Gamecocks to search for new head baseball coach after Chad Holbrook resigns
COLUMBIA — He reached two NCAA Super Regionals, and won 65 percent of his games. But as head coach, Chad Holbrook often struggled to meet the lofty expectations so many have for the South Carolina baseball program.
So after missing the NCAA Tournament for the second time in three seasons, and following meetings with his boss and predecessor Ray Tanner, Holbrook has resigned effectively immediately to pursue other opportunities, USC announced in a release Tuesday night.
“I want to thank our fans, players, coaching staff and everyone that touched Carolina baseball. This will always be a special place for me and my family,” Holbrook said in a statement.
“Wearing that jersey, being a part of two national championships, and meeting so many great people are things I will always treasure. I will always be a Gamecock! At the end of the day, this was the best decision for us. I wish coach Tanner and this program I love so much nothing but the best.”
Tanner will address reporters Wednesday at Founders Park. “We thank coach Holbrook for his dedication and commitment to the program and wish him the best in his future endeavors,” Tanner said in a statement. “He and his family were part of some great memories at South Carolina, and we will miss them.”
Holbrook had two seasons remaining on a contract that paid him $405,000 annually, a salary that ranked 12th among the SEC’s 13 public institutions, according to a listing in the Baton Rouge (La.) Advocate. USC will now search for just its third baseball coach in the last two decades, dating back to Tanner’s hiring in 1997.
“If Ray Tanner is willing to pay, the Gamecocks can absolutely attract the elites,” Kendall Rogers, a writer for the website D1 Baseball, wrote in a Twitter post Tuesday night.
Holbrook’s staff at South Carolina this season included former Charleston Southern head coach Stuart Lake, who left the Buccaneers to take an assistant’s position with the Gamecocks.
In five seasons at the helm at USC, Holbrook went 200-106. An assistant under Tanner on South Carolina’s two national championship teams of 2010 and 2011, he was elevated to the head coaching role in 2013 after Tanner moved into the athletics director’s position.
Holbrook led the Gamecocks to the NCAA Super Regionals in his first season, but in many minds, the program after that began to take steps back: first in 2014, when it was eliminated in a home regional for the first time since 1976, and then in 2015, when it missed the NCAA Tournament for the first time in 15 years.
USC under Holbrook seemed to return to form in 2016, when the Gamecocks again reached the Super Regionals, the last step before the College World Series. But this year’s squad, ranked fifth nationally in the preseason by Baseball America, lost its final eight SEC weekend series and found itself left out the NCAA Tournament once again.
All the while, Holbrook faced increasing pressure from fans accustomed to the astronomical success the USC program had achieved under Tanner, who in addition to his two national titles also twice finished as national runner-up, and made six trips to the College World Series. USC has not returned to Omaha since Tanner’s final season of 2012.
This past season was especially painful, as an injury-ravaged USC squad finished with a losing record in SEC play for the second time in three seasons, and was one of the last four teams to miss the NCAAs despite a run to the semifinals of the SEC Tournament. In the immediate aftermath, it was business as usual for Holbrook, who hoped a strong recruiting class would turn things around.
“I have the utmost confidence in myself,” he said last week. “... I feel great about my ability to coach and lead this baseball program. I love this university, I love this community. So many people have been so supportive of me and our program and our family, and I feel great about moving forward.”
And yet, his annual end-of-season meeting with Tanner loomed, this one carrying more weight than usual. It finally came early this week, after the athletic director returned from SEC spring meetings in Destin, Fla. Tanner’s hand-picked successor will move on, leaving a proud program in search of someone else to lead it next.