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Baseball (beats/is beaten by) St. Joe's at Meiklejohn Stadium. Credit: Pete Lodato , Pete Lodato

After Penn promoted baseball assistant John Yurkow to the role of head coach, The Daily Pennsylvanian sat down with Yurkow to talk about his relationship with outgoing John Cole and his plan moving forward.

The Daily Pennsylvanian: What’s the most important thing you’ve learned from coach Cole at Rowan and/or at Penn in terms of how to coach?

*John Yurkow: *I just think in general, whether it’s coach Cole or coach [Bill] Hillier at Duke [where Yurkow served as an assistant from 2001-05], I’ve worked with a bunch of different guys and a bunch of different styles, and what I’m gonna try and do is take a little bit of everything from the guys I’ve learned from and try and use that to have a successful program of my own.

DP: What was your reaction to coach Cole being released?

JY: You know what, Mike, I don’t really want to comment too much on that, to be honest with you. I’d rather focus on going forward and the future of the program.

*DP: *Many people have noted the fact that you have close ties with coach Cole. As far as moving forward, how do you go about making a clean break from a coach that you spent so much time with?

JY: I wouldn’t even look at it that way, to be honest with you. I’ve got my own ideas, things I want to put in place. I was an assistant coach. I think everyone in this business aspires to be a head coach at some point in his career. And you always prepare, you know. If I get my opportunity, how do I want my program to look? What do I want my guys to play like on the field? How do we want to be perceived as a program and as a family? I think we have very good players in place, I have relationships with all those guys, I recruited them, and those were factors for me to stay on and become the head coach.

DP: You’ve been recruiting coordinator and bringing in a lot of solid recruits the last few years, but the team has still struggled obviously. What do you attribute the underachieving of the last couple of years to, if that’s how you see it?

JY: I don’t know if we’ve underachieved. Obviously our goals are going to be high. Our goal is to win the Ivy League Championship every year, and I feel we have some talent in place to do that. We have a very good freshman class coming in that should help immediately. I really like the makeup of the team as it is, and that was one of the reasons I was interested in the position in the first place. I think one of the things you have to look at, is, usually when there’s a coaching change, it’s a really bad situation. And what’s unique about this is it’s not a bad situation. The players are in place, the infrastructure is set up, to be successful. Usually when you come in, you want to start all over and change everything dramatically. Obviously there’s gonna be a lot of change but it’s kind of a refreshing feeling to know that we have good players and we can compete for a championship right away.

DP: I think, though, looking back, Penn ranks last in Ivy League play since 2006. You alluded to it, but how do you plan on tweaking the program into your own and to improve in the future with what you already know that you have?

JY: You said we were last since 2006?

DP: Since 2006 in Ivy play, in league games, yes. How will your team change that statistic?

JY: Yea, I think that’s one of the things that, when you really look at it, it’s somewhat confusing because we’ve played better against scholarship schools than we have in Ivy games. So that’s kind of the head scratcher. For people who know baseball and college athletics, they go, ‘Well how does that happen?’ I don’t know if I have the exact answer to that, but from the outside looking in, I think people understand that there’s enough talent where that it shouldn’t be that hard to get that corrected. That’s kind of the million dollar question and I’ve got some things I want to do, and I can’t give too much of that information out. But I think there’s a lot of things you’ll see in the spring and when you come watch us practice.

DP: How would you characterize yourself as a coach? Are you more of a player’s coach than coach Cole is?

JY: It’s funny because I’ve gotten that a lot from some of the young alums and the current players on the team. I don’t know, people say that about me, and I guess if enough people say it, maybe there’s some truth to it. There’s a lot of different styles. I have an open door policy, I care about the kids, I care about the guys on the team. I’ve established a previous relationship there with all the players. I guess you could say I’m a players’ coach. I don’t know, I guess we’re gonna find out.

DP: Something that [former Penn director of baseball operations] Marco Menna alluded to, but it’s something that some former Penn players and parents feel much more strongly about, although other players don’t feel this way at all, is that coach Cole wasn’t very personable with his players. There was sort of a negative energy around and that resulted in players being maybe too afraid to make mistakes, and they weren’t reaching their full potential. How much do you agree or disagree with that assessment?

JY: Well again, I’m not going to sit here and comment on coach Cole. Coach Cole gave me an opportunity years ago. I think he’s a good person and I’ll leave it at that. But I will say this — I think when you’re talking about baseball in general, I think baseball is a sport where you fail a lot. It’s just as important to understand how to deal with the failure as it is the success. There needs to be an atmosphere and one that I really want to create where I want guys to be able to play free and easy and not think about negative thoughts and worry about failure. I think if you do that, you’ll have a more aggressive team, a more confident team, and I think that’s gonna lead to wins.

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