well as Alexandria and Zack Maestri.
RON MAESTRI BY THE NUMBERS
9 NCAA Tournament Appearances – 7 NCAA Division I, 2 NCAA Division II
2 College World Series Appearances – 1984 NCAA Division I, 1974 NCAA Division II
42 Players Drafted or Signed MLB Contracts
2 Players Who Serve as Southeastern Conference Head Coaches – Tim Jamieson (Missouri), Paul Mainieri (LSU)
8 Hall of Fames Enshrined – American Baseball Coaches Association, Bradley Athletics, Highwood (Ill.) Sports, Italian-American, Louisiana Sports, New Orleans Sports, Peoria Sports, University of New Orleans Sports
6 Major League Baseball Players Coached – Jimmy Bullinger, Randy Bush, Roger Erickson, Mark Higgins, Eric Rasmussen and Wally Whitehurst
1 Coach of the Year Award named after him (Sun Belt Conference, beginning in 2002)
21 Jersey retired – one of just two in UNO baseball history
2 Conference Championships – 1978 and 1979 Sun Belt Tournament titles
RON MAESTRI YEAR-BY-YEAR RECORD
YEAR RECORD POSTSEASON/CHAMPIONSHIPS
1973 26-13 NCAA Div II Regionals
1974 34-14 NCAA Div II CWS - 2nd Place
1977 35-9 NCAA Regionals
1978 35-16 Sun Belt Tournament Champions
1979 49-14 Sun Belt Tournament Champions/NCAA Regionals
1980 46-15 NCAA Regionals
1981 48-16 NCAA Regionals
1982 49-16 NCAA Regionals
1984 46-26 NCAA Div I CWS - T-5th Place
TOTAL 518-247-1 14 SEASONS AT UNO