June 14, 2007
MIAMI, Fla. - Henry "Turtle" Thomas has been named head baseball coach at Florida International University, Athletic Director Pete Garcia announced today. Regarded as one of the top assistant coaches and recruiters in college baseball, Thomas brings more than 30 years of experience, 14 trips to the College World Series and 18-straight top-10 baseball recruiting classes to the Golden Panthers program.
"After 30 years of coaching college baseball, I'm very excited to lead the FIU baseball program," Thomas said. "I'm very appreciative of President Maidique and Pete Garcia, that those two gentlemen have given me this opportunity.
"We look forward to making the FIU community excited about baseball again and we're looking forward to the challenge." Some of the most-successful programs in college baseball's recent history grace Thomas' resume, including Clemson, Georgia Tech, Miami, Louisiana State and his most recent stop, at 2007 CWS participant, Arizona State.
"We are very fortunate to be able to hire a coach as talented as Turtle Thomas," Garcia said. "He knows the game, he's the best recruiter in the country and he knows South Florida. He will bring excitement and interest to FIU baseball.
"The journey to Omaha begins today."
Though he will lead the Golden Panthers program in the future, Thomas will help coach Arizona State in its National Championship bid in Omaha, beginning Saturday against UC-Irvine. Thomas has played a major role in the Sun Devils' success this season, helping lead the team to a No. 3 national ranking. The Sun Devils (48-13) currently share the nation's best team batting average with Florida State and College of Charleston (.350), lead the country in scoring (9.5 runs/game), fielding percentage (.978) and rank in the top 10 in doubles, slugging percentage and winning percentage.
"FIU is hiring the hardest-working coach I've ever been around," ASU head coach Pat Murphy said. "He's relentless and he's a good person. He is a legend in college baseball for his recruiting efforts and great coaching at winning programs.
"Everything Turtle Thomas is around turns to gold. I feel FIU will be as good a program as they've ever been with him there, and will reach new heights."
Thomas began his Division I coaching career at Clemson, where he spent eight seasons and helped the Tigers reach the 1980 CWS. He moved on to Georgia Tech and spent two years as the assistant head coach under current Miami head coach Jim Morris. In 1988 he was named assistant coach and recruiting coordinator at Miami by Hall of Fame coach Ron Fraser. The Hurricanes reached the CWS nine times in Thomas' 12 years in Coral Gables, winning a National Championship in 1999, and going to Omaha six-straight seasons (1994-99).
"You have a great guy in Turtle Thomas," Fraser said. "He can recruit and he knows where to find the best guys. He can coach and he is such a hard worker. This is great for FIU and they are lucky to have him. He helped our program at Miami so much when he was there."
He won a second national title his first season with LSU, in 2000. The 2000 title was one of three trips to the CWS that Thomas made in his seven seasons in Baton Rouge.
While his experience and expertise as a coach are impressive, Thomas' skills as a recruiter are unmatched. He had 18-straight recruiting classes ranked among Collegiate Baseball's Top 10 at Miami and LSU. He is the only recruiting coordinator in the nation who has signed the No. 1 rated class four times, and he has never had a class rated lower than ninth over the past 19 years. Thomas has also signed the second-rated class four times. Every class he signed at LSU ranked in the Top 6, including his 2004 class, which was considered the best in the country.
"Pete Garcia has made a great choice in Turtle Thomas," legendary college baseball coach and current LSU Athletic Director Skip Bertman said. "He is tremendous as a one-on-one coach. It can't be a coincidence that Turtle left a championship program like Miami and came to LSU the next year and helped us win a championship. Now, Arizona State is in the College World Series in his first year there.
"Turtle will be a winner. There is no doubt about that."
The roll call of major leaguers Thomas recruited and coached numbers more than 60. The list includes Charles Johnson, Alex Fernandez, Pat Burrell, Danny Graves, Alex Cora, Aubrey Huff and Brad Hawpe.
A 1975 graduate of High Point (N.C.) College, Thomas earned a master's degree from UNC-Greensboro in 1978. He was a four-year letterman at catcher, playing two seasons at Campbell University before completing his final two undergraduate years at High Point.
Thomas is married to the former Maria Carmen Nateman, and they have three children, Kevin, Kristen and Keith.