The College of Charleston’s baseball program has a lengthy history of winning and churning out MLB-caliber talent.
Last season, the program experienced a record of 28-31 – their first losing record in 16 years. As if the losing wasn’t bad enough, the 2017 campaign was also riddled with allegations of verbal and physical abuse against former coach Matt Heath. These two factors led to the firing of Heath, who had been coaching the past two seasons.
The following summer was particularly chaotic. As the College debated vigorously over who the next coach would be, ex-coach Heath slapped the College and President Glenn McConnell with a wrongful termination lawsuit over his firing.
The lawsuit made the process of finding a new coach more complex than it needed to be, and left the baseball program in turmoil.
On Friday, July 21, a light at the end of the tunnel appeared in the form of Chad Holbrook. Holbrook, the former head coach at the University of South Carolina, has quite the resume to boast. In his coaching career, Holbrook has experienced plenty of deep NCAA tournament runs including back-to-back national championships and a national runner-up finish during his tenure as an associate head coach with the Gamecocks.
I sat down with the newly dubbed head coach to pick his brain on his new position, and his new home here in Charleston.
When asked what made this job offer so enticing, Holbrook replied, “When you throw in the strength of the college academically, the tradition of the baseball program and you get to do it all in one of the best cities in the world, you get a very unique situation.”
Holbrook, who in 2011 was named the 10th best recruiter in all of college sports, certainly doesn’t need too much assistance when it comes to attracting top-tier high school talent. That being said, the master recruiter himself noted, “recruiting to the city of Charleston and to the College has been an easy ordeal – it is such an attractive place to go to school, such an attractive place to play baseball. Great weather, and the social part of the city is really, really cool.”
Baseball wasn’t the only factor that drew Coach Holbrook to the city of Charleston. Holbrook, along with the rest of his family, has long since enjoyed the area. “Even when I lived in Columbia, this was always where I wanted to come for date night with my wife, or bring the kids down for vacation. This was always a place where, once our working days were over and retirement was looming, we wanted to live. It’s great that we get to do it a little bit early. I get to come coach baseball and live in my favorite city – life is good for me right now.”
For Holbrook, who is an avid Halls Chophouse enthusiast, it wasn’t too difficult to find reasons to fall in love with the city. Despite his love for Charleston and the Charlestonian lifestyle, Coach Holbrook never lost sight of his true focus — baseball.
After such a turbulent offseason, Holbrook made sure to get down to the X’s and O’s leading up to his inaugural season as the Cougars’ head coach. When asked about how the preseason has gone, the new head coach responded, “We’ve done some good things, and we’ve done some things not so good that usually you can attribute to rust and not being in midseason form. But all in all, I like our team, I like our kids, I like their work ethic, I like their ability level, and hopefully we can continue to improve.”
Properly acknowledging the strengths and weaknesses of your squad is a mark of an intelligent coach. When asked what he liked about this team, Holbrook responded, “the experience of our bullpen, the ability to play solid defense and the athleticism of our outfield give us hope to be able to do some good things out on the field. That being said, we’ve got a lot to improve on as well.”
Being that optimistic about the well-roundedness of this group is certainly an encouraging sign from Holbrook, as the Cougars begin their season on Feb. 16. However, focusing on improvement in certain arenas is just as important. The team aims for the achievement of some lofty goals this season: competing for a conference championship and gaining an NCAA tournament bid.
Being a part of some special championship teams is not something to be taken lightly. Holbrook made it clear that winning is not what sticks with him the most over his coaching career, “Even though I’ve been a part of some great teams, being around some really great people and players [are what] I’m fonder of than any of the accomplishments that our teams have had.”
As a man who has certainly experienced his fair share of winning, this says a lot about how the sport of baseball draws people together. As my interview with Coach Holbrook drew to a close, I had to make sure I asked about his ultimate goals as the new head coach.
“I want to coach here the rest of my career. I want our team to be extremely successful, win a lot of championships, graduate our players and prepare them for the real world when baseball is over.”
Cougar baseball fans have an awful lot to look forward to in the years to come. The program is certainly in the right hands going forward, and it seems as though the sky is the limit from here on out.
*This article originally appeared in the February 2018 Issue of the Yard*