How did you get to be such good friends with North Carolina head basketball coach Roy Williams?
“It started when I was working at North Carolina and my wife was working in the basketball office for Matt Doherty. When Coach Williams came on board, they immediately hit it off. Roy became like my father in Chapel Hill. Whenever I needed advice, he was there. He called me (last Sunday night) at 11:15 and we didn’t get off the phone until 12:30. When my son Reece was diagnosed with leukemia several years ago, Coach Williams helped my family get through that in more ways than one.”
What’s it like to see Ray Tanner in a suit and tie and know that’s actually his uniform now?
“Hah! I know. He walked into the lockerroom and we said, ‘The suits are here’ because that’s what he used to say. He busted our chops on that. But it’s really surreal that he’s no longer the baseball coach at South Carolina. It’s going to be weird, I know, for our fans and certainly for me on opening day not to see him in jersey No. 1. But what Coach Tanner can do better than anyone I’ve ever met is make people feel good about their jobs, and all our coaches at South Carolina are about to find that out. They’re in for a treat.”
Your take on the rivalry with Clemson?
“It’s great to be a part of the rivalry. It’s an honor. Our players come to play at South Carolina to be in an environment like that, to be involved in a rivalry like that. We’re going to embrace that rivalry. We know our fans want us to beat Clemson awfully bad, and we want to beat Clemson awfully bad. But they have a great program, too. They have a great coach down there. It’s just a great rivalry, probably the best baseball rivalry in the country. We use that in recruiting, too, because it’s fun to play Clemson. We respect them and I think they respect us.”
How do you differ with Ray Tanner strategically?
“We are going to work really hard at some things with our hitters where maybe we didn’t do quite as good a job as we could have this last year. We want them to use the whole field and have a great two-strike approach, but Coach Tanner believes in those things as well. As far as managing the game, I like to hit-and-run and like to put pressure on the defense, but Coach Tanner does too.
“People say I brought the short game to Columbia. Well, the year before I got here I think Coach Tanner’s team led the SEC in sacrifice bunts.”
What will be your main focus, recruiting-wise?
“I just know we better have a strong pitching staff. If the other team doesn’t score, you don’t need as many runs to win.”
Reach Gene Sapakoff at 953-5593 or on Twitter @sapakoff