UAB didn’t anticipate a coaching change this summer, but when the need to appoint a new head coach arose, there was one name that stood out: Joe Guthrie.
Guthrie had been the Blazers’ top assistant for the past two years, earning the title of associate head coach before the 2020 season. He was officially named the team’s new head coach on July 9, following the departure of Jimmy Kolaitis to Arizona State.
A veteran coach, Guthrie spent six years as the head coach at Marion Military Institute from 2007-13. His career also includes several stints as an assistant coach at various schools, and Guthrie believes that his career path has prepared him to be a Division I head coach.
“When I first got into [coaching], I started out in junior college, and I came into that job after being a pro scout,” Guthrie said. “And you’re almost oblivious when you’re starting a junior college program, but when I first started, I think it actually was easier… Once I got a taste of Division One, it didn’t necessarily have to be Power Five, but I thought ‘I want to be a Division One head coach.’ And the different places I’ve coached along the way have, I really think, prepared me for this opportunity.”
Familiarity with his team and the program that he now leads should make for a fairly seamless transition into Guthrie’s tenure as head coach, and don’t be surprised if only a few things change in the immediate future; Guthrie was an integral part of the program’s rise under Kolaitis, and intends to maintain much of the status quo to continue that upward trend.
Pitching coach Courtnay Foster is still on staff, but Guthrie does have one assistant’s position to fill. With a desire to maintain the camaraderie of the most recent coaching staff, he knows what he wants to see in a new crew member: “My first thought on that was that really, it needs to be somebody who can maybe replace Jimmy,” Guthrie said. “That was a staff that we were having success with. Even though it was a head-and-assistant makeup, we complimented each other really well. We look at things like how our skill sets overlap and what we are each good at, and then look at how we can go from there. That’s the first thing I want to look at [in a new coach]: how we all compliment one another.”
The pressures of being a first-time Division I head coach can be pretty strenuous at times, but Guthrie has a distinction that few college softball coaches can claim: He spent several years in the United States military, a career that included deploying to Iraq. After his time in the service, Guthrie doesn’t feel the pressures of the job in the same way that other coaches might.
“There’s always pressure in a job like this,” Guthrie said. “But when you’ve been to war and you’ve been through the different things that I have in my life experiences, you almost get to a point where it’s different if pressure *isn’t* there. For me, honestly, I’m more comfortable in chaos than I am on just an average Monday morning.”
“It’s almost like there’s a national hangover right now,” Guthrie noted. “And we want to and we will embody the values that we’ve built this program on and that have made us successful to this point, but we’re also going to do some things that might be a little wild and outrageous, within the confines of the rules. We’re going to do some fun things and have some fun; that’s something that’s going to be an emphasis because I think we need it. The players need it. I want us to play with joy and to emphasize that.”
Humble to a tee, even as he settles into his new role as a D1 head coach, Guthrie extended a word of gratitude to the people that he says have helped him get to this point.
“The one thing that I absolutely want to say is that I really appreciate the efforts of all of the players that I’ve had for what’s now going on almost fourteen years at various levels. I’ve had places that I’ve had to leave earlier than you want to, and there have been places that I’ve stayed for a good amount of time and gotten to know just like the back of my hand. But every player along the way has put me where I am, and I’m eternally grateful for that. It’s not about me; it’s what they’ve done that’s made me look better than I am. And I really, really appreciate that.”