Tennessee baseball head coach Dave Serrano announced the addition of Aric Thomas to his coaching staff on June 8, 2013, bringing him in as the assistant coach and recruiting coordinator for the Volunteers' program.
"I am very excited to welcome Aric, his wife, Julie, and kids, Chloe and Brett, to Rocky Top," Serrano said. "After a very thorough search, during which I uncovered some wonderful people and some very qualified candidates, Aric just rose to the top for me. He has been part of winning programs as a player and a coach everywhere he has been. Most important though, his people skills stood out, which is very important in recruiting since it is all about relationships. Players and coaches in Tennessee and all around the southeast will know Aric very soon and will understand why he got this opportunity."
Thomas arrives at Rocky Top following his second stint at Oklahoma, his alma mater, and replaces Bill Mosiello who has left UT to pursue another coaching opportunity. In 13 years as both a player and a coach with the Sooners, Thomas helped lead them to a national championship, two College World Series appearances, back-to-back Super Regionals, seven NCAA regionals and a Big 12 Conference Tournament championship.
"I'm very excited to be here and looking forward to this opportunity," Thomas said. "I am really looking forward to working with Coach Bergeron and Coach Serrano, two really good coaches who have had a lot of success in their careers and are good baseball guys and good people. Getting to come to the SEC, the best baseball conference in the country, I look forward to that challenge. What put it over the top for me is the Knoxville community. What a great place this is here and I've heard nothing but great things. I look forward to our family getting out here, being a part of Vol Nation and growing up in this area."
Most recently, the Riverside, Calif., native spent the past two years in Norman, guiding OU to Super Regional appearances both seasons. One of the top recruiters in college baseball, Thomas put together a stellar class in his final year at Oklahoma with 10 of his signees being drafted in the 2013 MLB Draft. In addition, he also played a key role in the recruitment of All-American pitcher Jonathan Gray who signed with OU in 2012 before going on to be the number three overall pick last month, as well as the 2013 College Baseball Hall of Fame Pitcher of the Year.
Thomas first recruited Gray in his final season at Eastern Oklahoma State College where he served as the head coach from 2004-11. That same year, he also signed three other recruits who were drafted, including Dylan Bundy, the top high school player in the nation and number four overall selection by the Baltimore Orioles.
During his coaching tenure, Thomas has coached or worked with several players that are currently listed on Major League Baseball rosters, including Chase Utley (Phillies), Reed Johnson (Braves) and Greg Dobbs (Marlins).
"I think in recruiting you have to work inside-out," Thomas said. "You have to start in your own back yard and work your way out. Obviously, Tennessee is a program where you can recruit nationally because the brand is so big, but you still have to be good in your own back yard. I look forward to getting to know the coaches in this area and start building those relationships, because those are the relationships and ties that you will have for years to come."
In seven seasons at the Eastern helm, where he also served as the athletic director the last four years, Thomas posted a 237-159-1 (.598) overall record while guiding his offense to a .314 batting average in that span while also averaging 53 home runs and 134 stolen bases per season. From 2007-2009, the Mountaineers' hitters hit over .330 in each of the three seasons and the 2008 squad set the program record for wins with 41.
In 2011, Thomas led the Mountaineers to the program's second consecutive Region II Championship, a first in the program's history, as EOSC finished the campaign at 38-22 and appeared in the top 25 polls for the sixth consecutive season. In 2010, the Mountaineers won their first region title since 2001 after they posted a 37-22 mark. He was named the Region II Coach of the Year following both campaigns.
During his tenure, ESOC baseball evolved into one of the nation's top programs and became a catalyst for helping players move on to four-year universities and professional baseball. While Eastern was nationally ranked in six of his seven seasons at the helm, including five squads ranked in the top 15 in the country, Thomas has also coached 70 players that went on to sign at four-year universities or play professional baseball. That includes seven players that were drafted by Major League Baseball teams and 38 others that moved on to Division I programs.
As a player, Thomas was a key part of the Sooners' 1994 National Championship team and the program's return to the College World Series in 1995 when he was named a first team All-Big Eight outfielder. He was also part of Oklahoma's staff from 1996-2004, serving as a volunteer coach, assistant coach and coordinator of baseball operations.
Thomas' coaching experience has also extended beyond Oklahoma's borders as he was an assistant for the Brewster White Caps in the prestigious Cape Cod League in the summers of 1998 and 1999. His team won the Eastern Division title during his first year with the club. In 2004, Thomas was unanimously named Alaska Baseball League coach of the Year with the Peninsula Oilers.
His coaching career started as a volunteer assistant on the OU staff in 1996 following a successful two-year stint as a player for the Sooners. Thomas helped guide OU to four NCAA Tournament appearances and the program's first conference tournament championship in 18 years with the 1997 Big 12 Conference Tournament title. During his young coaching career, Thomas had a hand in instructing nine All-Americans, eight all-district honorees, 13 first team all-conference selections and more than 20 players who signed professional contracts.
In the two seasons he lettered for the Sooners, Thomas was a member of OU's back-to-back College World Series teams in 1994 and 1995 and hit .336 during his career with 61 stolen bases, the sixth-best total in OU history, and 113 runs scored. Thomas was a first team All-Big Eight Conference selection as a senior and was named to the NCAA All-Midwest II Regional Team in 1995 after helping the Sooners tear through the tournament field with a perfect 4-0 mark. In fact, the Sooners recorded an 8-0 record in NCAA Regional play and were 12-2 in NCAA postseason competition during Thomas' playing career. OU was 92-33 in his two seasons roaming the outfield.
Prior to arriving in Norman, Thomas played one year at Riverside Community College in California. One of the most talented players to emerge from the junior college powerhouse, Thomas captured junior college All-America honors in his only season and still appears among the RCC record books in a number of categories. Thomas continues to hold the school records for hits and stolen bases in a single game and stolen bases recorded in a single season.
Thomas began his college baseball career at the University of California at Riverside where he redshirted his first year and spent his freshman season. He transferred to RCC following his freshman year.
Thomas earned his bachelor's degree in marketing from Oklahoma in 1995 and completed his Master's in professional studies in education from Capella University in 2007. Thomas and his wife, Julie, have two children, Chloe Elizabeth and Brett Nathan.