Head Coach Mike Bianco brings National Championship to Ole Miss
OMAHA, Neb. – Before some of the best coaches in college sports were legends, they were doubted. Bobby Bowden was told he could not win the big one. He later won two national titles as the Florida State football coach.
In 1990, Mike Krzyzewski was hired at Duke when the Blue Devils were not even competitive in basketball. Coach K won five national titles.
Georgia’s Vince Dooley coached the Bulldogs for 17 years before winning his first national championship.
After 22 years at the helm of the Ole Miss baseball program, Mike Bianco now has his own national title. And the Ole Miss faithful love him…now. A few months ago, however, it seemed Bianco’s head was on the chopping block, with fans frustrated at the team’s then-7-14 league record.
But regardless of fan feelings, his players never wavered. Even as far back as the fall when he he held his annual “Omaha Challenge,” Coach Bianco’s team believed.
That belief was well-founded.
“Just so proud, as you can only imagine, to get to this point,” Bianco said after his team captured the national title. .
“We’ve talked about it the whole time here but even before here, the journey that this team has been through and where they’ve come from. I’ve talked about the great leadership of Tim and all the — not just seniors but upperclassmen. I don’t think we get to this point without that. One of the things I’ve always learned, people say, ‘hey, how’s the leadership?’ Well, you can’t answer those questions until the season is over because when you’re going through fall practice, there’s no adversity. There’s no 7-14 teams. Everybody plays. Everybody pitches,” Bianco continued.
“But you find out at the end what you’re made of. Again, we’re not here without the leadership. It’s just been a neat run.”
Ole Miss head coach Mike Bianco
Bianco’s leadership and intuition led to that run.
Selfie with OUR national champion coach! Congrats @CoachMikeBianco no one more deserving! 🔴🔵@OleMissBSB pic.twitter.com/pzkGyCTXQf
— Keith Carter (@KeithCarterOM) June 27, 2022
How did he decide to go with Jack Dougherty in the first game of the finals? What coach would have done that? Mike Bianco.
Bianco runs out TJ McCants in game one of the finals to pinch hit. The sophomore hit a dinger – the first of three for the Rebels in the inning – to prove his coach knew what he was doing.
Sunday, it seemed Oklahoma had the edge. But Bianco always had the answer. Either challenging a call on the bases or just putting his players in the right place to succeed, the Ole Miss coach was there.
Bianco caught a glimpse on the Jumbotron of the Oklahoma runner going outside of the baseline, and he quickly went out on the field before his pitcher threw another ball, or it would have been too late to challenge. His quick thinking ultimately ended up with the runner being called out and a Sooner run taken off the board.
That could have meant the difference between winning and losing.
A big part of Bianco’s success is trusting what he has taught to his players. A trio of seniors — captain Tim Elko, Justin Bench and Kevin Graham — all came back to Oxford for two reasons. One, to win a national title. Check. One, to play again for Bianco. A bigger check.
“You know, it means the world that we were able to get Coach B a national championship here,” Elko said. “The coaches, they teach us so much. They keep us in line. They’re like friends to us, honestly. Obviously, they’re our coaches, but they’re the best. They’re the best there is. It’s an absolute joy to play for them,” he said.
‘It’s a joy just to go to the field every day and practice and be around them. I couldn’t have asked for a better coach, head coach, hitting coach, pitching coach, all of the coaches. I couldn’t have asked for better ones to play for for five years. It brings joy to my heart to win a national championship for them.”
Tim Elko on the Rebels’ coaches
A team that struggled through the Southeastern Conference schedule and barely made the NCAA tournament ultimately put it all together. A team only does that with a leader at the helm.
That leader wears number 5 for the national champion Ole Miss Rebels.
His name is Mike Bianco. He has won over 950 games as a head coach, with over 850 of those victories coming at Ole Miss, and he has cemented his spot among the legendary sports coaches.
Steve Barnes joins The Rebel Walk staff as a senior writer and brings a trifecta of journalistic experience. As a writer, he has covered college sports for Rivals.com, Football.com and SaturdayDownSouth.com as well as served as a beat writer for various traditional newspapers.
He has been a broadcaster for arena football and several national tournament events for the National Junior College Athletic Association as well as hosting various shows on radio.
A former sports information director at Albany (Ga.) State University and an assistant at Troy and West Florida, he has helped host many NCAA conference, regional and national events, including serving five years on the media committee of the NCAA Division II World Series.
Barnes, a native of Pensacola, Fla., attended Ole Miss in 1983-84, where his first journalism teacher was David Kellum. The duo has come a long way since that time.
He will bring a proven journalistic track record, along with a knack for finding the out-of-the-ordinary story angles to The Rebel Walk.
Barnes continues to reside in Pensacola a mere ten minutes from the beach because he does have taste and a brain.