Ray Tanner will not hire a search firm as South Carolina begins the process of trying to find its next baseball coach. Ray Tanner is the search firm.
The coaching legend and current USC athletics director knows what he is looking for in the next leader of the Gamecocks’ program.
“A coach that is much like the ones that have been here in the past,” Tanner said Wednesday afternoon, a day after Chad Holbrook announced his resignation. “Coaches that embrace this tradition, embrace our fan base, embrace the expectations, embrace a wonderful atmosphere here at Founders Park with opportunities galore to compete at a high level.”
Does 22-year Coastal Carolina baseball coach Gary Gilmore fit the criteria? Gilmore said Thursday afternoon he had not been contacted by USC and declined to comment further.
Gilmore’s Chanticleers won the 2016 national title and he is 1,137-559-3 overall in 28 seasons as a head coach and 884-457-1 since 1996 at CCU, which has made an NCAA regionals field in 14 of the past 18 years. The Chants were left out of the NCAA Tournament this season after finishing 37-19-1 and winning the Sun Belt Conference regular season title with a 22-7-1 record.
Gilmore, 59, is a 1980 graduate of Coastal Carolina, which was a branch of the University of South Carolina school system at the time.
Tanner spent 25 years as a head coach between his time at N.C. State at USC and currently serves on the NCAA Baseball Selection Committee, where he regularly interacts with baseball coaches and ADs. That should be beneficial as he goes through the process of trying to find a new coach.
“I haven’t lost the connections that I’ve had over the years, and being a part of the NCAA selection committee has enhanced that in a lot of ways,” Tanner said. “I feel like that’s a little bit of an advantage with the relationships that I have created over the years.”
Several of those relationships are with coaches in the ACC and the SEC who have played in front of soldout crowds of more than 8,000 at Founders Park. Guys like Kevin O’Sullivan at Florida, Tim Corbin at Vanderbilt and Monte Lee at Clemson fit that description. Other relationships are with former assistants who coached under Tanner and know what he expects, such as Mark Calvi at South Alabama.
“Someone who understands our culture and maybe has experienced it in one way or another, being in this region or in the Southeast,” Tanner continued as to what he is looking for. “That’s not to say we’re limited by the geography, but someone that understands what Carolina baseball and the brand is about.”
Tanner would like to hire someone with experience, but that’s not the way recent coaching moves have gone in the SEC.
Tennessee and Alabama hired assistant coaches away from other programs within the past couple of weeks.
Mississippi State, Kentucky and Auburn each hired assistants away from other places last offseason.
Still, South Carolina is viewed as a better program than those five thanks to its facilities, fan base and history.
“I’m not in a situation that we’re going to go try to hire a head coach that’s made three appearances in the College World Series, or an assistant coach who hasn’t been there. I don’t have any guidelines at this point,” Tanner said. “Certainly, experience is important, but there are a lot of assistant coaches that have become very successful head coaches.”
If USC is going to hire away a big name from a perennial power and not an assistant, it will likely need to pay up to do so.
Holbrook was making $400,000 a year, which ranked near the bottom of the SEC. O’Sullivan is making $1.25 million. Tanner is willing to pay up if it means getting the right candidate.
“It’s way early in the process, but it’s important that we’re in the marketplace. I think you can look at our coaches today across the board and we’re pretty close in all of our situations,” said Tanner, who rewarded Dawn Staley and Frank Martin with hefty raises after this past basketball season. “If those are the numbers in baseball that we’re dealing with based on experience and their resume, then I can tell you that’s a possibility.”