LEWISTON, Idaho - After two seasons at the helm, Gary Picone announced at a news conference on Friday afternoon that he will step down as head coach of the Lewis-Clark State College baseball program. Picone, who will remain the school's athletic director, also announced that Western Oregon University head coach Jeremiah Robbins has been hired as his successor.
The changes will begin officially on July 1.
"When we made the transition two years ago we wanted to be sure the transition was one that allowed the baseball program to maintain its status in the baseball community, especially in the area of recruiting," said Picone. "I feel really good about where the program is as it relates to scheduling, recruiting, and the overall perception of the program."
Picone; who became only the second head coach in 35 years at LCSC when he took over duties on Sept. 1, 2010, after legendary coach Ed Cheff retired; led the Warriors to a two-year record of 80-31, including a 42-14 mark last season and a postseason ranking of No. 8 in the NAIA.
"I really need to thank several people who supported my efforts the past two years in the dual role I served as head coach and athletic director. Specifically I'd like to thank Ed Cheff, Brooke Cushman, Gus Knickrehm, and Tony Fernandez."
Picone, who was named the NAIA West Region's Under Armour Athletic Director of the Year in 2011, says that one of his major focuses will now be on preparing and securing the bid to host the NAIA World Series.
"Gary Picone demonstrated outstanding leadership as head baseball coach over the past two years," said Fernandez, president of Lewis-Clark State. "He not only coached the Warriors to two successful seasons on the playing field, more importantly, he served as a mentor to our student athletes in both successful and difficult times. I know that I speak for the entire college in thanking Gary for serving as head baseball coach, and for his continuing leadership as LCSC athletic director."
LCSC will host the 2013 NAIA World Series, and bids to host the tournament in 2014 and beyond are due in December.
"The baseball program and LC athletics deserve and need to have someone in leadership who wakes up every day with a singular focus," Picone said. "I believe this is the perfect timing, and mostly because we've found the right person to lead the baseball program."
Robbins comes to the Warriors after seven seasons as head coach with Western Oregon. He compiled a 252-109 record during his time with the Wolves, including a 170-34 record in the Great Northwest Athletic Conference (NCAA D-II).
"Jeremiah Robbins is exactly the kind of person the LC program needs going forward," said Picone. "He has established a strong reputation for his coaching ability in the college baseball community, and he has a proven record of excellent leadership."
Robbins takes the helm of one of the premier teams in the NAIA and one of the most successful programs in all of college baseball. In the last 37 years, the Warriors have built a record of 1,785-461 while claiming 16 national championships.
"I'm truly honored, and I'd like to thank President Fernandez and Gary Picone for putting their trust in me to lead this program," said Robbins. "Obviously, when you're in the Northwest and you're a young coach coming up you try to model things after Lewis-Clark State. It is one of the top programs not only in the Northwest but in the United States, and to be selected as the leader of the program is the highest honor I could ever achieve. I know it's a cliché, but it's definitely a dream come true."
Robbins led the Wolves to seven straight GNAC titles, and received seven conference Coach of the Year awards in the process. In 2006 and 2012, he was named the National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association West Region Coach of the Year.
"We are indeed fortunate for someone as experienced and talented as Jeremiah Robbins to serve as LCSC head baseball coach," Fernandez said. "We look forward to Coach Robbins continuing the Warrior tradition of excellence and we welcome him and his family to Lewiston and Lewis-Clark State College."
Robbins' 2012 squad won the school's 12th consecutive conference title with a 29-3 record in the GNAC, and earned their fifth bid to the NCAA West regional tournament under Robbins' guidance. In 2006, his first season at the helm, the Wolves won the GNAC title and were the No. 1 seed and host of the NCAA Division II West Region Tournament.
Robbins said one of the things that interests him most about coaching at LCSC is the support the program receives from the community.
"We've been to Lewiston numerous times over the last seven years and all you see is LC baseball everywhere. There's truly a passion for the game there, and a passion to do it right."
A native of Winston, Ore., Robbins played baseball at Douglas High School before playing two seasons at College of the Redwoods and one at Western Oregon. He earned all-conference honors as a catcher with the Wolves in 1998 before suffering a career-ending injury.
Prior to coaching at Western Oregon he served two seasons as head coach at Douglas where his teams won back-to-back Far West League championships and he was honored with two league Coach of the Year titles.
Robbins, who earned a Bachelor's degree from Eastern Oregon University, will be joined in Lewiston by his wife, Mareena, and his sons, Luke and Cal.