There are two men who stand on the all-time Arkansas baseball coaching summit.
There is Norm DeBriyn, who from 1970 through 2002 coached the Razorbacks to three conference championships and four College World Series appearances. Then there is one of DeBriyn’s most intelligent and driven players, Dave Van Horn, who succeeded him.
Van Horn, who has led Arkansas to a shared SEC West division crown four times to go along with five College World Series appearances, was inducted into the Arkansas Sports Hall of Fame on Friday.
In an honorary ceremony beforehand, DeBriyn shared some good stories about the former player who has made him so proud. Here are a few excerpts:
On Recruiting Dave Van Horn
Norm DeBriyn: “It’s only by the grace of God that Dave is a Razorback. I tried to screw up that recruiting as good as you could, and I almost did. We had a chance to recruit Dave out of high school and didn’t do it.
And it’s bothered me a little bit. He’s goes to a junior college from McLennan. He’s an all American. He could have gone anywhere. I thought we were going to lose him to [Texas] A&M, and after I continued to screw up the recruiting process he became a Razorback.
And so Dave, thank you. I always wanted to tell you that.”
On Dave Van Horn’s “It” Factor
Norm DeBriyn: “I can remember games, I can remember against Houston at A&M in 1982. Dave was the type of the player that you wanted the ball hit to him when the game was on the line. When the game was on the line offensively, you wanted him at bat. He wasn’t going to strike out. He was going to make contact, he was going to come through.
Dave’s got a lot of confidence in himself. He’s got that ‘it’ that people talk about. What makes Dave a great coach … You know, there’s a lot of people that can coach. But Dave, I’ve never seen anybody command a locker room like he can.
He’s a tremendous evaluator. And his discipline, and his example is just impeccable. I think with that being said, a lot of tough decisions have to be made, and Dave can make tough decisions. I think as we’ve gone over time with him bringing the program to where it is today, Arkansas baseball is one of the top five baseball programs in the country.
It’s just a credit to Dave, his staff, and the players in what you do. Let’s give him a big hand.”
On Dave Van Horn Starting His Coaching Career At Arkansas
Norm DeBriyn: “…We got better as a program with him as a graduate assistant coach. I remember a decision he made up to middle in like 1985 that got us to Omaha. That was Dave Van Horn that did that, not me. And he continued to contribute.
Well, when he went out on his own, he goes to North Woods … and I follow him and talk to him. They had no scholarships. He did a great job in that program. I got a call from Woods, the athletic director at Texarkana. Chuck Edmondson had gone into scouting and they were looking for a baseball coach. I said, “Dave Van Horn is your man.”
They [Texarkana Community College] hired Dave Van Horn, the rest is history. He goes from there … we were talking on the phone, he said, ‘You know what? Central Missouri’s open. I think I would like to go there.’
He goes to Central Missouri — he’s there one year, they win a national championship. I can still remember watching the national championship on TV. It was so much fun and just so proud of him and what he did.
All of a sudden, he leaves there and goes to Northwestern [State], Louisiana… We’re talking about Nebraska and he said, “You know, I don’t know if I can get that job or not. But I would like to try.” And so we talked, and I called Terry Don Phillips, who’s then the athletic director at Oklahoma State … and Terry Don knew of Dave. He called Nebraska.”
On telling former Arkansas athletic director Frank Broyles about Van Horn
Norm DeBriyn: “So I go to Coach Broyles and I said, ‘Coach, one of our former players, Dave Van Horn …’ And so after a few days, nothing happened… I go back in. I said, ‘Coach, I asked you to maybe call Nebraska for Dave Van Horn.’
He kind of looked at the material I had given him. So I go in there the next day, he said, ‘He has won wherever he’s gone!’ I said, ‘Well yes, that’s what I told you.'”
“That put Dave on the radar.”
On Van Horn’s time at Nebraska before coming to Arkansas
Norm DeBriyn: “I can remember back in like 1978, the NCAA tried to get Nebraska to go to [the College World Series in] Omaha. So they send them in a regional up in Iceland [crowd laughs]. They didn’t win that regional.
The rest of us were talking: “Boy, they really want Nebraska to get to Omaha, don’t they?” Well they didn’t go. They never went until Dave got the Nebraska job. They go two years in a row. I mean, it was amazing.
When we went back with Dave as a baseball coach at Arkansas in ’04, I’m going downtown Omaha, driving around, and the people there just loved him, and loved what he brought to the table, and loved what he did with their program. I mean, they were coming out of the woodwork.
And so that was really fun, and was great in following him and what he was doing. He built a monster.”
“The whole state, we’re proud of you, Dave.”
DeBriyn was one of a handful of men to make tributes to Van Horn. Make sure to also check out the heartwarming speech given by former Razorback star Carson Shaddy: