Baseball: Rooney's Vision a Magnet for Schnall
The way Kevin Schnall saw it previously, he already had his dream job of working at his alma mater of Coastal Carolina. And while there, he was an integral part of a program that had massive success to the tune of 11 NCAA Tournament appearances in 12 years.
So for Schnall to leave Coastal Carolina for an opportunity to become UCF’s new hitting coach and recruiting coordinator it speaks volumes about the national appeal of the Knights’ program.
Schnall simply couldn’t say no to UCF’s enormous promise and persuasive head coach Terry Rooney – even if it meant the veteran coach would be apart from his family for a few weeks this summer.
“I played at Coastal and I had been there the past 12 years, so it’s a very special place to me. So for me to leave Coastal it had to be the right fit and a great opportunity. And this is it here at UCF,” Schnall said.
“We have a 14-week-old daughter, a 3-year-old son and a 14-year-old daughter – in some ways I’ve left them behind for a month-and-a-half. For me to do that it had to be a really special opportunity,” Schnall continued. “When I looked at the big picture, I looked at this opportunity at UCF as being a career-changer. The institution here at UCF and really believing in what Coach Rooney is doing convinced me it was the right move.”
Schnall will be joining a UCF team that was 45-17 overall, was nationally ranked throughout the season and got within one victory of reaching a Super Regional for the first time in school history. Schnall is no stranger to NCAA Tournament play, having helped Coastal Carolina get there 11 times in 12 years and to Super Regionals in 2008 and 2010.
Schnall said the vision of Rooney and the coach’s relentless work ethic persuaded him to leave his home and move to Orlando. The two have known each other for more than 10 years and shared a mutual admiration for one another from afar – Rooney for his ability to nab some of the nation’s best recruits, Schnall for his assistant in regularly cranking out winning teams at Coastal Carolina.
“It starts with the captain of the ship, Coach Rooney. He’s an easy sell. He’s the premier young coach in the country,” Schnall said. “You put Coach Rooney with the direction of the administration and you see that there’s a 100-percent commitment here. Our kids will have all of the resources to become the best that they can. Florida has basically the best high school players in the country and we’re right in the middle of that here in Orlando.”
Schnall, 35, was a former Big South Player of the Year while at Coastal Carolina. He spent two seasons in the Cincinnati Reds farm system before turning to coaching at his alma mater. Coaching was something that came quite natural to him with his father Steve Schnall, coaching football at several colleges and professionally with the New York Giants, San Diego Chargers and Kansas City Chiefs.
“My dad was a football coach, so I was always around coaching. My mom (Eileen Porada) is the backbone of the family. As a coach’s wife, she raised my brother and I,” Schnall said. “As a coach, my dad wasn’t around a ton growing up, but I still learned so much by watching him and listening to him. Now that he’s retired, he’s way more active in my life and has been a positive influence on my coaching career.
“I aspire to be like my dad. He still is and always will be the best coach that I’ve ever had,” Schnall continued.
This past season at Coastal Carolina, the Chanticleers were 42-19 and again made the NCAA Tournament. They hit .286 as a team, had the conference player of the year and put four players on the all-conference team. He plans to bring the same blue-collar work ethic he used at Coastal to UCF while working with the Knights’ hitters.
“I try to make things easy. I want to keep things simple, but be very specific,” Schnall said. “When it comes to hitting, I’m not going to force anybody to do it one way. I want to add to their strengths. The one thing at Coastal that we prided ourselves on was having the blue-collar mentality and outworking everybody. Our guys at UCF are going to be demanded to put the work in and they will have high expectations put on them every day. With that, it will develop a culture of excellence that will help us continue to be successful.”