June 7, 2017
Ray when you spoke with Chad, what were those conversations like, did you go in with an end result in your head or was it still undetermined what your decision would be?
Well, we're here to talk about the future of the program, I think that last night it was well stated in the release that he made the decision to resign. I'll tell you that you have read already that there has been an assessment of the program over the last few weeks and last night, Coach Holbrook resigned to pursue other opportunities.
Just as a follow up to that, did he have any option for staying in your conversation with him, did you give him the option of staying and continuing as head coach in any form moving forward?
You're giving me a hypothetical situation; I think you can refer back to the release.
What's your thought on the cliché I guess for lack of a better word that it is tough to follow somebody that's had success, that its tough to follow a legend. What's your belief about that and from watching Chad try to do it? What are your thoughts on that?
Well most of the time I hear that and I kind of laugh about it. You know I came here many years ago with the legacy that Bobby Richardson had and then the tenure that June Raines had and the success, tradition, and history of this program. I don't think much about that, what I think about is this program is a great opportunity. It has tradition that I mentioned, it has great history. We have a wonderful fan base, we have great opportunities here to be successful and that has been realized. Hopefully it will be certainly going forward.
Coach Tanner, what are you looking for in a baseball coach to lead this program?
Maybe to follow up what I just said. A coach that is much like the coaches that have been here in the past. Coaches that embrace this tradition, embrace our fan base, embrace the expectation, embrace a wonderful atmosphere here at Founders Park with opportunities galore here to compete at a high level. And you always people talk about the cliché of someone who fits. And I think that can be used broadly. But someone who understand our culture and maybe has experience in one way or another being in this region or in the Southeast. That is not to say we are limited by the geography but someone that certainly understands what Carolina baseball and the brand is about.
There have been a lot of big baseball salary increases here for head coaches, do you have a number that you are comfortable with or are there financial restrictions when it comes to hiring a head baseball coach here?
I wish I had started coaching at a time that it is today. But it is very impressive that is the salaries that are throughout the country in collegiate baseball but no we are going to be in the marketplace for a head coach and I'm not going to stand here and tell you that it's unlimited but we'll certainly be competitive in the marketplace.
Coach, you've been in situations as a baseball coach where you have had things not go your way in the game of baseball. Injuries happen those kinds of things. You having been in that position before, what sort of sympathy did you have for what has happened here over the last couple of years?
Well maybe I don't know exactly what your question is but I'll start with, I'll speak to the season with the expectations that we had with a really good team and it was decimated with some injuries, very untimely. It did play a role in our season in my mind. Not making excuses in anyway because our players and Coach Holbrook would not want me to do that, but it does take a toll on you and it put us in a position that maybe we didn't have the personnel throughout the year that we anticipated that we would have so the challenges were greater.
Ray, how difficult has this been personally to go through and how long will it take to kind of put that aside and focus on what you have to do next?
Its difficult, I'm not going to pretend that it's not. I love what I do, I've had 21 years at this university, I cherish that. I don't take that for granted. 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 have been difficult under any circumstances when you have a colleague, a coach in any sport that is no longer with you because it is a lifestyle it's a family, you're together a lot you have a lot of dialogue. It's not an easy situation to go through but I do understand that it's part of the job. I was very flattered last night when some colleagues that are athletic directors reached out to me to share some of their experiences with me, that meant a lot to me.
Going forward looking for a new coach, your background, how unique is that in your position compared to some AD's who haven't been in that dugout?
Well, we will not be hiring a search firm. So I think that I haven't lost the connections maybe that I have had over the years and being part of the NCAA selection committee has enhanced that in a lot of ways. I did have a lot of coaches and athletics directors call me throughout the season telling me how good their teams were as we were starting to pick the teams. But I feel like that is a little bit of an advantage with the relationships that I have created over the years as we pursue hiring a new coach as soon as possible.
Can you foresee a situation where Coach Esposito and Coach Meyers are on the next staff and what have those two meant to this program?
Well they've meant a tremendous amount to our program. Coach Meyers and I served two stints together if you will and Coach Esposito and I go back a long ways and their continuing their work right now. I didn't tell Coach Holbrook who to hire. I don't get involved in head coaches making decisions about their staff. Occasionally a coach will ask me, I may give my opinion but its just an opinion. It's certainly not a directive. I'm on record saying that I don't get involved in those things. So whoever we hire going forward certainly has the autonomy to hire his own staff.
Two quick questions for you, in talking with Chad after the season, he didn't sound like anybody who was interested in resigning and in fact he had been on the road recruiting up until the time you and him started meeting, can you tell us what he said to you about why he is resigning from this job?
Again, you know you're going back to a situation that has passed us and I'm not going to address that question.
You can't clarify firing versus resignation
We put out a release last night that he resigned. I think that says what it needs to say.
And the other question is, in todays major college baseball world, its like if a team misses the tournament fans are getting upset and their calling for coaches to be fired, is that the new norm as you see it moving forward? Do you see the South Carolina program as a program that should make the NCAA tournament every season?
Well It's interesting, you know you go back in time, college baseball programs didn't get their scores in the newspaper. You never got mentioned on the 11 o'clock news about what your score was and now that has changed I think the emphasis throughout the country and college baseball from athletic directors and presidents are at a place that it has never been before the attention is great. A lot of programs have expectations of playing in the postseason. I will tell you this, I've said it many times, I embrace that. Our fan base is tremendous we've got a beautiful place to play and I coached for a long time. I don't think expectations are always met, but I don't think you're a failure if you don't meet maybe the fans expectations. We strive to be in the postseason of all our sports. One thing that was important to me when I became the athletics director was that were going to add beach volleyball and we are going to do it to a level that were going to reach the postseason. Are we going to do the things we need to do in all of our sports? We have tried to do that and had some success doing that. Maybe sometimes its unfair but I think that sometimes maybe it is part of the conversation. Were all trying to get to the postseason, it doesn't matter what sport it is that you're trying to get an opportunity to play at the end of the year.
With the draft being less than a week away, what's kind of the message to signees who are going through that process right now?
Well I met with the assistant coaches last night and we talked about it and shared some information, I shared some of my opinions and certainly their professionals they're in it every single day and the idea is, the draft is going to happen. Sometimes kids come, they go, they stay. We would like for them to have an opportunity if the timeline works before they make a decision whether they become a professional or not is to visit with a new head coach and hopefully that can workout. I can't stand here and tell you that it will be a perfect scenario but that would be my wish that if we have a young person that is considering the opportunity to bypass school that they visit with their new head coach when that time comes.
Ray, will Chad be paid for the final two years on his contract?
I can't speak to that in an official capacity today. It was a negotiated settlement and it has not been fully executed at this point.
Ray, as you conduct your search are you going to be looking primarily at head coaches at power 5 schools, someone who has been to the College World Series? Also you already addressed it somewhat, just how challenging the past two weeks have been? Is it the most challenging thing you've been through, especially since you became a head coach yourself at NC State?
Well to answer the first part of your question, I'm not in a situation that we're going to go try to hire a head coach that's making three appearances in the College World Series or an assistant coach that hasn't been there. I don't have any guidelines at this point. Certainly experiences are important but there are a lot of assistant coaches who have become very successful head coaches as a matter of fact, some schools in our league have recently hired assistant coaches and probably within the last 2 or 3 years, they've all been assistant coaches. That's not to say that's the route I will take or not take. But you know one thing that's important to me is to visit with a candidate that understands who are at the university. Maybe that's not easy to do in a short period of time but we've got a lot of things to be excited about here with our baseball program and I think we'll have some opportunities. It's an outstanding program and I'm looking forward as I move tonight and the next few days in visiting with some people and sharing information about our Gamecock Baseball program. The second part of your question was about the difficulty, it's difficult but its not about me. It's about the program, it's about what my responsibilities are as the director of athletics and it's that we have lots of challenges and we also have wonderful opportunities. That's the way I see it. There are numerous times where the conversations are not pleasant or enjoyable but it goes with the territory and it's a wonderful position that I'm in and I'm grateful to be in it. Some days are more difficult than others.
Ray, Chad faced an awful lot of criticism from fans, particularly on social media. Is that fair or not fair and did that play into Chad's decision?
Well it didn't play into any of our conversations or in the assessment and I will have to confess that you guys are the experts in social media and facebook and twitter, I'm not. I'm pretty good at the highway 56 XM and that's about my experience and I'm very serious about that. And you know I get some letters I get some correspondents I get some very positive ones as well. I know were talking about moving forward but I know that during Chad Holbrook's time here that not during his last five years but his last nine years he did things the right way, with character and integrity. I used to share with my players sometimes when we got criticized and they don't like it too much. It's really a compliment turned inside out. People care, we want them to care, we want them to come to the games. It's part of it, coaches understand that and players understand it as well.
I know its early in this process but did Chad give you any indication or do you have any gut feeling of how soon he'll get back in the coaching game. Do you think he might take a year off? What do you think his plans are if you know?
I do not know and it probably would be unfair for me to address it. I will tell you this that there are (people who will be) interested in Coach Holbrook sooner than later. So I wouldn't be surprised if he had some opportunities in the very near future.
What was the conversation like with Coach Meyers when you told him that he'd have the interim role and what kind of responsibilities fall to those assistants during this period?
We had a lengthy conversation last night and Coach Meyers has been a head coach, he's been here as I mentioned, two different stints and my message was, although Coach Holbrook's not here today, we move forward in a professional way and we do things we would do normally. It's not a perfect scenario but the communication is important with current players and the recruits and what were doing and their professionals and I have the utmost confidence they'll do it the right way.
Coach, a two-part question, in the release he said that he felt this decision was best for everyone involved. Was there any context he gave to you about what that meant and it's meaning to him and as you guys celebrated those joys and journeys you guys went on in 2010 and 2011, the highs and lows when did it sink in last night, you spoke of the difficulties a little bit earlier but when the moment hit that his moment was over?
Well as I mentioned, it was very difficult. We are colleagues before we were together here. Throughout the assessment, I cannot speak for him and he did not share particularly what he shared in the release we didn't get into detail about that but last night, before I have the utmost respect for who he is and what he's done and I don't have that he'll be very successful moving forward.
Ray, have you talked to the team, the returning players if so, what has that been like or did Chad have a chance to talk to them before he left?
I'm not sure whether Coach Holbrook did or not. I had the opportunity with approximately 10 players. They scattered as the school year has ended if they're not here for internships or summer school they're out playing and they're gone so I didn't get the chance to visit with all of them. They were contacted last night from the assistant coaches. We do exit interviews with our student athletes and so I had a little more conversation than maybe a normal exit interview. As I said before, they were very positive, they are outstanding young men who stand up and they're very disappointed they didn't get to the postseason and they took responsibility for that which I didn't ask them to do that but that's where it lies and were very complimentary towards Coach Holbrook and their experience in this program.
Ray, you obviously know this team really well, with what's likely coming back next year and the players he's recruited and signed, what kind of shape is team in next year for the new coaches as far as being successful right away?
You're giving me too much credit for knowing the personnel. You know I see all of our sports playing and I try to see as many as I can it seems this administration thing takes me to a lot of meetings where I miss too many events, but I know that a bulk of the position players that are going to be back, there's a couple that are going to be drafted or choose to leave or not according to their draft status. There's going to be some departure on the pitching staff and some innings that are gone there. But I know what Jerry Meyers has done in the past and you know with teams that maybe didn't bring back a lot of experience or whether or not he has his finger prints on that remains to be seen. But I feel like there's some guys who could step up and some young guys that didn't get an opportunity to pitch because of the guys that were ahead of them. I think we'll be a very competitive team. It's a very difficult league as you guys know. We had what six teams in the super regional, so it speaks volumes about the level of play in the southeastern conference.
Just going back to the end and the resignation, did you try to talk him out at all when he offered up his resignation?
You're not going to stop are you? Let's go back to the release you're giving me a hypothetical question.
The release says he resigned
So my question is did you try to talk him out of it?
I will share with you that we have had numerous conversations concerning the assessment of this program and I will not share any of that with you.
As far as salary and being competitive, if it meant needing to pay near the top of the SEC to get your guy, would you be willing to do that?
What is that number, Matt?
Around 1 million
Wow --- the only thing I can say is it's way early in the process but its important that were in the market place. I think you can look at our coaches today across the board and we're pretty close in all of our situations and if those are the numbers in baseball that were dealing with based on the experience and their resume than I could tell you that's a possibility.
Ray, will any of the current assistants have a chance to be interviewed for this job the way maybe Shawn Elliott was when you were searching for a football coach?
I would certainly hope, I cannot speak to that particularly accurately at this point but I would hope whoever is hired would take the time to visit with our coaches but that may or may not be the case. You know a lot of times the coaches bring their staff with them.
Currently, would your assistants here be able to interview for the head job?
No there will not be candidates. Sorry I misunderstood that.
Thank you guys, I appreciate you being here today and as Steve said, I hope that we'll have the chance to get together in due time to move the program forward with a new head coach. Thank you.
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