Oakland baseball ditches co-head coach setup; Colin Kaline gets full-time gig

Tony Paul
The Detroit News
Colin Kaline with his grandfather, Al.

Oakland University baseball no longer will have co-head coaches.

Colin Kaline, the grandson of Tigers Hall-of-Famer Al Kaline, will be the permanent head coach, the university announced Wednesday.

Kaline had been co-head coach along with Jacke Healey the last three years, the only Division I program in the country to have such an unorthodox setup.

"There's a reason only one institution is doing it," Healey said. "I acknowledge and appreciate the opportunity.

"But there are challenges."

In July 2016, then-athletic director Jeff Konya took the unusual step of naming Kaline and Healey co-head coaches at Oakland. 

Given their ages at the time — Healey was 28, Kaline was 27 — and the fact neither had head-coaching experience, Konya felt it was worth a shot.

And there were benefits.

"You know, I don't think anybody ever thought it was going to be a long-term solution," Kaline said. "We were able to bounce ideas off each other.

"But it just kind of came to a head.

"Neither of us thought this was gonna be a forever thing."

Kaline and Healey didn't divide up responsibilities, at least with any hard-fast rules, and both said decisions were made equally and without issue. Both reportedly made between $50,000 and $60,000 per year.

Oakland was 17-40 in Year 1, 15-32 in Year 2 and 11-37 this past season, tough records to be sure. But there were positives. The Golden Grizzlies made a surprising run in the 2017 Horizon League tournament, and in 2017-18, they had players taken in the first 10 rounds of the MLB Draft in back-to-back years for the first time: Jake Lee (2018, ninth round, Angels) and Zach Sterry (2017, eighth round, Red Sox).

"I think there were a ton of positives," said Haley, who has been on staff since 2013 and was interim coach when Oakland fired coach John Musachio. "You win, or you learn, and each of us did a ton of learning.

"Each of us, I would hope, made the other better."

Healey said he isn't sure what's next for him. He was informed this week his contract wasn't being renewed, and he might try and continue coaching, perhaps in the Pittsburgh area, or join the private sector.

Kaline spent Wednesday talking to current and future players about the situation.

Kaline played at Birmingham Groves High School, where as a senior he batted .535 with just three strikeouts in 187 at-bats. He played collegiately at Florida Southern College in Lakleland, before the Tigers drafted him in the 26th round in 2011.

"It sure is," Kaline quipped, when asked if the pressure is now on him. "It was great for both of us, in that we would bounce ideas off each other as we both grew and continued to grow as head coaches. But everybody wants to do things slightly differently, for better or worse, and we ended up having differences of opinions in how things should go."

Oakland is a challenging coaching destination, given its place among the bottom of Division I schools. The facilities also are a nightmare, the field at a bottom of a hill on the Rochester campus — leading to constant flooding issues in the spring. This year, Oakland had three or four home dates.

That said, next up for Kaline — between tending to a newborn daughter, Kennedy, 9 months — is hiring a coaching staff.

Asked if his grandfather might be in the market for a gig, Kaline quipped, "I sure don't. I think he's doing just fine with everything that he's done."


Twitter: @tonypaul1984