Sixteen years ago, when head baseball coach Ray Tanner was first introduced to the media and to Gamecock fans, a little-known coach from the University of North Carolina had snuck into the press conference in hopes he'd meet the new skipper.
Although he'd never get the chance to meet Tanner, he would leave the coach a note, and in that note, the coach said it was his hope and dream to work for Tanner one day.
Twelve years later, he would. And the pair would deliver the Gamecocks baseball team to the promised land. Twice.
That man, of course, was Chad Holbrook. And today, he was named Tanner's replacement after Tanner became the new athletics director on Friday.
"We are fortunate to have Coach Holbrook as an integral part of our program," said Tanner. "He is an exceptional coach, recruiter, and mentor for our players.
"The job he has done and continues to do is exemplary," said Tanner. "He is one of the top coaches in the country and he is an outstanding ambassador for the University of South Carolina."
For Holbrook, Monday's promotion is the culmination of his life's work so far. "This is a 19-year dream come true," he said.
"I'm not up here to replace Ray Tanner," continued Holbrook. "No one can."
While he says he can never replace Tanner, Holbrook says he's going to try and emulate the coach as best he can.
Holbrook said he was going to start wearing a bracelet bearing the letters "W.W.R.D." He said those letters stood for "What would Ray Do?"
Holbrook recently completed his fourth season as associate head coach and recruiting coordinator for the South Carolina baseball program. Holbrook, served as hitting instructor, overseeing the Gamecock offense, including base running and the short game and was the third base coach. He also worked with the outfielders.
Holbrook recently was named the No. 10 best recruiter in all of college sports by ESPNU & ESPN The Magazine in the publication's 2011 January edition. Holbrook was the only baseball coach on the list.
Holbrook made an immediate impact on the South Carolina baseball program in his first four seasons. His guidance was instrumental in helping the Gamecocks to back-to-back national championships in 2010 and 2011 at the College World Series as well as a national runner-up finish in 2012.
Holbrook helped in the development of two-time All-America Christian Walker, who led the Gamecocks in all three Triple Crown categories the last two years. He finished 2012 hitting .321 (77-for-240) with 11 homers and 55 RBI as well as a .450 on-base percentage and a .525 slugging percentage.
Holbrook helped bridge together a new crop of Gamecocks in the 2012 season as he molded newcomers Tanner English, Grayson Greiner and Joey Pankake into SEC All-Freshman honorees. All three would factor into Carolina's successful season. The group of newcomers was also rated the top recruiting class in the country in 2011 by Collegiate Baseball and No. 6 in the nation by Baseball America.
Holbrook played a key role in 2011 MLB supplemental draft selection Jackie Bradley Jr.'s Gamecock career. In 2010 Bradley was a 2010 All-SEC selection and College World Series Most Outstanding Player. That season, Holbrook helped to oversee an offense that peaked in the postseason with a .309 batting average in 12 postseason contests.
In 2009, Holbrook's first season, the Gamecocks finished with a team batting average of .310 on the year, the highest average in the last nine seasons, along with an improved on-base percentage of .394 and a .528 slugging percentage.
Carolina was fifth in the nation with 109 home runs. Among the players he tutored that first year were Freshman All-America Jackie Bradley Jr. and 2009 All-SEC selections, Justin Dalles, Nick Ebert, Bobby Haney and DeAngelo Mack.
Prior to joining the Gamecock program, Holbrook worked for 15 seasons on the North Carolina coaching staff.
Holbrook and his wife, the former Jennifer Hilliard, were married in August of 2000. They have two sons, Reece, who was born on May 4, 2002, and Cooper, who was born on June 14, 2004.
Holbrook was making $176,000 as the associate head coach. It is not yet known what his new salary will be.
Copyright 2012 WIS. All rights reserved.