There is an old sports cliché that reads "Behind every great team is a great coach." When you take a glance through the history of Texas Tech baseball, you will find this overused cliché come to life in Texas Tech head coach Larry Hays.
Perhaps one of the most respected men not only in Lubbock but in the coaching profession as well, Larry Hays has never lost sight of the important things in life and that focus has made him one of the most successful coaches in collegiate history. Hays, a native of Dora, N.M., is a loving family man, husband, father, grandfather and devoted son to L.D. and Pearl Hays. With all of these titles, however, Hays has been able to maintain his priorities of God first, family second and at a very distant third baseball. His amazing character, demeanor and baseball mind have made the Texas Tech baseball program one of the nation's elite.
His "elite" status was forever documented on February 26, 2005 when he became just the fourth coach in NCAA history to win 1,400 games. His 1,400th win came against the Lamar Cardinals in the first game of the 2005 Midland Rockhounds College Classic at Citibank Ballpark in Midland. He joined Texas' Augie Garrido and Cliff Gustafson, Wichita State's Gene Stephenson and Virginia Tech's Chuck Hartman as the only NCAA coaches to accomplish this feat.
Amazingly, Hays has spent his entire collegiate coaching career in Lubbock where he is the all-time win leader at Lubbock Christian University (695) and at Texas Tech (760). When Hays took over the Texas Tech baseball program in the fall of 1986, he inherited a very unusual situation. Prior to Hays arrival, the Tech baseball program had a losing overall record of 550-576 through 37 years of play meaning Hays had plenty of work cut out for him just to get Tech to the .500 mark.
In his first season at Tech, Hays had to endure the second and last losing season of his career as the Red Raiders went 21-28. The losing didn't last long as Hays started the turnaround at Tech the very next season by leading the Scarlet and Black to a 34-25-1 campaign in 1988. Texas Tech, the once ignored college baseball program on the South Plains, was under the leadership of a new skipper and it has been smooth sailing ever since.
Hays has led the Red Raiders to three conference championships, posted winning seasons in 19 of 20 years as head coach, led Tech to nine NCAA Tournament appearances and has established Texas Tech as a national power in baseball. His coaching strengths are apparent in his abilities to adapt his players on a year-by-year basis. Able to adapt different styles, Hays has won with strong pitching and defense one year and with power hitting the next. Perhaps the master of recruiting both the junior college and high school ranks, Hays has been able to rebuild an entire team every few seasons while maintaining a successful and winning program each year. In short, Hays has proved to be one of the nation's finest and most respected coaches in the profession.
In 2002, Hays led the Red Raiders to a 42-20 overall record and a second place finish in the Big 12 Regular-Season. After starting the season at 0-3 and sitting in the bottom half of the standings for most of the conference season, Hays and his players rattled off 15 straight wins to close out the regular-season including two sweeps of conference rivals Oklahoma and Baylor. Tech's dramatic late season surge propelled the Red Raiders into the NCAA Tournament for the eighth consecutive season. Hays reached another career milestone midway through the season when he picked up his 1,300th victory against Missouri on March 29, 2002.
In 1998 he guided Texas Tech to the Big 12 Conference Tournament title in Oklahoma City, Okla. The championship was especially impressive considering the Red Raiders accomplished that feat with only seven pitchers. The former professional softball pitcher also led Texas Tech to its first-ever Big 12 Conference regular season championship with a 23-7 conference and 46-14 overall record in 1997. Texas Tech also claimed the No. 1 ranking in collegiate baseball for several weeks, the first time a Red Raider sport was ranked No. 1 in school history. The Hays'-led squad also hosted its second consecutive NCAA regional and appeared in regional competition for the third time in three seasons.
Hays also guided the Red Raiders to their first-ever Southwest Conference championship in 1995 as they posted a school-record 51 wins (51-14) and advanced to the Midwest I Region championship game. In 1996, Tech posted a 49-15 ledger as the Raiders hosted both the Southwest Conference Post-Season Tournament (finished third), then hosted the NCAA Central II Regional.
In 1995, Tech joined the national rankings on Feb. 20 and never looked back. On March 22nd the Red Raiders were ranked No. 3 in one of the three major polls, marking the second highest ranking ever for a Tech baseball team. That same year Tech became only the fourth SWC team to ever reach the 50-win plateau. The Red Raiders won the national batting title by hitting .344 as a team and the club established school records for wins, winning percentage, runs scored, hits, RBI, doubles, total bases, walks and consecutive games with at least one home run.
Successful seasons have been the norm for Larry Hays, who won his 1,000th game on April 12, 1995. In his 36 years as a college head coach, he has produced 20 teams that have surpassed at least 40 wins. And he has led teams to 12 league titles and guided his 1983 Lubbock Christian University team to the National NAIA Championship.
Hays is also highly regarded by his coaching peers. He has been honored as "Coach of the Year" following nine different seasons including the 1997 season when he was selected Big 12 Conference Coach of the Year by both the Big 12 coaches, the Dallas Morning News and the Austin American-Statesman. Plus, he has been inducted into the NAIA Hall of Fame.
Hays' players have also seen unbelievable individual success. He has coached 29 NAIA All-Americans, one NAIA Player of the Year, 36 All-Southwest Conference performers, 18 First Team All-Big 12 recipients, 14 consensus NCAA Division I All-Americans, five NAIA Academic All-Americans and three NCAA Academic All-Americans. To date, 89 of his former Red Raider players have been drafted by Major League Baseball teams while 15 of his former Tech players have appeared in a major league uniform.
It all started for Hays as a standout athlete in both baseball and basketball at Dora High School in New Mexico. From there he went on to Lubbock Christian Junior College where he lettered in both sports and earned an Associate of Arts degree in 1964. He then attended Eastern New Mexico where he earned both Bachelor's (1966) and Master's (1969) degrees.
Hays then took over the Lubbock Christian head basketball coaching reins in 1969 and in 1970, helped start baseball as the school made strides to move from junior college to senior college status. While at the Chap controls he compiled a 695-381-1 record and led Lubbock Christian to eight NAIA District titles, two Area championships and the 1983 national title. He served as the school's Athletic Director from 1979 until he departed for Texas Tech in 1986. During his eight-year stint as athletic director, he served as chairman of the NAIA Baseball Rating Committee. Lubbock Christian rewarded Hays and his family as the school renamed its field "Hays Field" in a ceremony on April 20, 1999.
Among his more noteworthy Lubbock Christian and "civic" accomplishments were spearheading the effort to bring the NAIA World Series to Lubbock for three years from 1981-83. The Series became an official success in its final season of 1983 as the Chaps won the national title in front of the home crowd.
Tech has played in numerous (SWC/Big 12) conference tournaments, winning both the 1998 Big 12 Conference title and the 1995 Southwest Conference crown and placing runner-up in the inaugural 1997 Big 12 Conference tournament. Hays is currently ranked among the nation's top-5 all-time and active NCAA Division I head coaches in victories (1,425) and is the fourth winningest coach on the NCAA all-time list.
Hays has been married to the former Nell Ainsworth for 42 years. They have five children- Daren (41), Shanon (39), Bandi (36), Justin (32) and Melanie (27). They also have eight granddaughters: Brittany Kaye (born 8-19-92), Brogan Leigh (born 6-29-95), Allie (born 12-4-96), Ashleigh (born 9-13-98), Kaytee & Kelsee (born 5-11-01), Hampton Renee (born 7-25-01) and Mary Elizabeth (born 1-05-01) along with three grandsons- Hunter (born 10-23-96) and Heath (11-24-98) Joshua Hays Redding (10/8/02). Coach Hays' three sons have followed their father into the coaching profession. Hays hired Daren in June of 2000 as an assistant coach while Shanon is the head softball coach at Lubbock Christian University.