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Nine-time state champ Bushnell headlines TSN Best of Best Coaches baseball list

By RICK PETERSON                                                                                                 

TopSports.news

Seaman's Steve Bushnell and Silver Lake's Alan Cunningham combined for an amazing 15 state baseball championships over long high school coaching careers.

So it's probably not a big surprise that those two coaches ended up up at the top of the TopSports.news' Top 10 Best of the Best Coaches list for baseball.

SteveBushnellnewFormer Seaman coach Steve Bushnell earned the No. 1 spot on the TSN Best of the Best Top 10 list in baseball after leading the Vikings to nine Class 5A state championships. [File photo/TSN]

Alan CunninghamAlan Cunningham

RyanSchmidtRyan Schmidt

BrettCowdinBrett Cowdin

Bushnell, who earned the No. 1 spot on the Best of the Best list, led Seaman to nine Class 5A state championships, four runner-up finishes and 18 state tournament appearances in 21 seasons before moving into the athletic director's position at Seaman in the 2020-2021 school year.

Cunningham, No. 2 on the list, coached Silver Lake in more than 600 games in two separate stints, posting a combined record of 458-170 with six state titles and a run of 22 state tournament berths in 23 seasons.

Bushnell also earned the No. 1 spot in the Reader's Choice poll, edging out veteran coach Frank Magee by just two votes, while former Rossville coach Mick Keller was a solid No. 3 pick by TSN readers.

Nine members of the Best of the Best Coaches list earned at least one state championship, with seven winning multiple titles.

A five-person panel of current and past sports media professionals with more than 150 years of combined experience met to help determine the final Best of the Best Top 10.

Current Shawnee Heights coach Ryan Schmidt is No. 3 on the Best of the Best list, notching a pair of 5A state titles and a string of state appearances, including 2022, while the late Brett Cowdin, who led Hayden and Topeka West to state crowns, merited the No. 4 position.

Former Shawnee Heights coach Craig Cox, former Silver Lake coach C.J. Hamilton and current Hayden coach Bill Arnold, hold down the No. 5, No. 6 and No. 7 Best of the Best spots, with all three coaches earning state championships in two sports.

Cox coached two state championship teams in both baseball and basketball at Shawnee Heights and added a fifth state title in basketball at Seaman this past season while Hamilton is best known as the winningest football coach in Kansas history but also led Silver Lake to three state baseball championships and Arnold has coached Hayden to a pair of baseball championships as well as a football title,

No. 8 on the Best of the Best list is Keller, while former Hayden coach Aaron Becker is No. 9 and and former Seaman coach Phil Loomis rounds out the top 10.

Keller led Rossville to the 3A-1A state title in 1991 while Becker led Hayden to a state title in 2009 and Loomis helped build Seaman into a state contender before turning the head coaching reins over to Bushnell.

Here's a look at the Top 10 and Readers Choice Awards:

TSN TOP 10 BEST OF THE BEST BASEBALL COACHES

1. Steve Bushnell -- Won Class 5A state championships in 2000, 2004, 2006, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2013, 2018 and 2019 before having his bid for a 10th state title and a third straight state championship wiped out by COVID-19 in 2020. Bushnell, who led the Vikings to 18 state tournament berths, took over as Seaman's athletic director in the 2020-2021 school year. In adition to his nine titles, Bushnell's teams posted four state runner-up finishes.

2. Alan Cunningham -- Cunningham led Silver Lake to a 458-170 record in two stints with the Eagles, including state titles in 1997, 1998, 2005, 2008, 2009 and 2011. Spanning the last year of his first tenure and his entire second stint, Silver Lake posted 29 straight winning seasons. At one point, the Eagle reached the state tournament an amazing 22 of 23 years.

3. Ryan Schmidt -- A former assistant at Shawnee Heights before moving into the head coaching position, Schmidt coached the T-Birds to Class 5A state championships in 2001 and 2011, with his 2011 team posting a perfect 25-0 record. Heights has been a consistent 5A contender, incluing a state berth this past season. Schmidt was an assistant to Craig Cox in 1994 when the T-Birds captured the school's first title.

4. Brett Cowdin -- The late Cowdin, who passed away in 2013 at the age of 54, coached at Highland Park, Hayden, Topeka West, Rossville and Washburn Rural and led Hayden and Topeka West to state championships. Cowdin was inducted into the Shawnee County Baseball Hall of Fame in 2017.

5. Craig Cox -- Cox coached Shawnee Heights to a pair of state championships in both baseball and basketball and added a fifth state title in basketball this past season at Seaman. Cox was Heights' first baseball coach in 1991 and led the T-Birds to their first title in 1994. That team was inducted into the Shawnee County Baseball Hall of Fame in 2017.

6. C.J. Hamilton -- Hamilton is the winningest football coach in Kansas history, with eight state championships in that sport, but Hamilton also led Silver Lake to state baseball championships in 1975, 1977 and 1982.

7. Bill Arnold -- Like Hamilton, Arnold has enjoyed tremendous success in football, including a state championship at Hayden in 2008 with a 13-1 record. But Arnold's Wildcat teams also won state baseball titles in 2013 and 2015, posting a 24-1 record in '15.

8. Mick Keller -- Keller turned in a long and successful stint as Rossville's head coach, with the Bulldawgs making multiple state appearances, including a Class 3A-1A state championship in 1991.

9. Aaron Becker -- A multi-sport standout at Hayden, Becker led Hayden to a state baseball championship in 2009 with a 20-4 record on the season.

10. Phil Loomis -- Posted a 171-65 coaching record at Seaman with five state tournament berths, including second and third-place finishes.

READERS CHOICE BASEBALL AWARDS

1. Steve Bushnell -- No. 1 in TSN Best of the Best Top 10 (see capsule above).

2. Frank Magee -- Had coaching stints at Highland Park and Hayden as well as Santa Fe Trail and has also been a longtime coach in summer baseball.

3. Mick Keller -- No. 8 in TSN Best of the Best Top 10 (see capsule above).

4. Aaron Becker -- No. 9 in Best of the Best Top 10 (see capsule above).

5. Alan Cunningham -- No. 2 in Best of the Best Top 10 (see capsule above).

6. Brett Cowdin -- No. 4 in Best of the Best Top 10 (see capsule above).

7. Richard Thomas -- .A 1989 Seaman graduate, Thomas starred for the Vikings as a player and was a member of the coaching staff when Seaman won the school's first state title in 2000.

8. (tie) Ryan Schmidt -- No. 3 in Best of the Best Top 25 (see capsule above).

8. (tie) Jay Mastin -- Has led the Junior Blues to multiple Class 6A state tournament berths, including this past season.

10. Bill Arnold -- No. 7 in Best of the Best Top 10 (see capsule above). 

Next up: Women's basketball Best of the Best Top 10 and Reader's Choice awards.