Chad Holbrook wakes up each day and can’t wait to get to the College of Charleston’s baseball facility at Mount Pleasant's Patriots Point.
Holbrook, who was hired as the Cougars head baseball coach on July 21, is hoping that in a couple of months his players will feel the same way.
“Every day I’ve been here so far I can’t wait to get down to the field and get to work,” Holbrook said. “I want our kids to feel the exact same way I do. My goal is every time our players cross the Ravenel Bridge I want them chomping at the bit to get here.
“I want them too look forward to practice or games every day and enjoy their time here. That’s the culture we want as a coaching staff. We want them to look forward to coming to the ballpark every day.”
Holbrook, the former South Carolina head coach, has been on the job only a couple of weeks, but already is starting to feel at home in his new surroundings.
Holbrook signed a five-year deal that will pay him $165,000 next season. A year ago, Matt Heath, who was fired on June 30, made $154,000. The total compensation between Holbrook and his coaching staff will be equal to what Heath and his staff pulled down this past season.
Holbrook put the finishing touches on his coaching staff this week. Former Erskine coach Kevin Nichols will serve as the Cougars hitting coach, Will Dorton, who played for the Cougars, will handle the pitchers, while former Liberty head coach and South Carolina assistant Jim Toman will be the recruiting coordinator.
Nichols spent 18 years as the head coach at Erskine College, amassing 588 career wins – including three 40-win seasons – while leading the Flying Fleet to a pair of NCAA Division II finals. Toman spent 11 years as Ray Tanner’s top assistant at South Carolina prior to taking over as head coach at Liberty where he won 329 games and guided the Flames the Big South Conference Tournament title. The Flames won at least 30 games in each of Toman’s nine seasons and 24 players were selected in the Major League Baseball draft.
Dorton returns to his alma mater following a one-year stint as the pitching coach at Florence-Darlington Technical College. Dorton spent one season as the pitching coach at Hanahan High School.
“I'm so excited about the addition of Kevin, Jim and Will,” Holbrook said. “Our staff has a wealth of experience, knowledge and recruiting contacts within the state of South Carolina. We will have 33 years of head-coaching experience on our staff.”
It’s been a whirlwind of activity for Holbrook and his family over the last two weeks. From putting his house in Columbia on the market, to searching for a new house in the Lowcountry, hiring a coaching staff and hitting the road for recruiting, Holbrook has had little time to rest.
“It’s been a great two-to-three weeks,” Holbrook said. “I hired a great staff, I'm trying to organize things in the office and for the fall, but it’s been a great couple of weeks getting to know the players. I can’t wait for the players to get back to school and get out on the field.”
All 17 of the players that signed with Cougars this past year are expected to enroll at the school later this month.
“We didn’t lose a single player,” Holbrook said.
Still, being hired to late in the summer has Holbrook playing catch-up for next year’s recruiting class. Holbrook said he’ll look to the junior college ranks to make up the difference.
“Kevin has worked very, very hard to keep us up to speed on everything,” Holbrook said. “We want to finish the upcoming class with junior college kids anyway and the fall is the peak time to recruit those kids. We’ve got some older guys on the team and we’re going to have some roster turnover in the next two seasons.
“We’re going to focus on getting some junior college kids in here and we had a lot of success with that model at South Carolina. We’re going to be recruiting high school kids too because we want to have a good balance.”
Holbrook spent the first few days after he was hired reaching out to current players on the team. Holbrook said the reception he’s received has been better than expected.
“I recruited some of them, so I knew them a little bit, but everyone I’ve spoken with can’t wait for the fall practice to start,” Holbrook said. “We want to make the transition as easy and as smooth as possible for everyone involved.”
During the search process to replace Heath there were many former players that wanted to see College of Charleston athletic director Matt Roberts hire Scott Foxhall, a former Cougars pitcher and assistant coach. Holbrook said he has started the process of mending fences with some of the alumni.
“I’ve had some conversations with a number of former players,” Holbrook said. “I spent some time recently with Ryan Johnson and Gunnar Heidt. The one thing I’ve learned is that they guys who played here want the College of Charleston to have a great baseball program and that’s what we want. I told those guys that together we can make that happen. I told Ryan and Gunnar that this is their program. I told them I wanted to hear any ideas or insight they had to make the transition easier. I want to lean on those guys because I want them to be proud of this place.”
A final schedule should be in place by the end of August. Most of the schedule for the 2018 season was completed before he was hired, but Holbrook wanted to tweak a couple of games. There is currently no plan to play South Carolina next season.
“We’re adjusting a few things in the schedule, but it was pretty much set when we got here,” Holbrook said. “We’ve still got a few games to fill. It’s a great schedule, it’s challenging. We want to play the majority of the games at home. It’s a great setting and there are a lot of very talented teams that want to come here and play against us.”