On June 2, 2006, Mike Gillespie officially retired after a 20-year career at USC, leaving a legacy with the Trojans that has only been surpassed by the previous skipper, the legendary Rod Dedeaux. His respect for the game, attention to detail and baseball acumen drew respect among his college baseball peers. It proved to be a winning combination that lasted for two decades.
He is only one of two men (Arizona's Jerry Kindall) to both play for and coach an NCAA championship baseball team. He was the left fielder for Troy's 1961 national championship squad and coached the 1998 team to the school's 12th and latest title.
Gillespie posted a 763-471-2 (.618) record at the helm of the Trojans. His emphasis on education and conduct on and off the field have produced a number of quality baseball players as attested by 28 former Trojans who have played in the major leagues. His most recent players appeared in September 2007 (Ian Kennedy with the New York Yankees and Jeff Clement with the Seattle Mariners).
In 2005, 13 former players coached by Gillespie were playing in the major leagues while five of his former players (Mark Prior, Barry Zito, Aaron Boone, Bret Boone and Geoff Jenkins) were named to the 2003 All-Star Game.
When Gillespie took over at USC in 1987, he inherited a Trojan baseball program that had made just one postseason appearance in eight years. Since then, he led USC to playoff spots in 15 of his 20 seasons, including five Super Regional appearances in his last eight years. In 2001, Gillespie guided Troy to the College World Series for the fourth time in seven years, including back-to-back appearances for the first time since 1973 and 1974.
His teams have won five Pacific-10 titles (three Southern Division titles in 1991, 1995 and 1996 and two outright titles in 2001 and 2002 after the conference went to its current nine-team alignment in 1999). The 1995 team made USC's first trip to the College World Series in 17 years (where the Trojans finished as the nation's runner-up).
In the summer of 2000, Gillespie served as the head coach of the 2000 USA Baseball National Team, made up of collegiate players. Gillespie guided the team to a 27-3-1 record, posting the highest winning percentage (.900) in history until the mark was surpassed by the 2003 team. The team reeled off a 21-game unbeaten streak at the end of the season, including the Haarlem Honkbal Week championship in the Netherlands. The team garnered the championship with an 8-5 win against Cuba. For his efforts, he was nominated by the United States Olympic Committee as the baseball coach of the year.
Previously, Gillespie was an assistant coach on the 1997 USA team.
Gillespie was named the 1998 National Coach of the Year (by both Collegiate Baseball and the American Baseball Coaches Association), the Pac-10 Coach of the Year four times (1991-1995-1996-2002) and the West Region Coach of the Year twice (1996 and 1998) by the American Baseball Coaches Association.
In 1998, the Trojans won their first national championship in 20 years. After losing their opener at the College World Series, they won five games in six days, including the title game against Arizona State, 21-14. Overall, the Trojans went 49-17 and placed second in the Pac-10 with a mark of 21-9.
The national championship was an exclamation point on an outstanding run at USC for Gillespie. The Trojans went 20-5 to finish the season.
USC showed steady improvement when Gillespie took over for Dedeaux, who won 1,332 games and 11 national championships in 45 years as the Trojan head coach). He turned what was expected to be a weak transition season into one full of surprising successes. USC opened the 1987 season 11-4 before taking the conference by surprise, sweeping Arizona State in a three-game league-opening series. By the midway point of the season, the Trojans had an impressive 21-9 record and finished a respectable 32-28 overall (12-18 in league).
The 1988 season -- Gillespie's second at USC -- began in record-setting fashion, as the Trojans set a new school standard for best start (15-0, topping the old mark of 14-0 set by the 1943 team) and finished 36-26 (13-17 for fourth place in league). Troy finished one game away from the College World Series, losing the final two games of the West Regional to host Fresno State.
The 1989 season was another successful one for USC (41-25 overall, 16-14 in league play for third place). The Trojans had a disappointingly brief trip to the Midwest Regional in Austin, Texas, losing the first two playoff games.
The 1990 Trojans went 40-22 overall (18-12 in league play for third place) and finished No. 6 in the final rankings. The Trojans narrowly missed the College World Series, losing the final two games at the NCAA South I Regional to host LSU.
Gillespie led the 1991 team to an impressive 46-17-1 overall record and was honored as the 1991 Pac-10 Coach of the Year. USC went 23-7 in the difficult Pac-10 Southern Division and won its first conference title since the Southern Division was formed in 1979. The Trojans, who hosted the 1991 West I Regional playoffs at Dedeaux Field, also posted a remarkable 31-6 record at home (14-1 in conference games at home).
The 1992 Trojans went 28-26 overall and 13-17 in the Pac-10 for sixth place.
In 1993, Gillespie led the Trojans to a 35-29 mark (15-15 in league) and the Trojans reached the finals of the Central II Regional in Austin, Texas, losing to host Texas in the finale.
In 1994, Troy went 41-20 overall and 19-11 in league play for third place. USC reached the final game of the South I Regional in Baton Rouge, La., losing a wild 12-10 contest to host LSU.
The 1995 season was a banner year for the Trojans, who went 49-21 overall and 21-9 in league play. USC won the Pac-10 Southern Division title and then defeated Washington State twice to win the league's automatic bid. Troy emerged as the College World Series representative from the West Regional in Fresno (deemed by some as the toughest regional in the nation) and reached the CWS finals (losing to Cal State Fullerton, 11-5).
USC had a fine season in 1996, posting a 44-16-1 overall mark and 24-6 conference record for first place. The 1996 Trojans won a second consecutive league crown after defeating Washington in two of three games in the league championship series and then reached the finals of the Central II Regional at Lubbock, Texas, losing to Oklahoma State in the finale.
The 1997 Trojans, who went 42-20 overall and 17-13 in league play for third place, reached the finals of the South II Regional (losing to host and eventual College World Series finalist Alabama).
In 1999, the first year of the expanded NCAA Tournament, the Trojans won their own four-team regional, but fell just short of the College World Series when they then lost to Stanford in the Super Regionals. USC overcame numerous early-season injuries and close losses to post a 36-26 overall record and a second-place Pac-10 finish at 17-7.
The 2000 team used a 16-game winning streak at the end of the season and wins on the road at the Regional (Cal State Fullerton) and Super Regional (Georgia Tech) to make it to the College World Series and the 2001 squad made it to the CWS for the third time in four years with a 45-19 record and the Pac-10 championship with an 18-6 record.
Despite injuries that decimated the pitching staff, the 2002 version of the Trojans still rallied to earn a 37-24 mark and won their second straight Pac-10 championship with a 17-7 finish. Injuries once again played a factor with the pitching staff with the 2003 team that finished 28-28 overall and 11-13 (tied for fifth) in the Pac-10 as the Trojans saw their streak of 10 straight appearances in the NCAA Tournament snapped.
After failing to reach the NCAA Tournament in 2003 and 2004, the 2005 Trojans were one win away from a return trip to Omaha after falling in the NCAA Super Regional at Pac-10 champion Oregon State.
Gillespie came to USC from College of the Canyons (a community college located in Valencia, Calif., north of the San Fernando Valley) where he started from scratch and developed the baseball program into a dynasty of Dedeaux-like proportions. For example:
In his 16 years (1971-86) at Canyons, Gillespie compiled an impressive 418-165 record, a .717 winning percentage;
He won 11 Mountain Valley Conference championships, including six in a row (1981-86). In his last six years, he won three state championships and finished as the California runner-up twice. No other California community college coach has made it to five finals in a six-year span;
Gillespie's teams also finished with 20 or more wins in 13 of his 16 years at Canyons and he had six 30-plus win seasons. His final squad picked up 41 wins in 1986, the most ever by a California community college at that time;
Gillespie, who also served as Canyon's athletic director from 1977-86 and taught English, physical education and health education, was named California Community College Co-Coach of the Year three times (1981-83-86);
And he was inducted into the California Community College Baseball Coaches Hall of Fame in 1993;
Gillespie's involvement with successful teams goes back to his prep days at Hawthorne (Calif.) High, where he was an All-CIF baseball and football player. He went on to play both infield and outfield at USC while lettering three years (1960-62) under Dedeaux. The 1961 Trojan team won the national championship and the 1960 team finished as the NCAA runner-up. In fact, Gillespie is only one of two people (Arizona's Jerry Kindall) to play on and coach a national championship team.
A physical education major, Gillespie earned both bachelor's (1962) and master's (1963) degrees from USC before becoming the freshman baseball coach at Palos Verdes (Calif.) High for one season (1964). He then took over as varsity baseball coach at Rolling Hills (Calif.) High, where his teams won three league championships in his six years there (1965-70). Mike was also an assistant varsity football coach at Rolling Hills until moving on to College of the Canyons.
For three summers (1983-85), Gillespie managed the North Pole Nicks in the Alaska Semipro League, earning 1984 Alaska League Manager of the Year honors. His 1985 team won the league championship and finished second out of 34 teams in the National Baseball Congress World Series.
Gillespie is married (Barbara, his wife, is also a USC alumnus) and has four children -- Kelly Kreuter (whose husband, Chad, is now the current USC head coach after a 16-year major league career), Mitch, Matt and Tiffany -- and two grandchildren (Cade and Cole).