Talking Shop With Mississippi’s Mike Bianco

Editor/Collegiate Baseball

UNIVERSITY, Miss. — Mike Bianco is one of the most progressive coaches in the business.

The skipper at Ole Miss was recently named Collegiate Baseball’s National Coach of The Year after leading the Rebels to a 16-1 record before the season was halted due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Mississippi started the season against pre-season No. 1 ranked Louisville.

After losing the first game, the Rebels won the next two and never stopped winning as they rolled off 16 straight wins before the season stopped.

It was the longest winning streak in the nation at the time of the stoppage.

Collegiate Baseball presents a special question and answer session with Bianco which delves into his system and what he has learned as a coach.

Collegiate Baseball: Your mentor was Hall of Fame Coach Skip Bertman at LSU. What did you learn from him that has allowed you to be the superb coach you are today?

Mike Bianco: I have been fortunate to not only play for but coach with arguably the greatest college baseball coach of all time in Skip Bertman. I learned so much from him. So much of what we do today at Ole Miss in 2020 is similar to when I was a catcher at LSU and when I coached there. Through technology, the game has changed. We have tried to change along with it. So many people ask me about coach Bertman’s system. One of the great things about his system was that it always evolved.

One of the biggest compliments you can give Coach Bertman is that his teams were the first to buy into strength training and look at how physical his teams were during the 1990s with all the home runs they hit. When he gave motivational talks and showed his videos, he would talk about the mental game well before it was fashionable. He is a person whose system we have tried to emulate here for the past 20 years and also be on the cutting edge of anything that will help our program. The key is being sincere about helpful new technology and not the flavor of the month.

Collegiate Baseball: What else have you found to be important to being a great coach?

Mike Bianco: Being involved with everything is important as a head coach. At the end of the day, you need to know what the hitters are doing and know what the pitchers are doing. You also need to know what is happening from a marketing and promotions’ standpoint, what the grounds’ crew is doing along with every aspect of your program. You need to know every little detail of what is happening within your program and surrounding it.

You can’t make a good program happen just by yourself. You have to surround yourself with great people. And I have been fortunate through the years to have some great assistants and others who have touched our program. The biggest thing is to understand how every part of your program functions and what you need to do for it to become better.

Collegiate Baseball: Coach Bertman was a remarkable innovator. I remember him telling his teams short motivational stories prior to every game that made his players realize that anything was possible in athletics. He also showed his players special videos prior to games that allowed his players to reach new heights of achievement.

One of his favorite stories was how London medical student Roger Banister busted through the 4-minute barrier with a time of 3:59 on May 6, 1954. Runners prior to that had been chasing the 4-minute mile since at least 1886. But it became as much a psychological barrier as a physical one. Only 46 days after Banister broke through, John Landry, an Australian runner, broke Banister’s record with a time of 3:58. Just a year later, three runners broke the 4-minute mile in a single race. Over the last half century, more than a thousand runners have conquered a barrier that had once been considered impossible to break.

Mike Bianco: We still use those stories in our program to help motivate Ole Miss players. When I was an assistant for Coach Bertman, Skip would type those stories out on his computer and then print them out. He asked me if I could organize them for him in different motivational areas. So that was one of my duties back in the mid-90s. I put them all in a notebook and put a table of contents to them. I made one book for him and one for me. I treasure the book I have, and it is in my desk today which I refer to.

Now it is much easier to find those great motivational stories that you can use for your players. I never used to be a big reader. But over the last 20 years, I have read a ton of books and discovered many more stories which I share with my players. The internet is an extremely valuable place to find stories as well. I now have my assistants make me books so there are fresh messages for the players on a routine basis. You try not to repeat stories to your players year after year. It isn’t so difficult now to find great stories. But keeping them in order is the hard part.

To read more of this question and answer session with Mike Bianco, purchase the July 10, 2020 edition of Collegiate Baseball or subscribe by CLICKING HERE. He delves into more of what he learned from Skip Bertman and the remarkable high tech tools that he and his staff utilize at Ole Miss.