Press Release for Monday, August 24, 2009

UNF names Smoke Laval new baseball coach

Jeff Wuerth

Assistant Athletics Director for Media Relations

(904) 620-4027

 University of North Florida Director of Athletics Lee Moon announced today that Raymond “Smoke” Laval will take over as the new head baseball coach for the Ospreys.  Laval will replace current head baseball coach Dusty Rhodes, who announced his retirement today, effective at the end of the 2010 season.


“We’re excited to have Raymond joining the UNF family,” said UNF President John A. Delaney.  “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.”


“With the retiring of Dusty Rhodes, we here at the University of North Florida knew that we had to replace a legend and that we needed someone who could make an immediate impact on the program, and a person that Coach Rhodes would feel comfortable in turning his program over to,” stated Moon.  “We felt like we needed to get a proven winner who could take this program to the next level and we feel like Coach Laval is that man. 


“Smoke has achieved success at every school he has coached and guided his teams in the past to conference championships, NCAA Regional appearances and baseball’s pinnacle, the College World Series,” continued Moon.  “He is a great recruiter who is familiar with the Jacksonville area and the state of Florida.  Smoke has a reputation of excellence and we are happy to welcome him to the UNF family.”


Laval is a 30-year college coaching veteran with 12 years of Division I experience as a head coach, owning a career record of 451-268-1 (.627). Laval is currently a scouting advisor for the Toronto Blue Jays. 


“It’s an honor to follow a coach as successful and decorated as Dusty Rhodes,” said Laval.  “I’ve known Dusty for a long time and respect him as a coach and a person.  I am not here to make drastic changes.  Dusty laid a great foundation for UNF baseball and I am just looking to build on that foundation.  I am very excited for this opportunity and want to thank Coach Moon and North Florida for this great opportunity.”


Laval served as LSU’s head baseball coach for five seasons (2002-2006). In five years at the helm of the LSU program, he guided the Tigers to two College World Series berths (2003 and 2004), two NCAA Super Regional titles, three NCAA Regional championships, one SEC title, two SEC division championships and two Top 10 finishes.  Laval, the 2003 SEC Coach of the Year, finished his career at LSU with a 210-109-1 (.658) overall record and the highest winning percentage in SEC regular-season games.  He coached two players to SEC Player of the Year accolades and had 23 players drafted by Major League Baseball clubs.  Laval boasted a school-record 12 SEC Academic Honor Roll members in 2004 and in 2005. 


He served seven seasons (1994-2000) as the head coach at the University of Louisiana-Monroe.  Laval compiled a 241-159 (.603) mark as the head coach at ULM, guiding them to NCAA Regional appearances in 1995, 1999 and 2000. The 2000 club posted a 41-22 mark en route to the Southland Conference title, tying the ULM record for wins. Laval, the 1999 SLC Coach of the Year, also led ULM to the 1999 regular-season title and to the 1995 conference tournament crown. He was voted the 1995 Louisiana Coach of the Year by the Louisiana Sportswriters Association.


Laval began his coaching career in 1977 as an assistant at Jacksonville University before moving to Wolfson High School in Jacksonville as a baseball and football coach. He served as a graduate assistant at LSU in 1979 under former Tiger head coach Jack Lamabe before working two years as an assistant at Gulf Coast Community College in Panama City, Fla.


Laval served as an assistant coach at Florida for two seasons (1982-83) before returning to LSU to work under former coach Skip Bertman.  Laval served as assistant coach for LSU from 1984-93 before leaving for ULM.  As an assistant at LSU, he helped guide the Tigers to two NCAA titles, six College World Series appearances and five SEC Championships.  He returned to LSU in 2001 as an administrative assistant and took over for the retired Bertman the next season. 

Laval holds a bachelor’s degree (1977) from Jacksonville in physical education and a master’s degree (1979) from LSU in administration. The McDonald, Pa., native played two seasons at Gulf Coast Community College, where he lettered as a catcher. He completed his playing career at JU, where he led the ninth-ranked Dolphins in hitting at the 1976 NCAA South Regional.


The Smoke Laval File



Full Name: Raymond Peter Laval

Birthdate: December 20, 1955, in McDonald, Pa.

Wife: Former Pam Lewis of Reserve, La.

Children: Jamie and Brandon


1973: High School Diploma, South Fayette HS (McDonald, Pa.)

1977: Bachelor’s in Physical Education, Jacksonville

1979: Master’s in Administration, LSU


1970-73: Catcher, South Fayette High School

1974-75: Catcher, Gulf Coast Community College

1976-77: Catcher, Jacksonville


1977: Assistant Coach, Jacksonville

1978: Assistant Coach, Wolfson High School (Jacksonville, Fla.)

1979: Graduate Assistant Coach, LSU

1980-81: Assistant Coach, Gulf Coast Community College

1982-83: Assistant Coach, Florida

1984-93: Assistant Coach, LSU

1994-00: Head Coach, ULM

2001: Administrative Assistant, LSU

2002-06: Head Coach, LSU

2007-Current: Scouting Advisor, Toronto Blue Jays


Year     W-L            School     Highlights

1994     20-33          ULM        Defeated Three NCAA Tournament Teams

1995     37-20          ULM        SLC Tournament Champions; NCAA Regional

1996     41-19          ULM        School-Record 41 Wins; SLC Louisiana Division Champions

1997     33-21          ULM        Became Fourth Coach in ULM History to Record 100 Wins

1998     33-22          ULM        Led SLC in Hitting For Third Straight Season

1999     36-22          ULM        SLC Champions; NCAA Regional

2000     41-22          ULM        SLC Champions; NCAA Regional

2002     44-22          LSU         NCAA Regional Champions

2003     45-22-1       LSU         SEC Champions; College World Series

2004     46-19          LSU         NCAA Regional, Super Regional; College World Series

2005     40-22          LSU         SEC Western Division Champions

2006     35-24          LSU         SEC Tournament Participants



1995: Louisiana Sportswriters Association Coach of the Year

1999: Southland Conference Coach of the Year

2002: Louisiana Sportswriters Association Coach of the Year

2003: SEC Coach of the Year

2003: Louisiana Sportswriters Association Coach of the Year

2004: Louisiana Sportswriters Association Coach of the Year

2 NCAA College World Series Championships

8 NCAA College World Series appearances

17 NCAA Regional berths

10 Conference Championships