Tony Vitello has led the Tennessee Vols to a lot of wins this season (44 wins in 50 games so far, to be exact) and he hasn’t done it at the expense of his players.
That’s in contrast to some of his SEC peers — specifically, Arkansas head coach Dave Van Horn.
On Thursday, after Tennessee beat Georgia 5-2 in the series opener in Knoxville, Vitello discussed with the media why he didn’t leave pitcher Chase Dollander in the game longer. Vitello made it clear that he wants to protect his players’ futures.
The Vols’ head coach essentially doesn’t feel as if he has the right to overuse a pitcher.
#Vols coach Tony Vitello on why he’s so careful with the pitch counts of future first-rounders Chase Dollander, Chase Burns, Blade Tidwell and Drew Beam: Those guys have futures. They’re not rented mules.— Wes Rucker (@wesrucker247) May 13, 2022
Not every head coach takes the same approach.
Arkansas head coach Dave Van Horn, for example, had no problem overusing Razorbacks pitcher Kevin Kopps last summer.
Kopps threw 118 pitches against NC State in a game last June, just one day after throwing 21 pitches in relief. The overuse came just a week after Kopps threw a ridiculous 185 pitches in a single weekend.
Van Horn defended the overuse last summer by noting that Kopps said he was alright with it.
At that point, it’s on Van Horn to protect his player. If you’re a college athlete in that situation, there’s a good chance you want to be out there on the mound throwing. I get it. But it’s on the head coach to not let that happen. That’s an absurd amount of pitches for a pitcher at any age, but it’s even more absurd for a college player who might have a future in the sport. Van Horn, though, clearly doesn’t care much about a player’s future, instead, he’s just worried about winning.
And I get that winning is the name of the game, but there’s also a human element to this.
Vitello gets that human element. Van Horn (and others) simply don’t.
Tennessee’s head coach catches a lot of criticism for his “hothead” approach. But Vitello is the one that’s managing games “the right way” and doing right by the kids. And for that, he should be applauded.
Featured image via Calvin Mattheis/News Sentinel / USA TODAY NETWORK