COLUMBIA - Chad Holbrook didn't avoid his television. Through bitter disappointment, he occasionally picked up his remote controller last weekend, flipped through the channels and watched some of the NCAA super regionals.
It wasn't easy. South Carolina's baseball coach would much prefer to spend his summer in a dugout, not his living room. For the first time in five years, Holbrook adjusted to missing an NCAA super regional. To pass the time, the coach watched baseball.
Holbrook said he found some joy when Ole Miss broke through to the College World Series on Monday for the first time since 1972, giving the SEC two teams in Omaha. More often, TV time only intensified his rage.
"A time or two, I'm still a little bit angry," Holbrook said. "I'll look at the TV and see a game on, and I'll walk out of the room because I don't want to watch it. I guess I'm spoiled."
Spoiled was a frequent term Holbrook used during his season-ending news conference Tuesday at Carolina Stadium. With the consistent success South Carolina's baseball has experienced in recent years, it's easy to expect every season should end in late June. Of course, in baseball, the good times never last forever.
It's been an especially rough offseason for college baseball coaches. Despite 20 regional appearances in 21 years, Clemson coach Jack Leggett's job was questioned when the Tigers bowed out of the NCAA Nashville Regional with two quick losses. Arizona State fired baseball coach Tim Esmay, even after Esmay led the Sun Devils to regional appearances in four of his five seasons, including the 2010 College World Series.
South Carolina fans also have grumbled the past week, upset the Gamecocks fell short of the College World Series in both of Holbrook's seasons at the helm. Holbrook said his confidence is unshaken.
"The best thing that makes me feel good about myself is I work for a baseball coach, and he knows how hard it is," Holbrook said, referring to former coach and current athletics director Ray Tanner. "I think he was 0 for his first 15 or 16 as a head coach trying to get a team to Omaha, so it's very, very difficult. They (College World Series appearances) came in bunches, and, hey, I'm spoiled. A lot of people are spoiled around here by our success, and I am too.
"As a coach, I've been to Omaha six times in my last nine years. That's pretty good, but, yeah, when you don't go it stinks."
Holbrook said he doesn't approve of how baseball coaches are being scrutinized across the country. He said Esmay faced "unfair" expectations at Arizona State. He also came to Leggett's defense.
"I hate what's going on, to be quite honest with you," Holbrook said. "Jack Leggett is one of the best coaches in our game, has been for a long, long time."
Holbrook didn't back away from the expectations in place at South Carolina. He's constantly said the goal should be playing for national championships. Each season, it's Omaha or bust.
Holbrook also calls himself a "realist," so he knows better.
No team is ever going to make the College World Series every year. That even goes for South Carolina, which has made trips to Omaha in six of the past 13 seasons. On Tuesday, Holbrook was already talking about the expectation of playing for a national championship in 2015. He also defended his first two seasons as head coach.
"All I care about is what coach Tanner thinks of the job I'm doing, and what President (Harris) Pastides thinks of the job I'm doing," Holbrook said. "We've done some great things around here, and I'm not ashamed of my first two years, either. I'm proud of what we accomplished my first two years here. Would I have liked it to end in Omaha? Absolutely. I'm also a realist and know that sometimes it just doesn't work out, but we're going to try like the dickens next year to get back out there.
"That's all we can do. I think, in time, you'll see the Gamecocks back in Omaha. We'll be back out there. It may not be next year, but we'll be back out there."