By Jeff Owens/Photo by Allen Sharpe
South Carolina Athletics Director Ray Tanner called head coach Chad Holbrook's decision to resign "difficult," but said Wednesday that the decision came after a thorough evaluation of the baseball program.
Holbrook announced his resignation Tuesday night, a little over a week after his 35-25 did not make the NCAA Tournament for the second time in three years. The Gamecocks finished 13-17 in SEC play, losing eight straight conference series. Though the team won three of five games and advanced to the semi-finals of the SEC Tournament, it was not enough to sneak into the NCAA Regionals.
Holbrook, who was an assistant on Tanner's back-to-back national championship teams in 2010-2011, led South Carolina to the NCAA Tournament three times in his five seasons and to two Super Regionals.
Tanner said there had been an assessment of the program over the last few weeks. He said he and Holbrook "had numerous conversations concerning the assessment of this program," but declined to talk about the specifics of those conversations or the reasons for Holbrook's decision to step down.
Associate coach Jerry Meyers, a former head coach at Old Dominion, will serve as interim head coach until a replacement is named. Tanner said he had no timeline for hiring a new head coach, but added, "We would like to move sooner than later."
Tanner said the university and Holbrook had reached a "negotiated settlement" over the remaining two years on his contract.
Holbrook was an assistant coach at North Carolina when he joined Tanner's staff in 2009 as an assistant coach and recruiting coordinator. He was named the head coach when Tanner was elevated to Athletics Director following the 2012 season.
"Nine years ago he joined forces with our staff and we had a tremendous amount of success and we had a lot of fun along the way," Tanner said. "He was instrumental in the role that he assumed and we are personal friends. … He has handled himself with tremendous integrity and character during his entire time here. I'm very grateful for that and the impact he made here and all the positive things he brought to this program."
Tanner, who hired Holbrook as his own replacement, said the decision to evaluate the future of the program and accept Holbrook's resignation was not easy.
"It's difficult, I'm not going to pretend that it is not," he said. "I took this job knowing there were going to be some tough days, and certainly the last few hours have been difficult. But it would be difficult under any circumstances when you have a colleague and a coach in any sport who is no longer with you, because it is a lifestyle, it is a family, you are together a lot and you have a lot of dialogue. It's not an easy situation to go through, but I do understand that it is part of the job.
"It's difficult, but it's not about me. It's about the program and what my responsibilities are as director of athletics. … There are numerous times when the conversations are not pleasant or enjoyable but it goes with the territory."
Holbrook has not talked to the media since releasing a statement Tuesday night.
“I want to thank our fans, players, coaching staff and everyone that touched Carolina baseball,” Holbrook said in a statement. “This will always be a special place for me and my family. Wearing that jersey, being a part of two national championships, and meeting so many great people are things I will always treasure. I will always be a Gamecock.
"At the end of the day, this was the best decision for us. I wish Coach Tanner and this program I love so much nothing but the best."
Tanner said he did not know if Holbrook had spoken to his players, many who had already left campus after the season ended. Tanner said he talked to about 10 players and that the assistant coaches had been in touch with them.
Tanner did say he had conducted postseason exit interviews with many of the players.
"They were very positive and they are outstanding young men who stand up," he said. "They are very disappointed they didn't get to the postseason. They took responsibility for that … and were very complimentary toward coach Holbrook and their experience in this program."
Tanner said he would not be surprised if Holbrook lands another head coaching job soon.
"There are going to be people who are interested in Coach Holbrook," he said. "I wouldn't be surprised if he had some opportunities in the very near future."