South Carolina coach Ray Tanner will take over as the school's athletic director, and associate head coach Chad Holbrook will be elevated to head coach. Baseball America has confirmed local media reports that Tanner will be announced as AD on Friday, while Holbrook's announcement is scheduled for Monday.
A strong case can be made that Tanner is the premier coach of his generation, and he is leaving the dugout at the top of his profession. Tanner led the Gamecocks to the College World Series Finals in each of the last three years, taking home the 2010 and '11 national titles and finishing as runner-up this year. That stretch established records with 22 consecutive NCAA tournament wins and 12 straight CWS wins.
In 16 seasons at South Carolina, Tanner led the Gamecocks to six College World Series, three SEC championships, six SEC Eastern Division titles and 13 straight regionals. South Carolina has also won 40 or more games in each of the last 13 years, and is one of just two schools in the nation to make at least 10 super regionals during that stretch.
Tanner is 738-316 in his career at South Carolina, and his .700 winning percentage is second-highest all-time among SEC coaches. In 25 seasons as a head coach (including nine seasons at his alma mater, North Carolina State), Tanner is 1,033-489-3 (.699).
Tanner is one of five coaches to win BA's Coach of the Year award twice (2000 and 2010). One of the other two-time winners is Louisiana State's Skip Bertman, who blazed a trail for Tanner to follow, from baseball coach to AD. Bertman, who won five national championships from 1991-2000, spent six years as LSU's AD after retiring as a coach following the 2001 season.
Tanner has long believed that coaching has a shelf life, and his desire to eventually move over to the AD's chair was no secret. When Eric Hyman vacated that seat to become the new AD at Texas A&M, it seemed like a perfect time for Tanner to make the transition. He has already shown a knack for fund-raising and administrative planning, playing a key role in South Carolina's move to a new $36 million ballpark in 2009.
And it helps that South Carolina has the ideal successor waiting in the wings in Holbrook, perhaps college baseball's best recruiter. Holbrook has been courted for head coaching jobs elsewhere over the years, but the Gamecocks made sure he was one of the game's highest paid assistants and that he was understood to be Tanner's eventual successor. His work on the recruiting trail and as South Carolina's hitting coach has been vital to the program's success since he arrived in July of 2008. He won the Baseball America/ABCA Assistant Coach of the Year award in 2011.
Before arriving in Columbia, Holbrook spent 15 years as an assistant at his alma mater, North Carolina. He helped the Tar Heels reach the CWS in his final three seasons (2006-08).
Holbrook has long been considered one of the hottest head coaching prospects in college baseball, and he seems like the perfect fit to keep the Gamecocks among the nation's elite programs. But he is stepping into enormous shoes, and he will feel pressure from South Carolina's demanding fan base. Tanner has set the bar very high, with Holbrook's help.
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