Getting to know Dan Heefner
Dan Heefner is the guy nearly every Athletic Director would like to have coaching his baseball team. The only question is whether he wants to leave the job he's got, and if he does, would Mizzou be on his short list?
- Head Coach, Dallas Baptist (07-current)
- Hitting Coach, DBU (05-07)
- Hitting Coach, Creighton (04)
- Hitting Coach, Northern Iowa (02-03)
Heefner's accomplishments since taking over the reins at Dallas Baptist have been remarkable.
2015 was his best season ever, finishing the regular season with a 43-13 record, 26-5 in the Missouri Valley Conference, and ranked #2 in RPI. His entire career of building the DBU program has been leading toward this level of success. From the DBU bio:
Dan Heefner enters his eleventh season with the Dallas Baptist Baseball Team and eighth year as the Patriots’ Head Coach. Recognized by Baseball America in 2013 as one of the Top 10 Coaches in College Baseball under the age of 40, Heefner begins the 2015 season as the 35th winningest active coach in NCAA Division I College Baseball with a career record of 256-153 (.626 win percentage).
It did not take Heefner long to make a mark at Dallas Baptist after being named the sixth head coach in Dallas Baptist history in July of 2007. In his first year as the DBU Baseball program’s Head Coach, Heefner led the Patriots to several historic milestones. In 2008, DBU earned their first ever NCAA Tournament appearance by receiving a No. 2 seed in the College Station Regional, after finishing the regular season with the 29th best RPI in the nation.Dallas Baptist’s at-large bid marked the first time since 1992 that an NCAA Division I Independent team, other than Miami, made the NCAA Tournament, and earned Heefner the American Baseball Coaches Association (ABCA) Midwest Region Coach of the Year Award. Heefner was also named the Independent Coach of the Year, which he received again following the 2009 season. In 2009, the Patriots went 38-17 and finished the regular season with the 36th best RPI in the nation.
In 2016 the Patriots won the regular season Missouri Valley Conference and was named the Dan Callahan MVC Coach of the Year .
Under Heefner the Patriots have been to NCAA Regionals four times, including 2011 when they won the Fort Worth Regional in a field that included TCU, Oklahoma, and Oral Roberts.
Heefner played college ball at Olivet Nazarene University in Kankakee, IL, and received his Masters degree at Northern Iowa. Even though he has lived in Dallas for over a decade, it's obvious he's originally from the Midwest. See this piece about Heefner's Iowa roots at HawkCentral.com.
Can he coach?
His emphasis at Dallas Baptist has been on player development. Every team he has coached has seen a significant uptick in offensive production. (see his bio for details) . His ability to lead DBU, a small religious school, to become a competitive force in D-1 speaks volumes about his coaching abilities. From his bio:
Recognized by Baseball America in 2013 as one of the Top 10 Coaches in College Baseball under the age of 40, Heefner begins the 2015 season as the 35th winningest active coach in NCAA Division I College Baseball with a career record of 256-153 (.626 win percentage).
In 2015, Dallas Baptist has been on top of the national D-1 RPI rankings for several weeks.
Can he recruit?
It's hard to say what his approach to recruiting in the SEC would be. Any time you promote a coach from a lower level conference to a top conference like the SEC, the ability to recruit at this level will be a question (as it has been with Mizzou's Kim Anderson). An ESPN profile paints a picture of a recruiting approaching uniquely suited to the kind of school he's coaching at now. Heefner describes his recruiting process in some detail in this video:
Does he see Mizzou as a destination job?
Maybe. He reportedly was considered for the Wichita State job in 2013, but took himself out of the running.He reportedly was offered the job at Baylor after the 2015 season, but turned it down. He seems very invested in what he's doing at DBU. His personal faith serves as a strong tie to the strong faith-based culture of the Baptist school. But you'd have to think that if an SEC or Big 12 team came calling, he'd certainly listen. And with the level of success he's demonstrated, they will come calling. Not all of them are going to have the kind of Athletic Department culture or college life culture he might prefer. At this point in his career, as the #1 hot up-and-coming coach in college baseball, he can afford to be choosy.
Has he been to Omaha?
No. The farthest into the NCAA postseason he has been was when he took Dallas Baptist to a Regional win and then lost to Cal in a Super Regional.
Is he the coach to take Mizzou to a higher level in the SEC?
His coaching resume is great. He certainly has what it takes to coach and develop players. The only real question is whether he's up to the task of recruiting and competing at the level of the SEC, which is a big step up from a Baptist university in the Missouri Valley.
Unless Heefner has a strong desire to stay at Dallas Baptist, it's a certainty some school in a top conference, probably the Big 12 or SEC, will convince him to put his proven skills to work in the big leagues of college baseball. MU AD Mack Rhoades should at least give Heefner a call and find out if Missouri could be that school.
Notes & Links
Coach Dan Heefner understands his program's limitations. Players like Texas pitcher Taylor Jungmann and Rice third baseman Anthony Rendon, two of the nation's best, aren't coming to Dallas Baptist. Success for the Patriots isn't coming by recruiting well. It's coming by developing well.
"We have to be just totally focused on development," Heefner said. "Whatever your ceiling is, when you come in, you're here and our goal is we want to get you to that ceiling. It's an every-day thing. We say we're not going to stop having that focus until the season is over. Our mentality is if we can do that every day, we're going to pass some of these bigger programs up."
Work ethic is something we’ve always prided ourselves on, even before last year’s post-season run. It’s part of our culture. I don’t know if last year’s success changed it, but it certainly solidified it. Hard work is the only way we got to that level. To see some of the guys who have been so successful in the past, the returning guys know that the reason they were so successful was because of their solid work ethic and not just from showing up on campus and being overly talented.