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Laval brings 30 years of experience to UNF

When UNF men’s baseball Head Coach Dusty Rhodes retires following the 2010 season UNF will be saying goodbye a hall-of-famer and welcoming Head Coach Raymond ‘Smoke’ Laval.

Laval comes to UNF with 30 years of college coaching experience and 12 years as head coach at the Division I level. His last coaching job was a five-season stint at Louisiana State University from 2002-2006 where he led the Tigers to two College World Series births in 2003 and 2004, one SEC title and two top 10 finishes.

“We’re excited to have Raymond joining the UNF family,” UNF President John Delaney said. “He brings a wealth of experience to the plate, and we look forward to him picking up where Dusty left off, continuing to build upon a strong baseball program here at the university.”

Laval will take over as UNF’s head coach during the 2011 season after Rhodes has had a chance to lead the team during their first season under full Division I status. Laval is currently a scouting advisor for the Toronto Blue Jays and will remain with the team until he starts at UNF in the spring.

Laval will join Rhodes’ staff as a second assistant coach effective Jan. 1. As an assistant coach, Laval will be able start to recruit and put into place the team that he will head during the 2011 season. Although there is not currently a second assistant baseball coach position at UNF, the position will remain active after Laval’s switch to head coach, Athletic Director Lee Moon said.

Laval has coached at an array of schools since he began his coaching career as an assistant coach at Jacksonville University in 1977. Afterwards, Laval spent time as an assistant coach at Gulf Coast Community College, Florida and LSU, as well as head coach of University of Louisiana Monroe and LSU. Laval left LSU after his team finished with a 35-24 record during the 2006 season and failed to miss the NCAA Tournament. UNF finished the 2009 season with a 23-31 record.

“This morning I met with Smoke Laval and accepted his resignation as head coach of the LSU Tigers,” LSU Athletic Director Skip Bertman said in a press conference June 4, 2006. “He took the Tigers to the College World Series twice and won the Southeastern Conference championship once. This is as hard of a situation as I’ve ever been through. It’s very personal and it’s very difficult. I think the best interest of LSU was served in Smoke’s resignation.”

Laval and Rhodes have been friends since their days of coaching against each other at the community college level. During Rhodes’s retirement press conference the two shared a hug and reiterated how impressed they were with the other’s work.

“There is not a better person to lead UNF baseball into the future than Smoke,” Rhodes said. “They brought in a guy who’s going to win them a lot of games in the future.”

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