Matt Barber(@dixiefriedsport on twitter)
Last evening Chad Holbrook announced he would resign as the head baseball coach of the University of South Carolina. That leaves us with a few questions on the future. Who will be the next head coach? What kind of pool of coaches are available for the Gamecocks? How attractive is this job?
First, this job is highly attractive for most college baseball coaches. The facilities, fans, and tradition for USC baseball is among the top 10 best in the NCAA. It is a job where it has been proven by 3 different head coaches that you can compete for a National Championship. Along with LSU, it is the only SEC program that has multiple National Championships. Winning at a program like South Carolina shouldn't be a difficult task for any proven, successful head coach.
This is also an attractive job because of the Athletic Director Ray Tanner. If you are an elite college baseball coach would you rather work for a guy with a MBA who has never coached before or a man who knows what it is like to run a college baseball program? The business man type AD is what is seen on most college baseball campuses right now, but at South Carolina and Mississippi State you have college baseball coaches running the show. This is a unique opportunity for a baseball coach to work for a man who truly understands the difficulty of a sport with limited scholarships and at times difficult travel. Ray Tanner also is highly regarded by some elite coaches that have worked under him in other sports like Steve Spurrier, Dawn Staley, Frank Martin, and Mark Berson.
South Carolina Football and Basketball have proven in the past that those sports, despite mediocre history, can hire elite level coaches. Football has hired National Championship winners in Dietzel, Holtz, and Spurrier. Carlen had an 11 win season prior to coming to South Carolina at Texas Tech, Morrison had 10 wins the year before coming to Columbia. In basketball South Carolina hired National Coach of the Year Eddie Fogler, national championship coach Frank McGuire, the highly respected Dave Odom who had multiple ACC Championships, and Big XII Coach of the Year Frank Martin. If two sports that traditionally have been mediocre can make these hires then why can't the best athletic program on campus? Women's basketball was awful before hiring a huge name in Dawn Staley.
The only true negative with this job is the pressure. Outside of LSU, there probably isn't a fan base that expects more from its baseball. I think Gamecock fans are realistic with their expectations, but that kind of championship pressure may not be something all coaches want. College Baseball isn't as popular or visible in many college towns and a coach maybe happy just winning 40 games a year and drawing a paycheck.
Also, keep in mind that college baseball coaches don't jump jobs like coaches in football & basketball. Of course elite level jobs like South Carolina don't open up that often either.
5/20 Update: From 2 different sources I have heard Carolina is willing to pay between 1.0 million and 1.2 million if it is needed. I'd expect closer to $700,000- 1 million
All records are as of 6/7. Names in bold are guys still playing this year
The Elite Guys- These guys could be a longshot. All seem happy with their jobs, but keep in mind none of the jobs they are at have the same level of fan support or traditions USC does. Carolina also has better facilities than all these schools. #1 & #3 have ties to the Palmetto State.
1. Dan McDonnell Louisville(506-201)- If you are Tanner, this is your first call. McDonnell has been to 7 Super Regionals and has 3 CWS appearances. Not only is he a successful head coach, but he also has experience in the SEC having spent 6 seasons on Mike Bianco's staff at Ole Miss. McDonnell also was part of the 1990 Citadel Bulldog College World Series team as a player. Currently he is in the Super Regionals
2. Brian O'Conner Virginia(637-236-2)- O'Connor is actually a native of Omaha and turned down the Nebraska job to stay at Virginia a few years back so he may be hard to land. Virginia Baseball nearly shutdown prior to O'Conner, but he turned the 'Hoos into a power. He is a 2 time National Coach of the year, 5 time ACC Coach of the Year, won the 2015 National Championship, was a runner-up in 2014, and has been to Omaha 4 times. Virginia is no longer playing after being eliminated in the Fort Worth Regional.
3. Jim Schlossnagle TCU(610-270)- While he has spent most of his coaching career away from the Southeast, he attended school in North Carolina at Elon and was an assistant at Clemson under Bill Wilhelm. Schlossnagle got his head coaching start winning 47 games in year 2 at UNLV and then turned a pitiful TCU program into a power. As head man of the Horned Frogs he's been to Omaha 4 times and was national coach of the year in 2016 according to Baseball America
4. Kevin O'Sullivan Florida(441-206)- Most would say this is unrealistic, but let's consider a couple things. First, Jeremy Foley is no longer the athletic director at Florida. Next, O'Sullivan has mentioned his displeasure with Florida crowds in the past. Despite being an elite program, the fan support at Florida isn't good. O'Sullivan is a Clemson guy having been an assistant there, but keep in mind a Gamecock is currently coaching the Tigers. In 9 years at Florida, O'Sullivan has an impressive 5 Omaha appearances. Personally, I don't think O'Sullivan will be at Carolina.
5. Tim Tadlock Texas Tech(187-102)- Tadlock is another name I'm hearing that Tanner may target. He was an impressive JUCO Coach with 5 trips to the JUCO World Series in 8 years. Since arriving at Texas Tech, traditionally a bad baseball program, he's led his alma mater to 2 CWS appearances in 4 years and has them as a potential top 8 seed in year 5. Tech was upset in its regional this past weekend
Guys with Connections to The Palmetto State You May not Know
1. Erik Bakich Michigan(246-217)-- The overall record isn't impressive, but Bakich has been responsible for two rebuilds. The first at Maryland where he took over one of the worst power 5 conference jobs and led them to a winning record after 3 years. After leaving Maryland he was responsible for a big turnaround at Michigan and is an impressive 114-58 since 2015. Bakich was an assistant at Clemson and then left the Tigers when Corbin became head coach at Vanderbilt to serve as an assistant for the 'Dores. Bakich and Michigan were eliminated from the regionals this past weekend
2. Chris Lemonis Indiana(101-72-2)- Lemonis played baseball for The Citadel and was Dan McDonnell's teammate on the 1990 CWS team. He then spent 11 years as an assistant in Charleston. Lemonis was then the hitting coach and in charge of recruiting for Louisville, producing 33 professional players. Lemonis has 2 regional appearances in 3 seasons, not bad considering the school has only 6 appearances in its history
Ray Tanner Guys- I really hope Carolina hires outside the family if Holbrook is fired, but there are guys that will be mentioned among the media. I just think hiring in the family typically ends up with hurt feelings & a divided fan ase if things don't workout
1. Jerry Meyers- You all know who this is. One of the nation's top pitching coaches for two decades now. Meyers was the head coach of Old Dominion for 6 years and has been on 5 Gamecock CWS teams and was the pitching coach for the 2011 National Champs & 2012 Runner-Ups.
2. Jim Toman- Toman was a very popular assistant at South Carolina from 1997-2007 and also served with Tanner at NC State. Toman left Carolina to coach Liberty and led the Flames to a 297-178-1 record and helped get the school one of the top baseball facilities in the nation. Despite being in a conference with power Coastal Carolina, Toman's teams did well and he was 2014 conference coach of the year. Last season Toman resigned after a 31-28 record. All his Liberty teams finished with a winning record.
3. Mark Calvi South Alabama(167-130)- Calvi was the pitching coach for the 2010 Gamecock National Championship team, but many fans seemed to voice their displeasure with him for most of his time in Columbia. At South Alabama Calvi has been to the regionals twice in one of the better mid major conferences, the SunBelt. This year's team was eliminated in the regionals against Southern Miss.
4. Landon Powell North Greenville(102-56)- Powell is possibly the best catcher the University of South Carolina has ever had. He was the leader of multiple CWS teams for Carolina and spent several years in MLB. Powell has taken North Greenville to its first ever NCAA Division II regional and in 1 year improved the Crusaders win total by 22 games.
5. Monte Lee Clemson(362-186) When I first put out this list a few weeks back this name seemed hotter than it does now. Personally, I'd stay away from attempting to steal a rivals coach because if you fail it is a PR nightmare. Lee hasn't gotten the Tigers out of a regional yet.
6. Elliott Avent NC State(1,016-704)- A Tanner assistant at NC State for 1 season prior to taking the New Mexico job. Avent is the man who NC State hired after Tanner took the Carolina job. Avent has 14 regional appearances in 20 years, 4 Super Regional Appearances, and 1 CWS. In no way do I really expect him to be a candidate, but he does have ties to Tanner and I figured I'd bring him up.
Coaches on the Rise with no ties to SC
1. Scott Berry Southern Miss(289-168-1)- Berry had Southern Miss as a regional host this year, but was upset by Mississippi State in regional final. He's at a school that is 3rd instate behind 2 college baseball powers in MSU & Ole Miss, but still is winning big. This will be Berry's 4th regional appearance in 7 years at USM. Southern Miss is one of the more proud baseball programs in the country with nice facilities & a loyal fan base so he wouldn't be walking into an atmosphere too big for him. The media coverage in the State of Mississippi in College Baseball is also on par with South Carolina. Handling a larger media is something many college baseball coaches don't deal with.
2. Greg Lovelady UCF(164-78)- Lovelady is a disciple of the legendary Jim Morris at Miami. He played and coached under Morris. Lovelady is also the man responsible for 89 wins in the last 2 years at Wright State and is 39-13 this year at Central Florida. Lovelady is someone any AD with an opening must interview.
3. Matt Riser Southeast Louisiana(153-78)- USL was in their 3rd regional in 4 years under Riser. Riser played on the 2005 Tulane CWS team and is only 32 years old. A fast "riser" in the coaching industry who has an AD who also was a former baseball coach like Ray Tanner was.
4. Mark Kingston USF(267-176)- Kingston started his head coaching career at Illinois State and is in his 3rd season at South Florida. He had the Bulls in a regional this year. Problem with Kingston maybe that he was teammates with Chad Holbrook at UNC, but his name has come up among some Gamecock Fans so I threw it out.
5. Tom Walter Wake Forest(238-216)- The record isn't impressive because Walter has been responsible for a few program building jobs at Wake Forest, New Orleans, and George Washington. He's had 40+ win seasons at all three schools and this year has Wake Forest in the Super Regionals
6. Josh Holiday Oklahoma State(200-102)- In 5 years as Oklahoma State's head man Holiday has been in the regionals each year and went to the College World Series last season. Holiday was highly complimentary of Founder's Park and its atmosphere during a Super Regional victory of the Gamecocks last season. Holiday is coaching at his alma mater & Oklahoma State is a history rich program. Holiday was an assistant at NC State(Tanner's alma mater) and was an assistant at Vanderbilt under Tim Corbin
My Completely Bias Guy who won't get job, but is a great coach
Tim Medlin USC Sumter- He's already in the USC system. Medlin is a fantastic baseball mind and former coach at Newberry College(my alma mater) and The Columbia Blowfish. Medlin has won multiple championships at Newberry & USC Sumter. He led the Fire Ants to the NJCAA World Series 2 seasons ago. Medlin wouldn't be a serious candidate, but I thought I'd throw "19" some love.