Brian Green Takes Over Wichita State Baseball

By Paul Suellentrop
In the next few days, Brian Green will return to Pullman, Wash., gas up his 2019 37-foot Thor Class A recreational vehicle, pick a crime podcast and map a journey to the future of Wichita State baseball.

“I love (driving),” he said. “I can put kids on the speaker phone. It’s very easy to communicate.”

Green, introduced as Shocker baseball coach on Wednesday, is making his brown-and-crimson RV a central figure of both his first weeks on the job and his long-range plan.

As he drives from Pullman to Wichita, he will visit Shockers players in the transfer portal. The 1,658-mile trip to Wichita will expand as he considers stops in Arizona, Texas, Oklahoma, Wisconsin, South Dakota, Kansas and any other place necessary.

“I’ll take a day or two with the family and stay on the phone the rest of the time, then get in the RV and be on the phone and drive back here,” Green said. “I’m going to probably come to Texas and up. Go to Missouri and down. Hit any of the Kansas kids.”

This is about building relationships, which is the theme in the hires made by Wichita State director of athletics Kevin Saal in his first year on the job. Basketball coaches Paul Mills and Terry Nooner and Green are all described as people who connect and serve their athletes.

“He has this uncanny ability to get the best out of people,” said Hawaii coach Rich Hill, head coach at San Diego with Green as an assistant. “People love being around him. The players gravitate toward him.”

In an era where the transfer portal and name, image and likeness money dominate, relationships, communication, trust and bonds can level the playing field. That is a field Wichita State can play on as well as any school with the right coaches.

Green said he did Zoom sessions with the Shockers, recruits and families. He has contacted all players by text or group chat, many by phone and will soon talk to the rest.

“What’s immediate is this program right now,” he said. “My sole responsibility right now is to try to keep that team and get back to Wichita and allow me the opportunity to coach them.”

Green has a lot of connecting to do as he attempts to rebuild a roster after most of the Shockers eligible to return entered the transfer portal. Some are already coming back. He made it clear on Wednesday he respects what the 2023 players and coaches accomplished under interim coach Loren Hibbs.

He wants to give those Shockers a chance to stay Shockers and win together. He wants the recruiting class to stick with him and the school they chose.

“This isn’t a rebuild,” Green said during Wednesday’s introduction in the Eck Stadium locker room. “There’s a lot of good players on this field and there’s a lot of good talent coming in and that’s a tribute to the coaching staff. It was very loud there were real people here.”

Green referred to the challenge of building trust quickly with Shockers and recruits. He wants to name his coaching staff – he interviewed assistants Mike Pelfrey and Mike Sirianni in recent days – quickly to give the Shockers all the information to make their decision.

What better way to establish trust with Shockers and their families than driving cross country to meet face to face?

“Time investment,” Green said. “If our players see their head coach driving to their house from Washington in an RV and stopping along the way before he goes to work in Wichita, I think that’s a pretty loud statement.”

Green’s fondness for RV’s came from his days as an assistant at Kentucky from 2009-2014. The Wildcats played at Texas A&M and the tailgating scene with RV’s and Aggie fans made an impression. When Green moved to New Mexico State in 2015, he bought an RV and started a tailgate club at baseball games. He took that to Washington State in 2020.

“Five years later, we had 20 RV members creating a big square, food in the middle, cooking for the kids, full-on culture of family (at New Mexico State),” he said. “That’s how this got started.”

Saal is also an RV fan. He lived in one last summer when he arrived at Wichita State. In April, Wichita State had an RV weekend for baseball and softball. As an administrator at Kentucky, he also got an up-close look at passionate fans when he oversaw baseball during Green’s time in Lexington.

“Kevin brought up an opportunity here in right field where we had a chance to create an SEC environment,” Green said. “I said ‘Oh, you’re selling me here.'”

The environment matters to Green. He remembers Wichita State as a power. He wants that again, wants to play in Omaha. Luring fans back to Eck Stadium is part of that.

He arrived at Eck Stadium early Wednesday afternoon and his memories of watching the Shockers battle Miami, LSU and Oklahoma State on ESPN in Omaha rushed back.

He saw pictures of the stadium and facilities online. He wasn’t prepared for the mural that dominates the entry way. He said he teared up as he looked the Shocker greats. He toured the offices, said “wow” when he came into the Bombardier Learjet Indoor Practice Facility and looked over the field from the All-American Club.

He spoke about coaching in the dugouts that former coach Gene Stephenson – who sat in the front row during the introduction – built. He talked about meeting former pitching coach Brent Kemnitz and told alums that his door is open. Several former Shockers, including Pelfrey, attended Wednesday’s introdcution. Green mentioned the College World Series four times in his 17-minute talk and admitted to tearing up at least three times.

Everything he saw and felt pointed him toward NCAA regionals and Omaha. He knows getting the Shockers back into that realm is not easy. Wichita State last played in Omaha in 1996 and last played in an NCAA regional in 2013. It last won an NCAA game in 2008.

Green said he loved coaching at Washington State and living in Pullman. Wichita State’s potential spoke loudly.

“It’s Wichita State,” he said. “It’s history. There’s no ceiling.”

Paul Suellentrop writes about Wichita State athletics for university Strategic Communications. Story suggestion? Contact him at [email protected].