By Fred J. Robledo, Staff Writer
LA PUENTE — Bishop Amat baseball coach Andy Nieto, one of the winningest baseball coaches in Southern California over the last decade, announced Thursday he is resigning less than a week after earning his fourth championship in eight years at the school.
Bishop Amat started the season with four losses and was on the verge of not making the playoffs, but ended with ten straight victories culminating with last week’s stunning come-from-behind 4-3 victory over top-seed Palm Desert for the CIF-SS Division 3 title at Dodger Stadium.
Who will be the next baseball coach at Bishop Amat following Andy Nieto's resignation today?
— Fred J. Robledo (@SGVNSports) June 12, 2014
There was speculation for weeks that Nieto was considering leaving, and Thursday he told his team he was resigning both as coach and teacher at the school to pursue other opportunities.
“For me, I’m always seeking new challenges and new experiences,” Nieto said. “After a lot of thinking for me personally and my family, there couldn’t be a better time in terms of the timing.
“Things are at a very high level in where the program is and how I’m leaving it, and I wish everyone at Amat all the success in the future.
“In terms of what’s next for me, God willing, everything will work out.”
Whether Nieto is eyeing openings at St. John Bosco or Servite, which both compete in the tough Trinity league or a return to college remains to be seen.
“There are things out there, but for me nothing is concrete and nothing is on the table,” Nieto said.
Nieto was asked a few times during the playoffs if he was considering leaving, but said on multiple occasions he had no intention of resigning, repeating it again soon after the championship, but also noting that he never says never.
He obviously had a change of heart, and denied rumors suggesting he may have been influenced by school officials to come to this decision.
“That’s absolutely not the case,” Nieto said. “This was my decision and my decision only and it wasn’t an easy one.”
Bishop Amat principal Richard Beck sat in on the meeting while Nieto was telling his team he was leaving and said he was surprised by the recent developments. He said Nieto always had his full support.
“The decision was his, absolutely, and it was a tough one for him, I’m sure,” Beck said. “It’s always sad to see a coach go. With that comes potential changes in the program and especially one that was successful as it was for eight years with coach Nieto. But what are you going to do, you have to move forward and we’re looking forward to the future and what it holds.”
Nieto won back-to-back titles when he first arrived at Bishop Amat in 2007 and ‘08, and added another banner in 2011 to go with seven consecutive Del Rey League championships.
Nieto finishes with a career record of 196-55-1 at Bishop Amat and in 2011 the Lancers finished the season ranked sixth nationally and won the prestigious National Classic.
“It was a great run, a really great run that I was fortunate to be part of,” Nieto said. “We kept the Amat tradition going and hung some banners on the wall. I’m honored to be part of that history.
“There are a lot of people to thank. (Former principal) Dr. Merritt Hemenway (now at Damien) gave me the opportunity to be the coach here and (athletic director) Michael Manzo was always supportive.
“From Monsignor (Aidan) Carroll, to assistant coach (Chris) Beck, the administration, parents, players and former players, I can’t thank them enough for all their support over the years.”
Nieto arrived at Bishop Amat with huge expectations after previously serving as an assistant coach at USC from 1997-2006. Nieto won a national championship with the Trojans in 1998 and went to the NCAA college World Series in Omaha three times with the Trojans in 1998, 2000 and 2001.
Is returning to college a possibility?
“Do I miss (coaching in) college, of course I do,” Nieto said. “But the stars gotta line up because the family and kids are actively involved.”
Nieto also served as an assistant baseball coach at Glendale community college in 1996 and was a recruiting coordinator for East Los Angeles College in 1995.
Bishop Amat was Nieto’s second high school head coaching job, having coached at Cantwell Sacred Heart from 1991-94 where he led the Cardinals to three league titles with a 62-35 overall record.
Nieto earned his bachelor’s degree in physical education from USC in 1991 and master’s degree from Azusa Pacific and is a 1982 graduate of Schurr High.
“One of the things I’m most proud of is in eight years at Bishop Amat we helped get close to 40 kids in college,” Nieto said. “We helped put them on a path to graduate and extend their careers. At the end of the day, that’s what it’s about.”
Beck said the school will begin the search immediately for its next coach and hopes to name Nieto’s successor by the end of the month.
One surely to be interested is Nieto’s longtime assistant, pitching coach Chris Beck.
“If that’s something where he (Chris Beck) wants to put his name in the hat, as they say, he’s absolutely welcome too,” Principal Beck said. “He’s a long-time faculty member and that’s always my preference to have a faculty coach. And what’s good is that we have a teaching position that we can offer with it, so we’ll float it and make the best decision possible for our program.”