FAYETTEVILLE – Two-time Western Athletic Conference Coach of the Year James Pinkerton was named head softball coach at the University of Arkansas, Director of Women’s Athletics Bev Lewis announced today.
“The thing that came out in almost every reference call and in his interview was how much he cares about his team,” Lewis said. “He describes himself as a player’s coach, and his priorities are his athletes.”
In four seasons with the Golden Hurricane, Pinkerton turned the Tulsa program into a consistent winner, including a 45-18 finish in 2004 as the WAC runner-up and just on the edge of the NCAA tournament.
“I feel like I’m leaving home, but I’m coming home,” Pinkerton said. “I grew up as a Razorback fan, and it’s special to be named head coach at the University. I told Bev that Tulsa was a dream come true; to be a Division I coach at your alma mater. But, with the level of the SEC and the visibility that the University of Arkansas has, this is my dream job.”
“How often do we get to hire a native Arkansan as a head coach?” Lewis said. “He brings us very strong regional ties for recruiting and with the area coaches.”
A 1997 graduate of Tulsa, the Arkansas native becomes the second head softball coach in the program’s eight-year history, replacing Carie Dever-Boaz who resigned in May.
“Professionally, this is a great career move to come to Arkansas and to be a part of what’s happening here,” Pinkerton said. “It’s the chance to coach in one of the top softball conferences in the nation. I’m looking forward to getting the program going in the right direction and to being in the NCAAs.”
Prior to Pinkerton’s arrival, Tulsa had not posted a winning season. He is the only softball coach in TU history to have an overall winning record at 140-105. At the same time, Tulsa ranked nationally in academics and consistently had grade point averages over 3.00.
“We saw in him a proven ability to turn a program around and a track record of taking care of all aspects of the program,” Lewis said. “The words that kept coming up when people described him were sincere, genuine and honest. There is a good foundation here at Arkansas, and we believe that he can use that to return us to the postseason.”
Arkansas’ new head coach agrees.
“The program knows how to win, but we need to focus on teaching this particular team how to win,” he said. “We’ll establish that by getting back to the basics. My dad always said that nothing good comes easy, and we’ve got to work hard. We’ve got to establish that this summer in recruiting and this fall with our current team.”
Pinkerton’s immediate tasks are setting a new tone with the team and building his staff.
“We need to get a staff in place, one that is going to do the job we need to do at Arkansas,” he said. “Then, that staff has to hit the road recruiting. This weekend I plan to be out there at the tournaments in Arkansas colors.”
Pinkerton’s growth at Tulsa from a team that was 13-42 in his first season into three straight 30-plus win seasons including two 40-win seasons came from his commitment to basics and recruiting. Building from the Tulsa and eastern Oklahoma area, Pinkerton’s teams became giant killers knocking off the likes of national powerhouses Fresno State and Oklahoma.
In his second season at TU, Pinkerton’s team wiped clean the Golden Hurricane record book by breaking over 50 school marks, including most wins in a season with 48. The 35-game turnaround was the best in Division I for 2002 and the second-best turnaround in NCAA history. The effort earned Pinkerton the first of two WAC Coach of the Year awards.
His 2003 team went 34-29 and continued to break Tulsa records. Last year’s 45-18 squad finished second in WAC and led to Pinkerton’s second coach of the year award.
Born in Fort Smith, Arkansas, Pinkerton grew up in the Tulsa area and began his collegiate coaching career as an assistant for the Golden Hurricane in 1994.
“Overall, I’ve spent seven years at Tulsa, and I have to thank our president, Bob Lawless, the athletic director, Judy MacLeod, and the SWA, Crista Troester, for giving me the chance to grow as a collegiate coach,” Pinkerton said. “It’s an exciting time for my family, and it’s not a decision that doesn’t leave us with some sadness.”
After three seasons at TU, he was named assistant coach at Louisiana-Monroe for one year before joining the staff at University of Virginia.
As the top assistant for Virginia for two seasons, Pinkerton helped the Cavaliers to a pair of Atlantic Coast Conference Tournament Championship appearances in 1999 and 2000.
Earning his bachelor’s degree in history while working as an assistant for TU in 1997, Pinkerton also completed hours toward his master’s degree at ULM.
His coaching career started in the ASA travel team ranks, serving as the head coach of Oklahoma Mustangs from 1988 to 1994 when he became the head coach at Sequoyah High in Claremore, Okla. Pinkerton led SHS to the state Class AA runner-up.
Pinkerton and his wife, Dori, have two children, a daughter, Sarah, and a son, Dane.