Youth, career arcs made Kaline, Healey a fit for OU baseball

Tony Paul
The Detroit News
Oakland University baseball co-coaches Colin Kaline and Jacke Healey each received two-year contracts that pay $50,000 annually.

Oakland University has quickly developed a reputation for outside-the-box thinking since athletic director Jeff Konya came aboard.

But co-head coaches, in Division I?

That's practically unheard of.

"We feel good about it," Konya said Wednesday, a day after Colin Kaline and Jacke Healey were named, jointly, in charge of the baseball program.
"This was just the right time, the right school, the right athletic situation for something like this to be attempted. I don't know if it's trend-setting or anything. I do think in this situation, it was the right outcome."

Kaline, 27, and Healey, 28, each received a two-year contract that will pay each about $50,000 annually.

The formal announcement came Tuesday afternoon, hours after The News reported a deal was first in the works.

Kaline, the grandson of legendary Tigers Hall-of-Famer Al Kaline, comes to Oakland after two years as an assistant at Florida Southern College in Lakeland, Florida. Healey had been an assistant at Oakland under former head coach John Musachio, who was informed last month his contract wasn't being renewed after nine seasons.

Healey has been serving as Oakland's interim coach.

"This was a clearly different way of thinking," Kaline said over the phone Wednesday. "I was really excited when they made the proposal.

Kaline's grandson to coach at Oakland University

"Jacke and I are both kind of on the same career arc, age wise, playing experience, we both played in the minor leagues, both having assistant-coaching experience. If two candidates going into a head-coaching gig were in much different stages of their careers, I think it might be an issue.

"With where we're at, being very similar, I think it will help, being able to bounce ideas off one another."

Kaline, a graduate of Birmingham Groves High School who played four years at Florida Southern, was a two-time draft pick of the Tigers, and played two years in their system before coaching with Detroit's rookie-ball team before returning to Florida Southern to join the staff.

For Kaline, who hasn't lived in Michigan since before he went off to college, he's excited for the new career challenge -- but also to be coming home with his wife, Stephanie, whom he married in October 2013.

Healey, a Pennsylvania native who finished his college career at Youngstown State, played two years of pro ball after being drafted by the Houston Astros, then spent a year on Pittsburgh's coaching staff before coming to Oakland in 2013.

They were two of three finalists for the Oakland head coaching job, which never was originally planned on going to two men.

"It happened organically," Konya said. "I'm not sure two 50-year-olds or two 40-year-olds or if there was a huge discrepancy in experience ... that the relationship could've been viable.

"But in this situation, these two candidates were the best-prepared and best-organized throughout the process."

There are questions, like who'll decide which players to start in the lineup, or whether to hit-and-run, or whether to pull a pitcher, and which pitcher to call upon in relief

The head coach is the final decision-maker. But when there are two, there are bound to be occasional conflicts.

Kaline and Healey don't dispute that, nor are they afraid of that.

"No question, that's human nature. Guys have different opinions," Healey said. "It may appear to be a hurdle, but I don't necessarily think it will be.

"It's just constant communication.

"I think the transition will be pretty smooth, because we are both young. The game of baseball is just an evolving game, as you know."

Oakland baseball hasn't had a winning overall record since 1997, which, in the end, was a motivating factor to give the go-ahead to co-head coaches, Konya said.

Other, more traditional hires haven't worked. So, why not try something new, even if it's unconventional?

Kaline and Healey know each other a bit from playing against each other in the minor leagues, and have texted frequently the last several days. They believe they're similar, personality-wise, which will help make this move a success.

"The sum of the parts," said Konya, "is gonna be greater than the whole."

The status of assistant baseball coaches Kyle Dean and Hayden Fox hasn't been determined yet.