A very good baseball coach apparently called it a career on Thursday.
Ten years ago this month Alabama coach Jim Wells appeared to be on the fast track to be the next Skip Bertman after his second of three College World Series appearances from 1996-1999.
In 1997, Wells' team lost the national championship game to Bertman and LSU.
Wells, a Bossier City native and former assistant to Bertman at LSU, beat LSU and Bertman in the 1999 Super Regional round to return to Omaha, Neb., for the College World Series.
He would never return again with a team, though, and on Thursday Wells retired as Alabama's coach. Only 52, Wells is a proven coach who perhaps could win big again with a change of scenery.
Wells was in Omaha at about his time last year looking for just that. He went to Omaha on his own expense to talk to Bertman about possibly becoming the next LSU coach. He told reporters he was just going there to talk to Bertman about hiring someone else, but no one in their right mind believed it. Why would an SEC West coach help a rival school find its replacement?
Believe me, Wells wanted the LSU job last year. That's why he went to Omaha. That's why he told me in an exclusive interview before that trip that he was going to be coming down to Baton Rouge to talk about the position, which was made vacant when Bertman fired Smoke Laval. Alabama athletic department officials denied that's what Wells meant. One of them actually said the interview never took place. Those people of Crimson Tide all lied. Wells never denied he said what he said to me. One of the main reasons a coach talks on the record to a reporter when a job is open is because he is interested in the job.
Wells wanted a change in his life last year. The LSU job would have been perfect for him. He and his wife were from Louisiana. Changes are good. They're fun. They give you a jump start and a fresh approach. Wells was getting tired of being at Alabama. He also wanted to recruit with the TOPS scholarship program in Louisiana. Alabama doesn't have anything similar. He wanted to complete the circle. He started his coaching career in Alex Box Stadium and watched one of the greatest baseball programs in history blossom from the ground up. Then he turned around Northwestern State's program basically over night and did the same thing at Alabama.
But Bertman never seriously talked to Wells about the job last year. Bertman did seriously want Wells back in the summer of 2000 when Bertman announced 2001 would be his last season and then looked for his successor. Wells wasn't interested at the time. Bertman hired Laval, later became athletic director, and the rest is history.
Laval brought the program down and got fired. Bertman hired Notre Dame's Paul Mainieri, who had a rough first year but looks like he has the makeup to make LSU a power again. Maybe Wells could've done it, too. Maybe if he had taken the job back when Bertman retired, he'd be in Omaha today getting ready for a national championship series.
He'll never know, and we'll never know.