Powell, Howell leave Whitman for other programs

Andy Jobanek

Head coach Casey Powell, pictured to the far right, eyes the team in the field with assistant coach Sean Kinney directly to his right. Powell leaves Whitman for an assistant coaching job at Division I Seattle University. Kinney will be one of the applicants to replace Powell. Kinney has spent the last eight years at Whitman––four as a player and four as an assistant coach. Credit: Kitamura
Head coach Casey Powell, pictured to the far right, eyes the team in the field with assistant coach Sean Kinney directly to his right. Powell leaves Whitman for an assistant coaching job at Division I Seattle University. Kinney will be one of the applicants to replace Powell. Kinney has spent the last eight years at Whitman––four as a player and four as an assistant coach. Credit: Kitamura

After a year of competing, the Whitman athletic department enters the summer with two vacancies to fill. Baseball head coach Casey Powell and assistant athletic trainer David Howell will both move on to other programs next year.

Powell, Whitman’s baseball coach for the past seven seasons and the 1996 NWC Player of the year at Linfield, will transition into an assistant coach position for the Division I Seattle University Redhawks Baseball team under head coach Donny Harrel. Seattle University hasn’t played varsity baseball since the mid-1980s and not at the Division I level since 1980. The 2009-10 school year will be their first season back.

Powell and Harrel worked together before when Harrel was the head coach of the semi-pro Bend Elks in 2000 and 2001 and Powell was his assistant coach. Powell listed a chance to work with Harrel again as one of the major reasons he took the job at Seattle University.

“We have a great relationship off the field, we work well together on the field, our families get a long great, our kids get along great, and our wives get along great. All that, tied in together, made it seem like a perfect opportunity,” said Powell.

Also attracting Powell to Seattle University was the chance to coach at the Division I level after playing and coaching exclusively at Division III Linfield and Whitman.

“As an athlete and a coach, being competitive in nature, you want to be at the highest level in anything you do,” said Powell.

Along with his position as an assistant coach, Powell will be the team’s recruiting coordinator while coaching the infielders, running game, short game and overseeing the team’s academics.

“[Powell’s] head coaching experience at Whitman athletically and academically will let him identify the types of student/athletes who will succeed on and off the field at SU,” said Harrel in an e-mail.

Powell leaves Whitman after compiling a 24-159 record in the Northwest Conference and 38-214 overall. He was originally hired after head coach and part-time Athletic Director Travis Feezell chose to solely focus on his administrative work. At the time, Powell was only 27 years old, but had coached four years as an assistant coach at Linfield.

“I think Whitman is fortunate to have attracted one of the best young coaches in the Northwest,” Feezell told current Whitman SID Dave Holden after Powell was hired in 2003. “Casey’s understanding of the game is tremendous. He knows our conference and has recruiting contacts throughout the region. He understands what it takes to have a successful baseball program at a small college.”

Now seven years later, Athletic Director Dean Snider echoes Feezell’s original statement about Powell’s baseball knowledge.

“He loves baseball in and out. He’s an outstanding baseball guy. He knows the game,” said Snider.

Harrel also praised Powell’s work ethic.

“Casey has a tremendous ability to get the best out of the ballplayers he teaches and is a true work horse in our game,” said Harrel in an e-mail.

While Powell listed Whitman’s record during his tenure and difficulties recruiting to Whitman: the Missionaries played with only 17 guys on the roster this year, eight below Major League Baseball’s 25 man standard: he finds his success as a coach in the players he’s seen mature.

“You really see the maturity in guys from freshman, sophomore years to upperclassmen and that’s something I’ve really been proud of,” said Powell. “The way that guys come to practice and come every weekend to compete knowing that they might not be the most talented team on the field, but still playing hard.”

Powell mentioned that a goal of his in taking the job was to leave the program better than when he entered it. He listed the overall atmosphere, field quality and equipment as things that have improved under his tenure, but still expressed uncertainty for the program as a whole.

“I don’t know if I’m leaving it in better shape or not; I feel like I am,” said Powell.

When asked if he Powell had improved the baseball program, Snider put the team’s recent struggles in context.

“Our baseball program has struggled for more than 20 years. In other sports we have been progressing, getting stronger over the last few years. I believe that, with the help of the W Club, we will now make a change for the better in baseball as well. I would have been glad for Coach Powell to lead that charge, but now we will begin a search for our next coach who will lead our baseball program into national prominence,” said Snider in an e-mail.

Whitman opened their search for a replacement for Powell today.

“We’re looking for someone who has head coaching, winning experience that also has evidence of being a strong recruiter and has a desire and drive to bring our baseball program to national prominence,” said Snider.

Assistant coach Sean Kinney, who has either played or coached at Whitman for the past eight years, has expressed interest in the job and will be one of many applicants for the position, according to Snider.

Howell, on the other hand, leaves Whitman after only one year. He was hired at the beginning of fall semester as a Sabbatical replacement for Head trainer Juli Dunn and then stayed on for spring semester after Dunn moved into a new role as Director of Academic Resources.

Howell was accepted into a PhD program at the University of Oregon and will begin work there in the fall.