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SOU assistant Mayben heading to Arizona Christian

ASHLAND — For 26 games in the spring of 2020, Mike Mayben was the one calling the shots for the Southern Oregon University softball program.

Nearly a year and a half later, Mayben is again going to be leading a college softball program. Except this one will be in the Arizona desert, not the Rogue Valley.

Mayben, who was SOU’s interim head coach in 2020 following Jessica Pistole’s departure to the University of San Diego, has been hired as the new head coach at Arizona Christian University, an NAIA school in Glendale, Arizona, that went 8-16 this past season. Mayben will get the chance to coach alongside his wife, Casey, once again, with the two working together for the first time since their days at North Medford High.

“I visited Arizona Christian and that was the moment where it really settled in and I knew it would be a good home for Casey and I to be able to coach together,” Mayben said. “They have an interim coach who wants to stay on staff, so there’s a built-in assistant coaching staff in that place that welcomed us, brought us in and made us feel really welcome.

“We’re really excited about the opportunity to be at a Christian school that is NAIA level and really fits a lot of the little pieces we’ve been involved in these last few years. We’re excited to be able to serve down there and be a part of a coaching staff that is excited to have us.”

Mayben said he first heard of the job through his youngest daughter, Mia, who attends Grand Canyon University in Phoenix, Arizona. He originally thought he would go through the interview process and see what happens, not having many expectations about getting the job or not.

“I just honestly thought we’ll just go through the process and we’ll go ahead,” Maybe recalled. “I remember thinking, ‘I love where I’m at teaching in the Medford School District, I love coaching at SOU and I don’t need anything to change.’”

What sealed it was the chance to coach alongside his wife again, something that the two have discussed doing “all throughout the last four years.”

“That was right at the top of the list,” said Mayben, adding that Casey’s role will be directly working with the ACU players. “We enjoyed coaching together for 12 years at North Medford, and it was important to us that we’re building community and that we’re working in that community to not just build up a softball program but also the community at large there in Glendale.”

Mayben’s other daughter, Taelor, just completed her softball career at SOU and is set to begin work towards her Master’s degree, which meant that the lifelong Rogue Valley native felt like this was the right time to step out of his comfort zone.

“The only time I’ve spent out of the valley is my four years in college in Salem and Portland,” Mayben said. “It will be strange not being in the valley, just being at North Medford, working at North Medford, serving that community there and then having the opportunity to extend that at SOU and be a part of that family there.

“Uniforms and numbers might change,” Mayben continued, “but the really hard part is getting involved in a community we’re brand new to. At least to this point, we’ve felt extremely welcomed with open arms and appreciate the ACU family there and the staff there.”

Mayben served four years on the SOU coaching staff following a highly successful run as head coach at North Medford, a 12-year stint where he compiled a 275-66 record and led the Black Tornado to four state titles. He was named OSAA Class 6A Coach of the Year four times and Southwest Conference Coach of the Year on six different occasions.

Mayben took over for Pistole when she moved to USD after leading SOU to its first-ever national title in 2019, leading the Raiders to a 23-3 record before the pandemic forced the remainder of the 2020 season to be canceled.

When Pistole returned to Ashland, Mayben remained on as her top assistant, helping the veteran Raiders win their second NAIA World Series title in the last two full seasons. The Raiders’ coaching staff was named the NAIA’s Staff of the Year in 2019 and 2021.

It was that selfless act of remaining on the staff that Pistole continuously pointed to as to what kind of person and coach Mayben is.

Regardless of what his title was during his time at SOU, Mayben is definitely thankful for the chance to both coach and learn at the same time with the Raiders.

“There’s a process to it all, and that process requires finding the right players in a program that you want to run,” Mayben said. “Finding players that want to come in and work extremely hard, compete, have that competitive drive to be the best they can be and then having a plan laid out from the fall all the way until the end of the year that really pushes them to continually work hard and be competitive. That is something that I have been very impressed with in the (SOU) program since I’ve been there.

“It all starts with a mindset and then goes to mechanics and onto the field. That piece is something that we’ll walk away from and take to Arizona Christian. It really is about having that competitive mindset, competing every day that you’re at practice.”

You can also put pretty good odds on there being a game or two between Southern Oregon and Arizona Christian taking place next season as well.

“We’re hoping that March 4 and 5 is it,” Mayben said with a laugh. “We’ve got to figure out travel budgets and figure exactly what we can do, but that weekend is open for both of us right now. We’re talking about it and hoping it’s something we can do right out of the gate.

“We’re hoping to show those (Arizona Christian) players where we grew up and committed 16-plus years of coaching and also for them to experience SOU and what that championship culture looks like.”

Reach Danny Penza at 541-776-4469 or dpenza@rosebudmedia.com. Follow him on Twitter @penzatopaper.