RADFORD — Karl Kuhn had never been a Division I baseball head coach and wasn’t anticipating an offer to come along last Friday.
Kuhn, the longtime pitching coach at Virginia, was in his office when he said he was approached by UVa head coach Brian O’Connor.
“He asked me if I would have any interest in the position at Radford,” Kuhn recalled Thursday. “And I immediately told him: ‘Absolutely, what a great place!’
“He said: ‘OK, let me reach back out to them and let you take it from there.’”
Six days later, Kuhn was introduced as the Highlanders’ head coach Thursday after agreeing to terms Wednesday night with the Radford administration.
Joe Raccuia, the head coach at Radford for the previous 12 seasons, resigned Aug. 15. He had been placed on administrative leave earlier in the summer.
“This was a great opportunity,” said Kuhn, who said he had fielded other head-coaching overtures in the past.
Athletic director Robert Lineburg and RU President Brian Hemphill were key factors in his decision.
“Robert’s pursuit and vision were clear and infectious and, at the end of the day, you want to work with people you want to work with — and not for,” Kuhn said. “President Hemphill was the icing on the cake for me. He absolutely made me feel warm and welcome, and I wanted 100 percent to be his head coach.”
Kuhn obviously built his reputation for what UVa has been able to do on the mound. UVa won 700 games, made 14 NCAA Tournament appearances and appeared in four College World Series during his 16-season tenure in Charlottesville.
Kuhn was named the Collegiate Baseball Newspaper assistant coach of the year in 2014, and then saw his pitching staff lead the way as the Cavaliers won the 2015 national championship.
Kuhn also mentored 17 All-Americans and saw 44 players selected in the MLB Draft.
Kuhn said he would not be his own pitching coach.
“We’re going to keep the staff that’s in place,” he said. “This team is theirs. I’m the outsider. This is not going to be a 360-degree my way. I’m coming into their house. I know that and I’m respectful of that. I’ve just been tabbed by the leadership here at Radford to mind this store.
“The only things I can assure you of is, these young men are going to be accountable, there’s going to be clear communication and we’re going to deal with 100% transparency and mutual respect.”
Radford was 30-27 last season, including a 19-8 mark in Big South play. Radford made the NCAA Tournament in 2015 and 2017.
“We became aware that there would be a decision by Thursday, so we were kind of anxious when Thursday came,” said shortstop Colby Higgerson, one of the returning players who was at the Dedmon Center for the announcement.
“We’re excited Coach Kuhn is going to be here. He’s had a lot of success and we’ve had a lot of success here too, so he’s going to help us keep moving in the right direction. Now we feel like we’re in a good spot.”
Shortly after Radford had concluded its press conference, UVa released a statement from O’Connor, who congratulated Kuhn and also acknowledged what his now-departed assistant meant to the Cavaliers’ program.
“The past few days have been a whirlwind of emotions,” O’Connor said in the release. “After 16 years together, it is hard to say goodbye to such a loyal friend and one of the best assistant coaches in the country, but we are all happy for Karl and his family for this opportunity. It is certainly hard-earned and well-deserved.
“I will forever be grateful for Karl’s unwavering support and dedication as he helped bring the Virginia baseball program the new levels of success and national respect.”
Back in Radford, another bond was established quickly when Kuhn had dinner at Hemphill’s house early in the week.
“We’re ecstatic,” Radford’s president said. “He’s clearly a dynamic coach that we feel we’ll have a bright future with. I would say, with a great deal of certainty, that if he’s half the coach that he is a human being, we’re going to win a lot of championships.
“Baseball will take care of itself because he’s a heck of a coach. Robert and his team did an amazing job in conducting a national search and going out and finding what I see as the perfect person to run this program.”
Kuhn became emotional as he addressed a crowd that included his wife and two young sons, praising O’Connor and Kuhn’s longtime fellow UVa assistant Kevin McMullan.
“I’m a father and husband first, “ Kuhn said, “but when I’m at the yard, you’ll have me 100%. Nothing happens overnight. Radford has unbelievable, untapped potential. I would not have accepted the job here if I did not fully believe that.”