David Cloninger

Second missed tournament in three years warrants change

Chad Holbrook breaks down next steps, talking with Ray Tanner

South Carolina baseball coach Chad Holbrook breaks down his next steps, talking with Ray Tanner
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South Carolina baseball coach Chad Holbrook breaks down his next steps, talking with Ray Tanner

Ray Tanner and Chad Holbrook haven’t talked, so they haven’t talked, capeesh? Not about shoes or ships or sealing wax, or whether or not Holbrook returns to the dugout next season.

“We haven’t had that conversation,” Holbrook said. “We’ll have that conversation, I’m sure, within a short period of time when we meet and talk about the year.”

That leaves a week or so before Tanner returns from the SEC spring meetings and can sit down with his baseball coach, so let the opinions fly.

OK.

A change needs to be made.

South Carolina has missed the NCAA tournament twice in three years, when it didn’t miss one from 2000-14. That cannot be ignored, when it’s Tanner’s child that is suffering right in front of him.

Even when the Gamecocks weren’t winning baseball national championships, they were the program on this campus. It was the only USC team that consistently won big.

Tanner missed two postseasons in his first three tries, but by Year Four, he had the best team in the country (that fell a game short of the College World Series). By Year Six, he was national runner-up.

The tradition was back because he built it back. He sustained it to where fans were complaining when the Gamecocks didn’t make it to a Super Regional.

And five years since playing for a third straight national championship, his program is watching the tournament. Again.

South Carolina Gamecocks baseball coach Chad Holbrook remains confident he can lead USC despite missing the NCAA tournament twice in three seasons.

I defended Holbrook during and after I was a baseball beat writer. One, I knew he was trying to fill seven-league boots with a pair of size-12 Nikes. Two, I knew that it was the right move to promote him to head coach because he not only deserved it, he was a huge piece of those championship teams.

Three, if you look at the records of him and Tanner over a five-year span, they are similar. Each reached two Super Regionals, one regional and missed two postseasons.

By résumé, it’s comparable. By situation, it’s comparing the high-rise where Ebbets Field once was to Yankee Stadium. I would never demand Omaha as a stipulation of keeping a job, but this program should never, ever miss the NCAA tournament.

Tanner took over a program that had floundered since joining the SEC and missed three straight postseasons. Holbrook took over a program that had played for three straight national championships. Facilities, recruiting, everything that made an elite program was here, and all he had to do was keep driving.

I don’t hold against him his first team committing nine errors and leaving 33 guys on base to lose a Super Regional. That’s baseball.

I don’t hold against him the injuries that have gutted his teams. That’s baseball.

I don’t even hold against him missing the 2015 tournament, because that’s also baseball. The Gamecocks got every break they needed from 2010-12, and it was going to boomerang sometime.

Now that it’s happened twice in three years, it’s not all his fault, but Holbrook is head coach. It’s his responsibility, and this product is not responsibly living up to USC’s standards.

This is where I say I really like Holbrook, and I do. He has been fantastic to me and he is a wonderful person in the community. But he wasn’t hired to do any of that – he was hired to win.

I don’t see this repaired without a coaching change. I hope I’m wrong about that. I truly do.

What I know is tradition was constructed into a castle and became a moniker bursting with pride and success, that of “Gamecock Baseball.”

This is not it.

Follow on Twitter at @DCTheState

South Carolina baseball coach Chad Holbrook addresses potential changes going forward if he is retained for 2018.

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