COLUMBIA — Chad Holbrook is ready to follow Ray Tanner’s baseball success as South Carolina’s new coach.
Holbrook was named the Gamecocks’ coach Monday, three days after his old boss Tanner became the school’s athletic director.
Holbrook said he’s not worried about living up to Tanner’s two national championships and six College World Series trips since 2002. Holbrook expects to call on Tanner to keep the winning going.
“I’m not here to replace Ray Tanner,” he said. “No one can.”
Holbrook joked that he’ll wear a “WWRD” bracelet in the dugout next spring, reminding him to think “What Would Ray Do?” in difficult situations.
Holbrook helped South Carolina’s winning ways the past four seasons as Tanner’s top assistant and recruiting coordinator. The Gamecocks won national championships in 2010 and 2011 and reached the College World Series championship round last month before falling to Arizona.
It was the sixth time in seven seasons that Holbrook coached in Omaha at the College World Series, also getting there his last three seasons at North Carolina from 2006-08.
“I feel like I know who the difference makers are,” Tanner said. “We’ve got one here who makes a difference.”
Tanner was elevated to athletic director Friday, taking over for Eric Hyman.
“So proud of our University giving Coach Tanner and Chad their opportunities. Keeping it in the family,” men’s basketball coach Frank Martin tweeted.
Terms of Holbrook’s contract were not announced. Tanner said the school’s board of trustees would take up a multi-year deal for Holbrook at its next meeting Aug. 3.
Holbrook worked on North Carolina’s staff for 15 seasons before joining South Carolina after the 2008 season.
Holbrook said he got a call from family friend, North Carolina men’s basketball coach Roy Williams, who counseled him not to make the mistake many newly promoted coaches do of giving up what he’s best at. Holbrook said he’ll continue to seek the best talent.
“I’m going to continue to recruit my rear end off,” he said.
Just as Tanner kept most of South Carolina’s administrative structure in place, Holbrook promoted from within.
Pitching coach Jerry Meyers will take over Holbrook’s role as associate head coach, and volunteer assistant Sammy Esposito will move up to a fulltime assistant.
Holbrook is holding on to his recruiting chops. How about his role as third base coach?
“That’s something we’re talking about, and we’ll make a decision this fall,” he said.
Holbrook thanked family, friends, former coaches and players. He had strong words of praise for Tanner, who he had admired for years before joining the South Carolina staff.
Holbrook remembered talking his way into Tanner’s introductory press conference as Gamecocks new baseball coach in 1996 and giving Tanner a note that said, “My hope and my dream is to one day work for you.”
Holbrook said he passed on head coaching chances else before this because he enjoyed being on Tanner’s staff.
Tanner acknowledged South Carolina’s program – six CWS trips since 2002 – would have likely attracted some of the nation’s top coaches if it were opened up for a coast-to-coast search. Tanner saw enough of Holbrook’s work to know he wanted only one person to succeed him. “The best man and the best coach were already here,” the AD said.
Holbrook knows he’ll have plenty of second-guessers wishing for Tanner the first time the Gamecocks slump. He’s not looking for anyone to forget Tanner’s time in the dugout, just to show him the support in continuing South Carolina’s winning ways.
Holbrook pledged no amount of interference from the AD would be too much. Tanner “has given me the blueprint to run a baseball program,” he said.