South Carolinas success should outlast growing pains for Tanner, Holbrook
COLUMBIA — Ray Tanner won’t be able to bunt in board meetings.
You know all those timely timeouts Tanner took between pitches? Down by a few runs in the late innings next season, Chad Holbrook is going to miss The Batter Whisperer.
These are joyous, crazy times in Gamecock Nation.
Before leaving for Texas A&M (and almost twice the athletic director salary), Eric Hyman fixed South Carolina’s lone major flaw by hiring Frank Martin as men’s basketball coach.
Until Friday, Tanner was one of the best head coaches in college sports.
Holbrook has been considered the best recruiting coordinator in college baseball.
Now South Carolina gets the triple whammy: a new athletic director, baseball coach and baseball recruiting coordinator (Sammy Esposito). All three with zero experience in their new roles, aside from Holbrook’s 1997 head coaching stint with the Harwich Mariners in the Cape Cod League.
Yet this will probably work, mostly because of the solid foundations left by Hyman, Tanner and Holbrook.
“People can cross boundaries,” Tanner said Friday after his Williams-Brice Stadium news conference. “I’m not patting myself on the back, (but) I was a baseball coach and people change professions all the time. I believe with the skill set that I’ve acquired in athletics, it wouldn’t make any difference to me if you threw me into a bank or into the business world.”
Holbrook for Tanner?
Esposito for Holbrook?
“I don’t think there is anybody worried about anything,” Tanner said. “We have people who have tremendous experience and who are very capable.”
No ‘yes’ staffers
South Carolina, at peak value in baseball and football, is in for a slide. Maybe not this fiscal year, but soon. Slightly, at least.
That, however, comes naturally at the end of unprecedented success and would occur no matter who took over.
The bigger picture is the one-two leadership punch South Carolina gets in Tanner and Holbrook.
Holbrook would be a top candidate for any major head coach opening in college baseball.
USC president Dr. Harris Pastides and his search committee didn’t even interview outside the athletic department for Hyman’s successor.
Fundraiser Ray is more than just a check magnet.
He talked Friday about “integrity and compliance while remaining fiscally sound,” stuff you don’t usually hear in a dugout.
Tanner knows a fundamental key to leadership is a necessary shortage of “yes” men and women.
“I will express how I feel, as I did when I coached,” Tanner said. “But I also expect that from across the table. If I find out early on that our staff people are sharing my views, that’s not going to be very good for me; that’s not going to make the department any better. As I’ve always done with my coaches — and players — I want to know how they feel.”
Reptar and rivals
Tanner’s best trait always has been an ability to maintain a fiercely competitive spirit with a sense of humor.
The mix was there Friday at the news conference.
Tanner said it was a day of mixed emotions in the Tanner household, not so much because his three young children were sad about their father leaving the baseball world, but because of the death of Reptar, the tiny pet fish made famous this season as third baseman LB Dantzler’s good luck charm.
“If I had to guess, in 2013, Reptar II will probably be on the scene,” Tanner said, comforting the kids in the front row.
Tanner also thanked Hyman.
“And I wish him the best,” Tanner said, “except when the Aggies and our Gamecocks lock up. And on those days, I just hope I get a chance to console him a little bit.”
Reach Gene Sapakoff at 937-5593 or on Twitter @sapakoff.