Everybody who spoke Wednesday had the same summary. We’re talking about a really terrific guy who just didn’t win enough games.
“He was a great friend. Truly a great friend with a beautiful family, and one of the best recruiters you’ll ever run across,” said Tommy Moody, South Carolina’s radio color man and a former letterman. “I’m certainly going to miss him. This is going to have a happy ending, too, for Chad Holbrook, because he’ll make a great coach for somebody.”
That was the presiding sentiment as the Holbrook Era wrapped after five years with a lot of wins but not enough when he really needed them. Losses to the archrival, blowout losses in made-for-TV games, losses in the SEC and missing the NCAA tournament two of the past three seasons cemented the end.
All of those overcame the winning percentage, postseasons he did reach and his exemplary work in the community and running a trouble-free program. Had the bubble not been so unkind or the Gamecocks won just one more game, they probably would have tiptoed into the NCAA tournament as a three-seed and we wouldn’t be talking about this.
But they didn’t, so we’re wrapping a five-year stint that never seemed to gel the way it had in the 17 seasons before it.
“Just from what I saw, it looked like they were never out-talented or outmatched, they had some key guys go down, and that put pressure on other guys,” said Grayson Greiner, Double-A catcher on Detroit’s farm and a former all-star under Holbrook. “It’s just baseball, and sometimes it doesn’t go your way.”
Injuries were rampant but others agreed that Holbrook’s teams didn’t seem to have that moxie, that attitude of #Battle and #WinAnyway that turned Gamecock baseball from strong program to national champion. It’s ironic that Holbrook recruited the nucleus of those title teams but got better results as an assistant than head coach.
“I think you have to look at a program any time you’re assessing things and say, ‘Is this program headed in the right direction?,’ ” D1 Baseball national writer Kendall Rogers said. “Looking at South Carolina this year, there wasn’t a lot of synergy. They just weren’t in a very good place much of the season.”
Rogers brought up former LSU coach Smoke Laval, who like Holbrook, tried to succeed a legend – Skip Bertman – and was turfed after five years. One of the nicest people you’ll ever meet, Rogers said, but he wasn’t Skip.
Holbrook can’t be judged because he wasn’t Ray Tanner. Nobody could be. But opinions that said USC fans demand Omaha or fired are inaccurate.
The great majority of fans know how hard it is to reach the College World Series. They also know that at USC, making the postseason every year is not unreasonable.
That’s why we’re here. It’s not about the man or the fans, it’s about the results.
“He has a very special place in my heart,” Greiner said. “I thought he did a pretty good job of keeping his head above water. It’s hard seeing that, because I know how hard he works and what a good coach he is.”
“The fan apathy was the season-ticket holders, who had the tickets but weren’t showing up. South Carolina had lost the home-field advantage,” Moody said. “It was a very, very sad time because I wanted him to try to stick it out, and for the program to stick with him, to see what happened next year.”
Tanner refused to talk about the circumstances of Holbrook’s resignation, but said the same as the others. “During Chad Holbrook’s time here … he did things the right way, with character and integrity,” he said.
Tanner will search for a replacement with the same qualities, who can also post a few more wins.
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