John Cole out as manager for Penn baseball

After a disappointing finish to the season for Penn baseball, the program has decided to make a change at the top.

Penn Athletic Director Steve Bilsky announced Friday that coach John Cole will not have his contract renewed.

This comes on the heels of a 7-13 Ivy League season for the Red and Blue, who lost ten of their 12 games in division.

Heading into division play, the Quakers were 5-3, just one game out of first place in the Gehrig division but the team slipped three games to both Cornell and Princeton before being swept by Columbia.

Cole went 143-178-1 in his eight seasons as the manager for Penn. During his tenure, Cole led the team to one Gehrig division crown, while finishing second on three occasions. However, back-to-back last place finishes ultimately help lead to Penn letting him go.

25 thoughts on “John Cole out as manager for Penn baseball

  1. Back to back last place seasons may have contributed to this, but more so it was the lack of respect Cole had for his players and the people around him that led to his dismissal. Congrats to the current players who outlasted him and for the his own sake and the sake of people that may ever have to play underneath him I hope he uses this time to reflect on the kind of person he is.

  2. So true! He led by criticizing, tearing apart his players and by controlling them by threatening them. A successful coach does not lead this way. So much talent on that team wasted. So glad for the players that he is gone.

  3. Add Cole to the list of very dubious hires by the AD.... Surprised he lasted this long.... Good riddance. Maybe he can take the arrogant AD with him

  4. Agree with Alumni and Liz. Most kids play baseball to have fun and build self esteem. Neither was possible under the former coach. Some may say his methods were simply "old school" but that would substitute finesse for candor. There is no place for that type of hostile environment which was totally inconsistent with what one would expect from educators at a school like Penn. While the players who outlasted him are to be congratulated, I also sympathize with those who were bullied and abused to the point where they were either scornfully cast aside or could no longer continue. Much talent gone by the wayside there too. I also hope, albeit forlornly, this coach can take a look in the mirror and change for the better.

  5. I'm interested to know what he did by way of bullying his players. I played for Coach Cole and thought he instilled discipline, leadership, and team above the individual. I certainly never felt "threatened" by him. What did he do? Or are you just bitter parents of players who did not get enough playing time?

  6. My Name is Marco Menna. I interned for my senior internship requirement while at Temple University with John Cole and his staff from September 2011 - May 2012 as the First Director of Baseball Operations in the history of UPENN. I spent a tremendous amount of time with Cole in which I am truly grateful as it was nothing short of an incredible experience that prepared me for life as a professional after graduating college.

    Coach Cole's program had in place an environment where baseball was treated as a business. Every week, day, and practice was carefully planned and executed for the players, coaches, alumni, recruits, and administration. As one of his assistants, I was pushed to complete tasks that had been deemed pertinent by him but was also allowed to develop professionally while marketing for the team via social media and other traditional marketing styles (Check out the team on twitter and YouTube). This was not easy as I had to fight for my ideas at times....looking back, it was the best thing I could have ever asked from Coach. He inspired me to have a carefully thought out plan and presentation before bringing anything to the table and be prepared to stand up and argue for it. This is an experience and tactic I will continue to build upon for the rest of my professional life.

    With that said, at the D1 Ivy League Level, Head Coaches spend less time coaching their sport than most people on the outside know. Much of their time is spent recruiting, communicating with athletic administration/professors and alumni, acting as academic advisers to the players, always making sure to abide by the strict NCAA compliance rules (Ivy League Rules are even more intensified compared to the rest of D1), setting up youth and HS camps..ect ect...

    Cole impressed me the most by being able to balance and handle all of these responsibilities all the while being more than prepared to compete on the field. Cole in the 8 years he was at Penn, was able to place the program on a national platform that had never existed before. However, while on that platform, the team put out a below average product on the field, often underachieving even with all of the national/international talent Cole was able to bring in.

    I believe key ingredient for the lack of success on the field was the playing environment and negative energy which led the players to underachieve on the field.

    A recommendation I gave to Coach Cole and his staff after I left in May of 2012 as part of my senior project report, was that they needed to find a way to instill an environment where the players were able to play not afraid with team building exercises stressing positive attitude during times of failure. Cole did implement team building in the fall of 2013 by holding team dinners at his house in NJ.

    During the 2012 season, players constantly had the pressure to play perfect. This is where I clashed with Coach as we disagreed on whether or not it is possible to play the game perfect. Being able to create an environment where players can enjoy and have fun playing the game in a way where they compete, push and play for each other is what I believe to be the key to success (easier said than done!). In my opinion, this was not the environment the season I experienced with Cole, as many players were playing scared and constantly under pressure to never make a mistake.

    In closing, I am genuinely grateful for the opportunity Coach Cole allowed for me to experience at UPenn. The ability to gain a relationship with him, his staff, and his team was incredible. I wish nothing but the best for the Penn Baseball program and will be a fan for the rest of my life.

  7. No disrespect, but the reporting on "The Buzz" this spring has really blown. Just utterly lame. Boring. Uninteresting. Big gaps between stories. What a "Buzz"-kill. What's happened to you guys? You are aspiring journalists, Penn students, on whose watch this thread has just gone seriously downhill?

    It's a shame.

  8. Hard to disagree with the contribution of our good friend and ace alum, Mr Steven Becker.

    Both the quality and quantity of posts has been lacking this spring.

    These pages have lost momentum once Megan Soisson "abdicated" her role to the others.

    Very disheartening.

  9. Steven -- Its also ashame that a quality alum like Jonothon Tannenwald, now with as a jack-of-all-trades type of producer, has failed to provide guidance, leadership, and direction. He had been involved with others in the past. He is a talented and well-connected young man (@jtannenwald) but he has been MIA here as well - which is quite unfortunate.

  10. @Steve and @FOJL - On the contrary, this has been the most successful semester for The Buzz in my six semesters writing for DP Sports, which says a great deal. Our site traffic is up from what it was at this time last year.

    We've had over 250 posts this semester, more than at least the previous three spring semesters that I went back and looked at.

    And the numbers of contributing writers and recurring features are at all-time highs. We've broken news on suspensions, injuries, and several other Penn Athletics topics, with plenty of solid instant and midweek analysis, guest blogs and Q&As throughout.

    And I certainly don't apologize for there being no posts during the height of finals and moving out season for my writers and myself over the last couple of days, since we've continued to provide instant coverage on of breaking sports news. My DP colleagues and I agree that The Buzz has never been stronger.

  11. Where John Cole went wrong was not in the nature of his system or in the substance of his beliefs, but how he applied them and transmitted them to his players, staff, and surroundings. He attempted to exert total control over a bunch of 19-22 year olds through manipulation, intimidation and fear tactics, and authoritative power while labeling it all under the false pretense of 'hard-nose coaching'. He coached his players like one would play a video game; adamant disregard for the mental and physical well-being of his players, unwilling to spend the extra time and energy it takes to help a struggling player improve, impatient and aggravated when his unreachable expectations were not fulfilled. He refused to acknowledge his players as people; if John Cole had his way, all of his players would live in his locker room and spend there time playing baseball and studying, true video game characters. His so called 'team-building' exercise was nothing more than a strategic play to improve the already stressed and fragile staff-player relations, a desperate move by a man scared of losing his job after being notified that a dozen of his own players had demanded his resignation from the AD. The whole thing was obviously staged and scripted, although I admit he did hold a smile and a conversation for most of the night. This move was also fresh off his unsuccessful attempt at attaining the head job at William & Mary; it is certainly significant if your coach was denied from a school he had ALREADY coached at.

    John Cole projected his fears and insecurities onto his players. He may have preached the team above the individual, but in Cole world, its JC above everything. Everything must be controlled, and it all points in one direction: coaching in the pros. The players were mere tools in this overall goal; there were times where JC would literally forget if a player was injured, demanding that he play to the expectations he saw in his head.

    If you wanted to talk to him, it became a battle. He would send a coach out before you walked in to say he 'was on a conference call, just wait 5 mins', so that he could plan his attack. Then you would walk in it would be an ambush, Cole in the middle of his tiny little office, flanked by his assistants for added intimidation. Whatever you thought was going to happen its not. Immediately he takes over the conversation, asks you loaded questions, and ruthlessly attacks your responses. Any sign of defense, passive or aggressive, is promptly labeled as insubordination and plunges you deeper into his doghouse. If you say something he may not have expected, you are met with melodramatic anger and surprise, and soon you realize that as long as this man holds your key to the game you love, you must sit there and take your punches, no matter how frivolous, outrageous, or downright untruthful his claims. The only way is to submit to his ultimate authority; unless he feels that he has broken you down, you will stay there and feel blow after blow until he is content that he has exerted his power. You leave, dejected and angry, not toughened and ready to compete.

    If you look at some of the great college coaches --- the legendary Jimmy V, John Wooden, Rick Pitino, even Fran Dunphy for you philly fans --- they were successful because their players played FOR them, because they respected their players and knew more about them than their 60 yd time or how hard they threw, because they understood there is no one way to swing or throw or play, because they understood that we are just kids until we hit 25 or 26, and that we need to be understood, prodded in the right direction, that we need INTIMACY. You won't be successful unless you open up to us, take off your karate suit, and are not afraid to show compassion or weakness. What JC got right is that we were a bunch of softies who needed to be toughened up, physically and mentally. What he got wrong is how he tried to accomplish this. You cannot teach someone who does not respect you, and you cannot respect someone unless they respect you as well. Tyrants are overthrown; leaders are revered.

    Next year will be interesting for Penn Baseball. It will be as if a dark cloud has been lifted off of the program; we will finally learn who John Yurkow and the rest of the assistants are, now that they are free of Cole's control (if they stay); players who were once victimized will regain their confidence and love of The Game; families and alumni who avoided the program due to their discontent or outright anger for JC will reconnect.

    And finally, the players will be free of the toxic environment that was Cole world, will be free of his insecurities and manipulations, will be free of his controlling ways and impossible expectations, will be free to pursue an IVY LEAGUE TITLE without dealing with the constant abuse and exploitation.

    Because in the end, it's these players, these kids who have more talent and potential than they could ever dream if they just had the right person to help them find it, that this program is really about, above the wins, the money, and the status.

    And certainly above the coach.

  12. Shame on the University and Athletic director to subject their students to such a toxic coach. I am shocked at how long he was allowed to stay at the University. John Cole should never be allowed to coach again until he goes through some serious changes. Was there no oversight from the athletic director? How could Cole be allowed to act like a tyrant for so many years is really beyond my comprehension. It was either laziness or complete ignorance by the athletic director to allow him to treat his players the way he did. I am sure this was not the first year players have confided in the AD. Shame on Cole, shame on the athletic director, and shame on the University.

  13. Maybe when you played for him he was not such a angry arrogant man. Consider yourself lucky. I welcome you to speak with any of his recent players and ask them how he treated each of them. And contrary to what you wrote...this is not from a bitter parent whose son who didn't get enough playing was quite the opposite. Why would anyone criticize a man who just lost his job if is wasn't warranted. I just hope no other players are subjected to the mental and emotional abuse. It was quite apparent that he only cared about himself and not the individual players. Also, he did not give a crap about their education To him, he only cared about wins . The players were asked not to comment on John Cole ......what ever happened to our constitutional right of free speech.

  14. First of all, you don't play D1 baseball for "fun" and the love of the game only. At the college level, baseball is more competitive than ever - this isn't little league where every player has to play 3 outs and have an at-bat.

    If you strive for perfection, you will most likely fall short. If you don't strive for perfection, you will definitely fall short. Practicing and playing with the idea of perfection in mind is what most professional athletes (and serious college athletes) do. This is the only way to play the game. Playing with the mindset that it is OK to be anything less than perfect, is playing with a losing mindset.

    Coach Cole is a true baseball coach and deserves better than most of the comments that are being made. The problem is that Penn is not a baseball school but rather an academic program where half of the players are just there for "fun", and neither they nor the parents know what it truly means to be a D1 athlete.

    In my experience with Coach Cole, he demanded 110% at all times. If you weren't giving everything you had, he would let you know that he had a problem with it. Most Penn players are too soft for this type of coaching and end up running to Mommy and Daddy instead of acting like men and owning up to their actions.

  15. Everyone knows that that's you talking, Coach Cole, and if it is truly a former player showing support (never met one that has) put your real name up. Maybe it isn't everyone else being soft and could be you doing your job incorrectly.

  16. Universities should drop all sports and just stick to academics, maybe then the cost of college would be reduced ........but I doubt it. Where coach Cole went wrong was in his recruiting. He picked kids that were coddled since little league. It is extremely difficult to coach kids who should be in skirts rather than pin stripes. High expectations will always yield high results. Cole asked for high expectations, his players did not deliver.

  17. It's easy to criticize and drag a man's name through the mud while comfortably seated at your keyboard with the anonymity of cyberspace...not saying that a lot of these negative comments aren't warranted, but at least have the stones to put your name on them!

    Not everyone's style meshes with the players, especially in today's day and age...lesson to be learned: adapt or get left behind.

    More importantly, any rumors on who is in the running to take over?

  18. Anytime you have a coach who's undernourished, fragile ego is tied to the success of his team (think Jon Voight in the movie Varsity Blues), his players will endure personal sacrifices (physical, emotional, and professional ones) that extend beyond the scope of what is conducive to winning, let alone what's considered morally acceptable in ANY - collegiate or professional - setting. His treatment of players was tantamount to a slave owner's behavior or a dictator rather than a mentoring, instructive coach. Playing time and social exclusion from a small group he gives "power" to were his bartering tools for obedience. Obedience came before winning, proper training/conditioning, and general common sense. But obedience was the key to having any chance at continuing to play the game you grew up loving.

    Players sought approval from JC at all costs rather than seeking self-improvement, camaraderie among teammates and success. Baseball is an individual sport in a team setting, a concept Cole had no grip on. A team is a collection of individuals with bodies, training routines, and work ethics that are specific to each. It is absurd to think that players who reach the D1 level are somehow inherently lazy and need external motivation by an overbearing coach. Every one of my teammates on this team was shooting to get drafted and our work ethics reflected that at all times. A coach that doesn't appreciate personal ambition from his players, who doesn't recognize that each hard working cog is what drives runs and wins, in each pitch and at-bat, is essentially aloof, asocial, and again, has his ego tied too closely to the end result. I think a fair lesson in life is to focus on the journey/process rather than end result, regardless of the arena. I hope Cole never gets the chance again to figure that out.

    He should be a marathon coach, because that's basically all he knows how to do - make people run out of fear. (Newsflash, Cole: baseball players don't need to be in the cardiovascular top 1% of athletes to play the sport well. They need strength training and action-specific drills for their respective positions. Get a clue you dinosaur. You ran your players into weight loss and fatigue for 8 years and that's the main contributor to your abysmal record.)

    I agree wholeheartedly agree with "scubasteve"s comments above. It would serve Penn and all players very well for the AD to now hire someone who is not anti-social and is interested in player development above a coach's own interest.

    Good riddance to Cole indeed. I'm happy for future classes of Penn ballplayers.

  19. You Penn Panzies are a buncha nancy should come play Rowan and get waxed by a buncha hard nosed scrappy Ballplayers....that's why you didn't respond to Coach Cole's "techniques" because you're not would rather study than take bp.

  20. pansies*
    buch of*

    Hope unemployment is treating you well.

  21. These are the definitive problems with Coach Cole's tenure. He:

    1. Didn't treat his players like men. How you can do this then complain when they act the way they are treated is beyond me. I was treated as more mature when I was 16 than when I was 21.

    2. Was far and away the most afraid person in the dugout every game. Coaches are leaders; their teams will follow their example. If a coach freaks out, players will freak out. Everybody who sat in a dugout with Cole knows he is the first person to freak out, every game, year-in, year-out, which left his players in the awkward position of trying to exert control over a dugout/game while their coach was actively (I assume unintentionally) trying to create the kind of instability and insecurity that you rarely see after little league.

    3. Didn't hire a pitching coach despite having been a second baseman. Virtually all of his pitchers knew more about pitching than he did. And in his loyalty-first system, sticking up for yourself and what you knew to be right--either for you or for pitching and pitchers as a whole--would simply provide him ammunition against you, which he would not forget. This is perhaps the worst lesson to be teaching players.

    4. Was soft. Let his fear change the way he made decisions, interacted with people, handled himself, etc. And all his players knew it. So they didn't take him seriously whenever he talked about being tough. It was very clear--the way he spoke about playing, about everything really--that his speeches were directed to his own head, an attempt to hide from himself what was painfully obvious to everyone: that he felt intense pressure and fear when he played and when he coached. To assume that all his players did as well was ignorant and untrue.

    In short, he was not the type of coach you respected or wanted to play for. Every person I knew on the team felt he was an obstacle to our success, and knew we had to overcome him and his influence in order to win.

    Baseball is not a difficult sport. He tried to turn it into one.

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  24. I played for Cole at Rowan more than a decade ago, and I can attest to almost everything stated in the above comments. It seems not much has changed in the past thirteen years. In my personal opinion Yurkow should be next on the chopping block. He's no better than Cole. Interpersonal relations is not a strong suit for Cole, and most players seem to find themselves repeatedly bashing their heads on the proverbial brick wall trying to find common ground with him. Additionally, it seems to me that over the years he has done little to nothing in the way of attempting to market his most talented players to professional scouts. Take from this what you will.

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