David Cloninger

Holbrook returns USC to prominence

Chad Holbrook was never going to have it easy at South Carolina. Such is life when replacing a legend who left at the absolute pinnacle of the profession and whose strategies over his last three years always worked.

As disappointing as it was to lose a home Super Regional – something that hadn’t happened since 2000 – Holbrook did a masterful job this season. He took a team that missed the postseason last year and guided it to an SEC East championship (half-game from winning the entire league) and won a regional after losing the first game.

He’s also right on track with the legend he replaced.

In his first four seasons, Ray Tanner had two postseasons with two SEC East championships and one SEC title. In one postseason, he was one win away from the College World Series.

In his first four seasons, Holbrook has three postseasons with one SEC East championship. He has been one win away from the CWS once and two wins away once.

I get that there are extenuating circumstances. Tanner took over a team that had slipped since joining the SEC, and the second time he missed the postseason was just one of those years – USC won the East in 1999, yet its SEC record was seventh-best in the league.

Holbrook took over a program at the peak and it heavily slipped, but he got that all back this year. He turned the tide, and despite a lack of scoring in the season’s second half, he still figured out ways to win 46 games. USC will lose some chunks, but returns several key players.

In the eyes of some, Holbrook will never be what he replaced – even if he wins it all one day, it will be, “Why didn’t you do it sooner?” or “When are you gonna win the next one?”

That’s OK – he knew what he signed on for, and he also knows he has the trust of his boss, that same legend mentioned above. And for what it’s worth, that same legend was hearing from the same folks that maybe it was time to go after, horror of horrors, he went five years between Omaha appearances.

Holbrook is on track. This season was outstanding. It’s certainly not his fault that a top reliever grooved a pitch in Game 1 and his senior shortstop made an inexplicable throw in Game 2. As Tanner said when he named him assistant, Holbrook was a head coach who had never been a head coach.

The legend didn’t make mistakes from 2010-12, and he didn’t make one when he promoted Holbrook.

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