Greg Lovelady says he wasn’t looking for another job.
As baseball coach at Wright State University in Ohio, Lovelady had a team on the upswing with a group of players he truly loved coaching.
Yet when UCF called, Lovelady had to answer.
“I was really happy right where I was,” said Lovelady, who was hired as UCF’s new baseball coach earlier this month. “We had built something special there. I have two young boys, my wife is from Ohio. I wasn’t dying to get out, that’s for sure.”
Only Florida offers Lovelady a special opportunity to come a bit closer to home.
A Palmetto High graduate, Lovelady backstopped the University of Miami to a pair of national championships in 1999 and 2001. After spending a summer playing in the Marlins system, Lovelady returned to Coral Gables and joined Jim Morris’ staff as an assistant.
“Coach Morris was one of the first to congratulate me,” Lovelady said. “I spoke to him while it was going down. He’s very happy for me; I’m grateful for what he’s done for me. I couldn’t be more grateful.”
After a few seasons coaching at his alma mater, Lovelady headed north in 2004, signing on as an assistant at Wright State. Located in Dayton, the Ohio school hadn’t enjoyed much success in baseball.
Lovelady was the head coach the past three years with the Raiders, setting records for victories in the past two with 89 wins combined. Wright State made the NCAA tournament the past two years as well, pulling a few upsets along the way.
In 2015, the Raiders knocked out Notre Dame in the Champaign Regional only to lose to host Illinois in the final. This past season, Wright Stare eliminated Ohio State, yet lost to host Louisville in the championship game.
Success at a mid-major program brought some exposure to Lovelady. He said he spoke with FIU about its recent opening after the university fired Turtle Thomas — but talks didn’t go far.
“It went about as far as both of us wanted it to,” said Lovelady, the Horizon League Coach of the Year in two of his three seasons at Wright State. “The situation just wasn’t the right one for us.”
At UCF, Lovelady inherits a program that hasn’t been to the NCAA tournament since going 2-2 at the Coral Gables Regional in 2012. Yet with the great recruiting spot and his friendships throughout the South Florida coaching ranks, Lovelady says UCF is on a forward march.
“There are just a ton of great schools, great players and great coaches,” said Lovelady, who is working on finalizing UCF’s upcoming schedule, including a few dates against the Hurricanes.
“It’s a blessing to be back. I’m excited about the opportunity, especially knowing so many people there whom I can utilize their ability to locate and get good players. I didn’t want to leave Wright State, and I wasn’t going to leave for a lateral move. This is a job on a grander scale. The talent is here, so are the facilities. We can do a lot of great things right way.
“I’m definitely excited to be back in the great state of Florida.”