South Carolina baseball coach Mark Kingston has a track record of having a successful season in Year 1 at a new program.
In Kingston’s first season at Illinois State, the Redbirds earned a win in the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 1976. In his first season at South Florida, the Bulls made the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2002.
So what is the key to winning early on at a new place? According to Kingston, it comes down to building a culture quickly.
“I just think you need to maximize. You need to create a vision for what the players want. Create a very positive but demanding culture. If you do that I think you get the most out of your team,” Kingston said. “I don’t know exactly what we have on this team. ... I don’t know what this team is capable of doing next year, but our goal is to make sure whatever that potential is that we’re going to reach our potential.”
Kingston is planning to analyze South Carolina’s roster over the next few weeks to get a better idea of the talent the Gamecocks return.
Some USC players believe Kingston will find a team capable of winning at a high level in 2018.
“I don’t think there’s going to be much of a turnaround. I think we’ve got what we need,” third baseman Jonah Bride said. “I think we’re just going to try to maximize our potential. ... When we talked the first time we just talked about the development he had with his players and the success he’s had. The programs he went to, he turned them around completely and he’s done great things.”
As South Carolina fans were patiently waiting to find out who the next coach of the Gamecocks would be, USC players were doing the same thing.
A few South Carolina players met with Kingston when he came to Columbia to interview, but for the most part the players and recruits were kept out of the loop as Gamecocks athletics director Ray Tanner went through the hiring process.
“We were anxious to see what was going to happen for three weeks or so. We thought one coach was going to be that and then we thought another coach was going to be it. Not knowing who it was going to be was up in the air,” shortstop Madison Stokes said. “We were just excited to see who it was going to be and we’re very satisfied with Coach Kingston. We’re very excited to get started with him.”
Bride added that it was tough trying to stay patient.
“It’s definitely different. You have that wonder,” Bride said. “I was talking to a couple of the recruits and they were wondering the same thing, and I was telling them you know as much as I do. Everything was kept quiet.”
Before welcoming in a new coach the Gamecocks players had to say goodbye to former coach Chad Holbrook.
Holbrook was the head coach at USC for five seasons before resigning June 6. He also helped the Gamecocks win two national titles as an assistant.
“It was very difficult. Coach Holbrook’s been great to all of us. He’s done more for me than I could explain,” Bride said. “I’ve told him I’m going to keep in touch. I’ve got a lot of respect for him and his family and everything he’s done.”