Mark Kingston was formally introduced as South Carolina’s baseball coach Friday afternoon at The Zone at Williams-Brice Stadium and made it clear that a new era is underway at USC.
The last coach of the Gamecocks, Chad Holbrook, had a close relationship with Ray Tanner. He worked as an assistant to Tanner when he guided the Gamecocks baseball team, before Holbrook was promoted to head coach.
Kingston said Friday that his relationship with Tanner was practically nonexistent until a couple of weeks ago. While he is excited to work for a coach he called “one of the greatest coaches in college baseball history,” he will also run his program his way.
“He didn’t hire me to have to babysit me. I’m confident enough in what my staff and I will be able to do with our team that I’m not going to call him all the time,” Kingston said. “I think we know what we’re doing. I think we know how to build a team and develop it. I would guess we’ll talk more non-baseball than baseball.”
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Kingston has a method that has worked for him as the head coach at Illinois State and South Florida.
He helped end two long NCAA Tournament droughts at each of his first two stops as a head coach and did so by establishing the culture he wants in his program early on.
“The great teams have a confidence and have a toughness that carries them through the tough times,” Kingston said. “If you want to know what is the missing link on teams that are talented and they don’t go far, it’s confidence and toughness, both mental and physical. That’s something that we will really focus on on a daily basis.”
Offensively, South Carolina is expected to go away from the small ball it relied on the past few seasons.
“On occasion, we will play the short game, but only when absolutely necessary,” Kingston said.
Instead, he will build his team around speed and power.
Kingston wants a mix of players who are able to get on base and use their speed on the base paths and players that can hit the ball out of the park.
“We talk about it all the time, the best way to score runs is with one hit,” Kingston said. “If you have speed, a guy can walk, steal second, and a base hit scores a run. Or you can have a power hitter, who with one swing of the bat can score a run. If you don’t have either one of those and it takes four or five hits in an inning to scratch out a run or two, it makes it really tough.”
Kingston’s teams have been successful on the mound, with this past season’s squad ranking No. 10 nationally in ERA.
His pitching coach at USF, Billy Mohl, could follow him to South Carolina, but is also in the mix for the Bulls head coaching job.
Kingston will wait until a hire is made at USF before filling out his staff.
In the meantime he’ll be on the road recruiting and breaking down USC’s roster to identify strengths and weaknesses for the 2018 season.
Kingston knows what is expected at South Carolina. He said he is committed to making sure the Gamecocks get back to winning big soon after missing the NCAA Tournament two of the past three years.
Tanner shared with the media what he relayed to Kingston during the interview process.
“All I said was we’ve got to beat Clemson and I’d like to go to Omaha,” Tanner recalled. “And I didn’t really get into more detail than that.”
Tanner’s message got through to Kingston, who knows what he must to do be considered a success in Columbia.
“We will embrace your expectations. I know what the expectations are. Coach Tanner made sure I knew what the expectations were many, many times. We won’t run from the expectations. We’ll run towards the expectations,” Kingston said. “It’s big boy baseball. There’s no doubt about it. … I’ve coached long enough now to say it’s time. I want to test what we do against the best, and I want to be the best.”