Gary Gilmore never has been one to hide his true thoughts or emotions during his 19 years as Coastal Carolina University’s baseball coach.
His frank sincerity almost always reveals what is laying – or simmering – beneath the surface. Whether it be the abject frustration for a game that got away, his appreciation for a player’s personal success story or his own pride for what Chanticleer baseball has become these last two decades, there’s never any ambiguity.
So it was clear Thursday afternoon just how much it meant to Gilmore to have earned his 1,000th career victory – becoming the 50th NCAA Division I head coach to reach the milestone – with his family attending at TicketReturn.com Field.
“I actually hadn’t thought about it until [getting No. 999] there at Radford on Sunday and driving down the road there for six hours,” he said a few minutes after being doused with a cooler full of water by his players following the Chants’ come-from-behind 4-3 win over Presbyterian in 13 innings.
“And I’ve got three very important people that I have to say thank you to that this would not have been possible without them,” he continued, acknowledging his faith in God, the support of his wife Cathy and the lessons imparted by his father Richard, who died last month.
With that, he aimed his eyes toward the sky for a moment as they began to glisten and said, “This is special, Dad. This is for you too, Dad.”
“So much of what I know in baseball I learned from him,” Gilmore said of his father, with that emotion welling in his voice. “So much of the philosophies and the things I believe in that have served me so well in my life, I learned virtually every one of those from him. I’m so sorry he wasn’t here to see this because he was counting them down and it just didn’t work out.”
But Cathy was there with their son Chance – a former Coastal Carolina standout – and Gilmore’s young grandson, who he held while posing for pictures afterward.
The players, who wanted to deliver the milestone win as soon as possible for their coach, joined in a tight embrace with Gilmore between home plate and the third base dugout after soaking him with the water cooler.
“We knew coming into the year we had an opportunity to be part of his 1,000th win, and that’s a big deal,” sophomore infielder Connor Owings said after coming through with the game-winning hit. “That’s an outstanding honor for him. He’s a great coach, and nobody else deserves this like him.”
Of the famed names who make up the special coaching club to which Gilmore now belongs, he is one of 16 active coaches to reach that 1,000-win mark. And even in the midst of a frustrating season that has been marred by injuries, the accomplishment – which will be formally recognized in a pre-game ceremony Saturday – is yet another highlight in a celebrated year for Chanticleer athletics that has seen the football program reach new heights in the FCS playoffs and the men’s basketball program reach the NCAA tournament for the first time in 21 years.
Before all of that happened, Gilmore’s baseball program perennially put Coastal Carolina on the national college sports radar.
With the win, he improved to a record of 747 wins and 387 losses in his 19 seasons at Coastal Carolina after going 253-102-2 in six years at Division II USC Aiken, where he got his coaching start. He’s taken the Chants to the NCAA regionals in 12 of the last 13 seasons with two super regional appearances along the way while building a nationally competitive program from relatively humble origins.
And as he would later sit in the seats down the third base line reflecting at length on his career, he emphasized what it meant to him to accomplish all this at Coastal Carolina – his alma mater.
“Ever since the day I played here, this was my dream job,” Gilmore said.
As he tells the story, he took a $9,000 pay cut when he left USC Aiken to take over in Conway and didn’t tell his wife until afterward, and he surely left considerably more money on the table years ago when he passed on the chance to take over at Auburn.
His legacy is at Coastal, and it only keeps growing.
“I’m personally thrilled, and on behalf of the entire Coastal Carolina community I’m thrilled that he’s reached such a significant milestone,” said Matt Hogue, the university’s interim athletic director and former longtime play-by-play voice.
“He’s brought so much positive exposure and attention to our school with the winning, and that’s been terrific. But what makes it a bonus is knowing that Gilley is an alumnus, has poured his heart and soul into this school and he really bleeds teal.”