Aug. 2, 2007
By Douglas Kroll
Doug Kroll is an editor for CSTV.com, focusing on baseball.
June 13, 2001 was an important day in Florida Gators baseball history. A new era was ushered in when the school pried away Pat McMahon from his head coaching post with SEC rival
It wasn't like the Gators had struggled prior to McMahon's arrival. UF had made the NCAA Tournament in five of seven seasons under Andy Lopez, but the closest they came to a national title, was a two-and-out in
Six years and one day after McMahon was brought in as the 20th head coach in
O'Sullivan's baseball history is one that rivals few others in the collegiate game, including being the associate head coach at Clemson under good friend and mentor Jack Leggett since 2002, and he just completed his ninth season as the Tigers pitching coach in 2007. It's that relationship with Leggett that O'Sullivan credits as such a help to his baseball coaching career.
"Jack was both a best friend and mentor," O'Sullivan said. "He is a great leader and has done so much for
Regarded as one of the best recruiters in the game, the
Only days after taking the job in
"We had a press conference on a Thursday and I traveled to
His new boss has had so much success of late in football and men's basketball, there's no question that Foley's expectations have risen with his other programs. The women's basketball program will also have a new coach, after Carolyn Peck was let go after a couple disappointing seasons.
Foley's reason for hiring O'Sullivan speaks for itself.
"This is an exciting day and signals a new chapter for Gator baseball," Foley said. "What Kevin has accomplished as one of the top assistants in the nation with highly-respected recruiting skills and player development speaks for itself. He possesses the qualities in a head coach that we were looking for and is eager to hit the ground running. We are counting on Kevin to help return our program to the elite level of collegiate baseball."
The job that O'Sullivan was able to do at Clemson with the pitching staff is somewhat amazing. In his first season of 1999, the team's ERA wasn't pretty at 5.82. In only one year he was able to get it down to 3.99, and in no season did it rise above 4.39.
Part of the reason for that feat was O'Sullivan's ability to recruit in the state of
"I was probably in the state of
It's that experience, coupled with his relationship with Leggett that has Gators fans excited about another new era in UF baseball. Coming from one of the winningest programs in the nation over the last several years, O'Sullivan will bring a lot with him from his former job.
"The idea of tradition, pride and player ownership in the program," O'Sullivan named when asked what he'll bring. "In order to be successful at this level year in and year out, your players have to believe in the program like you do. There can not be people going in different directions. Everyone has to commit themselves on a daily basis to winning a National Championship."
The prospects for the 2008 season are up in the air. One thing we do know is that he won't have the services of All-Everything first baseman, Matt LaPorta in the middle of the lineup. He'll also take over a pitching staff that boasted a hefty 5.27 ERA in 2007, part of the reason why the Gators failed to make the NCAA Tournament for the second consecutive year.
With Miami to the south and Florida State to the north, the recruiting has always been a tough war. Adding one of the best in the nation, coupled with Florida International's hiring of legendary Turtle Thomas, and things have really picked up.
O'Sullivan takes over a team in desperate shape for a national championship. Having never won one, the Gators have started over. But not from scratch.