ATHENS, Ga. -- David Perno has been always been somebody who preferred to look at positives rather than negatives.
So when his 12-year run as Georgia's head baseball coach came to an end on Sunday, Perno focused on the Bulldogs' wins against their biggest rivals in his last week.
"I loved my time at Georgia," Perno said. "There's a lot of silver linings in this situation. It was too good and we did too much to be bitter. It's not worth it. It was great. What Georgia coach ever beats [Georgia] Tech [once] and Florida twice and gets fired in the same week? That's never going to happen again."
Perno was dismissed on Sunday after Georgia finished a 21-32 season and missed the NCAA Regionals for the third time in the last four years. Perno is an Athens native and Georgia graduate who has spent most of his adult life either coaching or playing at Georgia. He led the Bulldogs to three College World Series appearances and advanced to the final game of the championship series in 2008.
"What more can a guy ask for?" Perno said. "I get a shot at being a head coach at 33 years of age. I get to go to three World Series and two SEC championships. My last week I beat Tech to win a series and I beat Florida twice. I hate not seeing those players. I hate not getting a chance to see those players through. I'm upset about that. But it's just part of it. I'm sure that will pass in due time but I'll hang on to the relationships."
Perno has been connected to most of Georgia's biggest moments in baseball. He was a player on the 1990 College World Series championship team. He was an assistant on the 2001 team that qualified for the College World Series and the head coach when Georgia went to Omaha in 2004, 2006 and 2008. Perno's teams also won the Southeastern Conference titles in 2004 and 2008. Georgia has made 11 NCAA postseason appearances in its history and six came during Perno's tenure. In his last week on the job, Perno's team rallied from a 7-0 deficit to beat Georgia Tech 14-13 and clinched the regular-season series for the first time since 2007. Last weekend Georgia took two of three from Florida to win that series for the first time since 2006.
"Obviously there's a lot of hurt right now," Perno said. "I'll always have Georgia on my mind and I'll always be a loyal UGA guy. But there's part of me that's excited about the opportunity. I'm young enough and I maybe can get a fresh start somewhere and go somewhere where people might not not take you for granted as much as being a local guy. I'm excited about those possibilities. I loved my time at Georgia. It was unbelievable."
But Georgia's performance slipped the last four years. In 2010 Georgia went 16-37 and finished with the worst conference record in the SEC at 5-23. Georgia rebounded to return to regionals in 2011. But the Bulldogs lost their last four games in 2012 and didn't go to regionals. This season Georgia finished 21-32 overall and had the worst conference record in the SEC at 7-20.
"Three times in five years to the College World Series, that was probably as good a run, other than South Carolina and Florida, that we've had in the SEC," Perno said. "But that's the nature of the beast that we're in. I'm in that division. South Carolina goes three times in a row twice and the second time they win two national championships. Florida just recently has gone three times in a row and now Vanderbilt has it going. You're in the best division in the country and it's tough. We didn't keep up and it's unfortunate."
Georgia also lost two players to paralyzing injuries the last four years. Chance Veazey was hurt in a traffic accident the day after he had won the starting second baseman's job in fall of 2009. In his last at-bat of fall workouts, Veazey hit a home run. A little more than a year later, Johnathan Taylor was injured in an outfield collision in a game against Florida State early in the 2011 season. Both were honored on Senior Day before Saturday's 9-2 win against Florida in the regular-season finale.
"This year and last year's team just didn't have a spark and you look at what was missing, there they were," Perno said. "It's tough to replace that and we never did. It's a situation where you really can't put anything on it but it had a lot to do with it. Those two guys are great people and great young men. I'm going to miss seeing them all the time and being around them. I guess all of us will be moving on."
Perno, 45, does not know what he will do in the future other than attending his son's Little League games this week. But a return to coaching is a strong possibility.
"Maybe if the right situation in another area comes along, maybe I'd like to," Perno said. "I feel like I've got some good years left and a fresh start would be really positive for me and good so I'd like to. At the same time, I've got a family and they're important, so I'm going to enjoy a little bit of time with them as well. I haven't been able to spend much time time with them. It's good and I'm looking forward to some new challenges."
This will be Greg McGarity's fourth coaching change since he took over as Georgia's athletic director in 2010. Volleyball coach Joel McCartney was dismissed in the middle of the 2010 season when Georgia went 15-17 overall and 6-14 in the SEC. Gymnastics coach Jay Clark resigned after the 2012 season after his team failed to make the NCAA Super Six for the third straight season. Women's golf coach Kelley Hester's contract was not renewed after the 2012 season when the team failed to advance out of NCAA regionals for the third straight year.
McGarity's pattern has been to hire assistants from successful programs. Volleyball coach Lizzy Stemke was a longtime assistant at Nebraska before moving to Georgia. Gymnastics coach Danna Durante had been a longtime assistant at Nebraska and spent one season as the head coach at California before moving to Georgia. Women's golf coach Josh Brewer was an assistant at Southern Cal before joining Georgia.
Mississippi State pitching coach Butch Thompson would be a popular choice because he is a former Georgia assistant and Mississippi State had the second-lowest ERA in the nation last season.