Former Jumbo Paul Svagdis named head coach of baseball team

Coach Svagdis is pictured. Courtesy Paul Sweeney

Paul Svagdis (A93, AG96), an alum of the Tufts baseball and football programs, assumed his role as the new head coach of the baseball team last month. Svagdis comes to Tufts after serving as head coach at Azusa Pacific University in Southern California since 2002. 

Svagdis takes the reins from John Casey, who was Svagdis’ coach when he was a Tufts student. Casey retired this year after nearly 40 years leading the Jumbos. Casey, a member of the American Baseball Coaches Association Hall of Fame, has since joined the coaching staff at Johnson & Wales University in Providence, R.I.

As an alum of Tufts, Svagdis said that the school itself was very influential in bringing him back to the East Coast.  

“The big reason [I took the job] is that at Tufts as an undergraduate and graduate student, I had a tremendous experience,” Svagdis said. “It gave me a terrific foundation in life in terms of how to learn.”

Svagdis’ being an alum of the program helps not only the rest of the coaching staff, but the players as well. Senior catcher and captain Ryan Noone finds that the tradition within Tufts baseball is in good hands. 

“Coach Casey was at the helm of our program for so long and played such a huge role in bringing our program to where it is right now,” Noone said. “Having a new coach who played under coach Casey at Tufts is a huge benefit and will help us maintain many of the mentalities and traditions that have brought this program success in the past.”

The influence of Casey on the program is prevalent, and Svagdis had nothing but praise for his former coach and mentor.

“Coach Casey was a major influence on my life, and has been a mentor and friend for the past 30 years,” Svagdis said. “Knowing the history of the program and success of the university, it was a no-brainer to come back.”

After graduating from Tufts in 1993, Svagdis assumed roles as an assistant coach on both the baseball and football staffs, while pursuing his Masters in Education. After completing his graduate degree in 1996, Svagdis went on to become head baseball coach at Pomona College before he started at Azusa Pacific in 2002.

At Azusa Pacific, Svagdis turned the Cougars into a perennial powerhouse. He totaled 606 wins in his career at the helm of the program, with three 40-win seasons from 2017 to 2019. Nonetheless, the transition to the NESCAC and Div. III from his former Div. II program on the West Coast will be a new challenge. 

“Div. III in New England has some of the best baseball in the country in a lot of ways,” Svagdis said. “I have my work cut out for me, but it’s cool to have to learn new processes.”

Svagdis explained how he is overjoyed to be coaching alongside one of his former players at Azusa Pacific, Brendan Casey, son of former head coach John Casey. The younger Casey has been coaching at Tufts since 2016, and will continue his role as associate head coach.  

“Brendan played for me at Azusa Pacific, so he and I are very close,” Svagdis said. “I have a high level of trust in his evaluation of our guys … and he was a necessary component for me to take the job.”

A benefit to Svagdis is the continuity that exists in the Tufts baseball program as a result of John Casey’s long tenure.

“For an alum who hasn’t been back in 25 or 30 years, it’s really cool to hear a common theme, and the same attributes that we were taught in the ‘80s and ‘90s,” Svagdis said.

For Noone and the rest of the Jumbos roster, their main goal doesn’t change with the introduction of Svagdis as head coach.

“Our expectations as a team have always been to win a championship and that definitely doesn’t change with a new coach,” Noone said. “We’re all super excited to have coach Svagdis and are lucky to have a coach with his resume, and we’re itching to be able to get on the field with him.”

Svagdis undoubtedly has big shoes to fill. The Tufts baseball program has a record six NESCAC tournament championships since NESCAC championships began in 2001, the most any school has secured. 

“I told the players that my job is going to be to earn the right to put the Jumbo uniform back on,” Svagdis said. “There is a heavy sense of responsibility, and I’m going to have to earn [our players’] respect as a former Jumbo, so that I understand what it means to be one.”

He added that he wants to continue a high standard for Tufts baseball.

“There is a high standard [at Tufts] that has been created that I look forward to chasing a bit as a competitor,” Svagdis said. “These guys have set an expectation in the league and in the NCAA to be one of the top teams in New England, and [we want to] put together a team that gets to a national championship.”