Chris Curry’s stint as Meridian Community College’s baseball coach has concluded, and the Dillon Sudduth era has begun.
That’s the word today from MCC President Dr. Scott Elliott, who announced that the Curry, the Eagles’ head diamond coach for the past two seasons, has accepted an assistant coaching position at Northwestern State University in Louisiana. In response, Elliott said he immediately turned to Sudduth, an assistant the last five years on MCC’s staff, to head the Eagle program.
“This is a bad news-good news day for MCC,” Elliott assessed. “Losing a young, dynamic coach of the magnitude of Chris Curry is undeniably a blow, but the good news is that we have a very capable coach waiting in the wings in Dillon. In actuality, Dillon was a serious candidate for our head coaching job two years ago when Chris came on board. Now that Dillon has had two more seasons of experience under his belt working on Chris’ staff, I have no doubt whatsoever that he’s ready to be our head coach.”
Elliott said it came as “no surprise” to him that Curry would be lured away to an NCAA Division I program.
“Through the years, MCC has taken great pride in hiring baseball coaches who have gone on to achieve worthy goals at the major college level,” Elliott said. “That list includes Corky Palmer, who is one of only two men in American baseball history to lead both a junior college (MCC) and university team (Southern Miss) to their respective world series. Then, of course, Scott Berry (USM) and Russ McNickle (St. Leo University) have gone on to also become successful NCAA Division I head coaches. Mike Federico and Chad Caillet are both doing a super job on Scott Berry’s staff at Southern Miss. I fully expected, from the beginning of Chris Curry’s tenure at MCC, that he was cut out of the same mold. However, I was obviously hoping to keep him for more than a couple of seasons.”
Curry’s 2012 squad won a Miss-Lou Conference championship, losing a heartbreaking extra-inning game in the Region 23 finals to Delgado. His two-year record as Eagle chieftain was 69-44 for a 61% winning percentage.
“I didn’t anticipate an opportunity like this coming along so soon,” Curry said. “I am leaving Meridian with mixed emotions. I will always be an MCC Eagle. I played here and coached here. MCC means a great deal to me. Also, it is an exciting time for MCC baseball with the extensive field renovations that are under way, and with the team we’ve put together for the 2013 season. There’s a part of me that would have relished coaching this group and seeing how far we could go. On the other hand, having the chance to coach on Lane Burroughs’ staff in an NCAA Division I program is an opportunity I just can’t pass up. Lane (another former MCC player who also coached at Mississippi State), in my view, is a bright star on the Division I coaching scene, and I expect to take another big step in my own professional development by working with him.”
Curry emphasized that he is leaving the MCC program “in great hands.”
“Dr. Elliott is making absolutely the right decision in promoting Dillon,” Curry said. “He is more than up to the challenge. Dillon is an outstanding evaluator of young baseball talent, and a fine coach in his own right. He has a terrific work ethic and very positive rapport with the players. I feel like we have generated some momentum over the last two years, and I am confident that Dillon will build on that momentum.”
Sudduth, who joined the MCC staff in 2007, becomes the sixth MCC assistant baseball coach to ascend to the head job, following Terry Williams, Berry, Federico, Calliet and Chris Rose.
“It’s a formula that has worked well for MCC,” Elliott said, “but that’s only because the assistant coaches MCC has promoted have been part of a highly successful program. In fact, they have all contributed mightily to that success. Dillon has earned his shot, and I am confident that he will continue the tradition of excellence we’ve enjoyed with Eagle baseball. As president, you always want to hire people whom others would like to have on their staffs. As terse as it may sound, you don’t want people no one else would want to hire. But the down side of that equation is that it’s hard to retain that caliber of coaching talent, especially when the individual doesn’t have really strong East Mississippi roots.”
Sudduth has an impressive baseball pedigree. He was an All-State shortstop for Madison Central High School, then helped lead MCC as a freshman infielder in 2004 to the junior college world series. He had another successful season as a sophomore with MCC winning the state MACJC championship. He went on to play for Southeastern Louisiana University the next two years before embarking on his coaching career.
“I am truly honored to be MCC’s head coach,” Sudduth said. “I’m going to bust my gut to make sure ours remains a premier program. We’ve got a solid nucleus of sophomores returning, and we’re really excited about our freshman recruits. I look forward to coaching this team with great anticipation.”
Already Sudduth has made his first big call as the new Eagle bossman, naming Thomas Tillery as his first assistant coach. Tillery, who pitched on an NJCAA national championship team at LSU-Eunice, was second assistant on Curry’s staff in 2011-12. He came to MCC after serving on the coaching staff of Southern Arkansas University.
“Coach Tillery and I work well together,” Sudduth said. “Retaining him on the coaching staff is an important element of our team’s future success.”