Neil White

Neil White Soundoff: Holbrook embraces slump’s lessons

USC head coach Chad Holbrook looks on in the sixth inning of Saturday's game against Vanderbilt.
USC head coach Chad Holbrook looks on in the sixth inning of Saturday's game against Vanderbilt.

South Carolina baseball coach Chad Holbrook knew the wolves were howling.

His baseball team lost to Vanderbilt 12-0 Thursday night, the 13th loss in 19 games, and some fans were screaming to push him out the door. But Holbrook understood a slump is something that can be turned around, especially since he has experienced true challenges in life.

“I’m an awfully lucky guy,” he said, after his team bounced back to win the series. “People say, ‘Is this the hardest thing you’ve ever been through?’ I had to tell my 2-year-old kid (Reece) he had cancer. This is a piece of cake, OK? And I mean that.”

USC athletics director Ray Tanner – the former baseball coach who brought Holbrook to Columbia, where they guided the program to two national championships – issued strong words of support for his friend.

Holbrook, who has watched Reece’s cancer go into remission over the past 10 years, appreciates the backing.

“I work for a great university, great people. They are the best,” he said. “... I get to wrap myself around my players and my coaches, and when I go home, I wrap myself around my family. It’s no fun to lose, but what’s happened in my life has enabled me to keep these kind of things in perspective.”

Two wins over the Commodores didn’t hurt, either. Holbrook told his players to ignore the distractions from the dissatisfied and remain focused. He’s confident the recent struggles will only help him.

“Hopefully, 10 to 15 years from now, I’ll look back on this year and this stretch and say, ‘That’s the stretch where I became a better coach.’ I believe that. Coach Tanner told me that, and that’s what I believe,” Holbrook said.

“You learn a lot about a leader or a coach or a team or some players when things aren’t necessarily going so well. You’ve got to strap it back on, pull yourself together, and get it going, play the right way, and pull yourself up off the mat.”