Jim Garren wants to bring to Conway what he just experienced in Norman, Okla.
Fresh off a 2016-17 national championship as an assistant coach at Oklahoma, Garren has been named the men’s golf coach at Coastal Carolina.
The 33-year-old Georgia native, who spent three years with the Sooners and has nine years of coaching experience, was introduced at a press conference on campus Thursday afternoon.
Garren said it was the “potential and the people” that led to his interest in the position.
“History has proven you can be competitive here,” Garren said. “Ten years ago they finished fifth in the country. You have unlimited resources when it comes to golf courses, and the big thing is you have people here who want to win. You take a look at baseball [last] year. This athletic department knows how to win, and that’s what it all comes down to with winning championships is does the department support you and do you have the people to help you get to that level?”
Oklahoma reached the NCAA Championship in each of Garren’s three seasons under head coach Ryan Hybl.
In his first season at Oklahoma, the Sooners earned a 20-stroke victory at the NCAA San Diego Regional and placed 28th at the NCAA Championship. In 2016, they advanced to the match play round at the NCAA finals for the first time, and in 2017 they won the championship match with a 3-1-1 victory over Oregon.
“We’re real excited about getting back in the national picture, and we believe Jim is the man who can do that for us,” CCU director of athletics Matt Hogue said. “He showed up with a preparedness and enthusiasm and an energy we felt really distinguished him as the person to lead our program.
“… So much in college athletics is tied to recruiting, and the feeling I got from him was this was someone who was going to get us players. He has great recruiting ties across the entire country and world, and he understands the region we’re in; he has Georgia roots and grew up here.”
Prior to his time at Oklahoma, Garren was an assistant for one year at New Mexico under head coach Glen Millican and spent five seasons as assistant coach and director of recruiting under Jerry Weeks at Southern Mississippi.
While at New Mexico in 2013-14, the Lobos won four tournaments, including the Mountain West Conference Championship to reach an NCAA regional, and team member Gavin Green was named a second team All-American and the Mountain West Player of the Year.
In his five seasons at Southern Miss, the Golden Eagles established five team records and produced four Academic All-America scholars after having just two prior to Garren’s arrival.
“The opportunity to work for three different men in three different places has prepared me to lead my own program,” Garren said. “Without their guidance, mentorship and friendship I wouldn’t be here.
“… I was never the guy that was in a rush to get a job. I wanted to learn from the best, I wanted to learn how to win. These last four years have been very, very successful, so I understood I could coach at this level but I waited for the right thing. I’ve said ‘no,’ to people because it didn’t feel right, and it felt right here. And I wanted to go somewhere I could win big-time, and that can happen here.”
The other six finalists for the position, according to the university, who were all brought to the campus for interviews were seven-year Nevada head coach and 2001 Coastal Carolina graduate Jacob Wilner, Wake Forest assistant Dan Walters, Barry University head coach Jimmy Stobs, recent Queens University director of golf Sam Puryear, N.C. State assistant Nick Biershenk and Arizona assistant Van Williams.
“This is an honor,” Garren said. “This is a big-time golf program.”
The thing that sold me on this place when I realized this is where I wanted to be, first of all it’s a golf community and Myrtle Beach is known for golf. I want this to be a big-time golf program and I feel it already has the potential to be that. And the people I went through the process with were amazing. As soon as I left here they knew I wanted it.
New CCU men’s golf coach Jim Garren
Hogue said the university received more than 50 applications. “It was a very strong pool,” he said.
The closest CCU has come to a national golf championship was a fifth-place NCAA finish in Dustin Johnson’s senior season of 2007.
But that was three coaches ago, and a lot has changed over the past decade.
The university is looking for stability and to avoid the negative publicity that has hung over the coaching position since 2013.
Former Augusta State men’s and women’s coach Kevin McPherson, a Conway native, took over the program in September 2013, a few weeks after the resignation of Allen Terrell following 13 years leading the program.
CCU had self-reported violations within the program of improper extra benefits and recruiting misconduct allegedly committed by Terrell to the NCAA, which handed down relatively minor penalties for the transgressions in 2015.
McPherson was arrested on June 15, 2016 on charges of misdemeanor second-degree domestic violence against his wife that were lessened in September to third-degree, and his contract was not renewed for a fourth season last summer.
Assistant Chad Wilson was promoted to interim head coach, a position he held for the entire 2016-17 season before accepting the head coaching position at Georgia State on June 4.
“You always want stability, you want continuity in your program,” Hogue said. “That’s how you build it. You have players who have the same coach for multiple years. Certainly that’s important., and I think that’s what we’re getting here.”
Garren, a 2008 Kennesaw State graduate with a degree in Sports Management, said he’s focused on the future, and will only look back at the program’s past accomplishments.
“If I’m going to look at anything in the past it’s going to be the big-time success they did have,” Garren said. “This is where I want to be. This is the job I want. I want to bring stability because I want to compete year-in, year-out. I’m looking for long-term success.”
One of Garren’s first orders of business is to hire an assistant coach, as there are no holdover assistants from Wilson’s one-year reign.
This is a big family and that is kind of what our golf program is going to be. We’re going to challenge our family, we’re going to work hard, we’re going to push each other to be better not only on the golf course but in the classroom as well.
New CCU men’s golf coach Jim Garren
The Chants finished seventh in the Sun Belt Conference Tournament last year and failed to make the postseason. Rising junior Luis Ruiz, who reached a playoff for the Sun Belt individual title, is among the players returning this upcoming season, and Wilson had signed Jonathan Goth-Rasmussen of Denmark and Kanata Irei of Japan, who attended Heritage Academy in Hilton Head Island.
“I have really, really high expectations for this program,” Garren said. “You can throw conference labels and all that kind of stuff out the window when you talk about our sport. You only have to play your conference one time a year. You don’t rely on that when scheduling. We want to be the best team in the country and I think we can ultimately get there one day.”
Though Hogue said a hiring committee wasn’t assembled, those involved in the process included a university board of trustees member; a few athletic department figures; women’s golf coach Katie Quinney; Will Mann, past PGA of America president who oversees the university’s PGA Golf Management Program; the professional staff at The Dunes Club, where the men’s team often practices and hosts the annual General James Hackler Championship; and the program’s existing players.
“This was a process we wanted to be deliberate, we wanted to be in depth, we wanted to be as exhaustive as possible and get a lot of feedback from a lot of important constituents,” Hogue said.
The 7 finalists
Jacob Wilner, Nevada head coach
Dan Walters, Wake Forest assistant
Jimmy Stobs, Barry University head coach
Sam Puryear, recent Queens University director of golf
Nick Biershenk, N.C. State assistant
Van Williams, Arizona assistant
Jim Garren, Oklahoma assistant