LAS CRUCES, N.M (KTSM) – After an 0-7 start to the 2023 baseball season that included a 9-3 loss to NAIA foe Benedictine Mesa on Tuesday, New Mexico State relieved head coach Mike Kirby of his duties on Thursday afternoon.
Pitching Coach and Recruiting Coordinator Keith Zuniga has been named the Aggies’ interim head coach for the remainder of the 2023 season.
“We would like to thank Coach Kirby for his hard work and dedication during his time at New Mexico State, however, we feel as though the trajectory of the program needed to be changed,” NMSU Director of Athletics Mario Moccia said in a statement. “We feel this change is in the best interest of the program and it will allow us to focus on the remainder of the season. We are confident that Coach Zuniga will lead the team effectively during this transitional period.”
Kirby spent three full seasons, plus the start of 2023 with the Aggies, leading NMSU to the 2022 NCAA Tournament thanks to a Cinderella four-day run through the WAC Tournament.
However, the rest of his tenure was mired by losing; Kirby went just 56-79 in his first head coaching role after taking over for Brian Green ahead of the 2020 season. The 0-7 start to 2023 was NMSU’s worst since an 0-8 start to 2015.
Kirby’s four-year contract was set to expire at the end of the 2023 season anyways, but NMSU elected to cut ties early and begin looking for his replacement. The school will pay Kirby the remainder of his $155,000 base salary for the 2023 season.
New Mexico State will open a three-game series with Pacific in Las Cruces on Friday night at 6 p.m. at Presley Askew Field. Zuniga spoke with KTSM shortly after a lengthy team meeting, in which Kirby’s firing was discussed, as were expectations moving forward.
“I don’t think anybody woke up today thinking that this was going to happen. You obviously knew the vibe in the air and in the room wasn’t a good one getting off to an 0-7 start,” Zuniga said. “It’s been a difficult couple of days both physically and mentally for these boys. I think this is going to be a reset for everybody and make people realize that we still have a long way to go.”
Kirby was hired as NMSU’s head coach in June of 2019, coming to Las Cruces from Nebraska, where he was an assistant coach. NMSU was his first opportunity as a head coach, after he was an assistant at CSU-Fullerton, UNLV, Oregon and Nebraska.
Moccia told KTSM that hiring a new men’s basketball coach will take precedence and that he didn’t expect to make a hire replacing Kirby until after the 2023 season.