Gary Gilmore led his Coastal Carolina Chanticleers through a gauntlet of challenges to the 2016 national title. Down to its last strike in the Raleigh Regional, the Chants dug down deep to upend North Carolina State. The following weekend, CCU traveled to Alex Box Stadium and upset the perennial powerhouse LSU Tigers. Their award for advancing to the College World Series was a first round matchup with the Florida Gators, the nation’s top seed.
A 1980 Coastal Carolina alum himself, Gilmore has been a head coach for 27 years at the college level, 21 with the Chanticleers. His 1,100th win as a head coach was one that claimed the 2016 national championship trophy. We chatted with “Gilly” recently about the “stepping stones” that his program took on the way to the top (including living in a camper just beyond the outfield fence during his first year at CCU), his family life, and how his team “monkeyed around” in the dugout this past year… all the way to a national championship.
Coaching at alma mater
It’s been a fantastic experience. It’s kind of funny when you look back; it’s really the only school I ever dreamt of coaching at in my lifetime. I’ve always wanted to come back to Coastal Carolina, I had an incredible undergrad experience and it’s where my heart has been all along. I had a great experience at USC Aiken as a coach, but my heart yearned to be back here.
I took a $6-7,000 pay cut to come to Coastal Carolina, that’s how bad I wanted to be here. I had to leave my family behind and we couldn’t afford a rental down here at Myrtle Beach in the summertime. We had a pop-up camper with AC in it and I took it down here and plugged it in behind the baseball stadium. Believe it or not, I lived in there with my pitching coach, who was my only full-time assistant. We were on each end of that thing sleeping every night and on the road all the time. We did that for five or six months before my wife was able to get a teaching job down here and we sold the house. People tease me about it now, even back in those days it was primitive, it didn’t have an indoor bathroom or anything!
At smaller programs and mid-majors, day-to-day finances and resources can be such a challenge. We’ve done golf tournaments, programs where people pledge money for stolen bases or homeruns, and we do a lot of stuff where parents get involved. I think it all comes down to what you’re willing to do to get what you need to be successful. For me, we’ve always tried to use our fundraising to target something we need to make the team better. Not necessarily for our budget, but items like a pitching machine, video cameras, tangible things that I can sell to the parents and say ‘if your child has these things, they can become a better player.’ When you do that it’s easier to get people involved.
There was a time we had to raise $50-60,000 to survive here and that number has dwindled down; we’re able to use monies for a vision program or a sports psychologist to come in and help us all be mentally stronger. Tangible, achievable goals that help every single member of our team get better is what we strive for. Getting it out there and selling it to people is key and like anything, some people pitch in more than others and just like anything with fundraising, you have to show people a lot of love.
The first was 2001 when we made it to the last pitch of a Regional down in Georgia against Coach Polk’s club that went to the World Series. That was our first Regional since I’d been here, that team helped us turn a corner.
In 2005 we had a great team, we were a number one seed but we didn’t have a stadium to play in. What we had wasn’t nice enough and the pro park wasn’t available, so we went to Arizona State as a one seed, that was a lot of fun! I feel like it opened some eyes. As a result, the resources began to pick up and that dream of Omaha became more real.
In 2008 we hosted again [at home this time], won our Regional and went to North Carolina against that Major League pitching staff. We lost in that Super but it really energized our community and our players.
In 2010, we were the number four national seed. In all honesty, on paper most everybody in the country would agree that it was probably a better team than the one we had that just won it all. But ironically enough, South Carolina’s team that year was very similar to our 2016 club; they were kind of a team of destiny. It didn’t really matter what we did, they found a way to counteract it and ended up winning a National Championship. They had Michael Roth come up and pitch bigger than life, just like we did this past year when [Andrew] Beckwith was bigger than life.
The 2010 team was the type of club we had been trying to get back to. We were top two or three in the country in home runs with 119, we were among the top in stolen bases, top ten in ERA. I must not have coached well enough!
Well, it’s the same when I pull into the driveway and my wife is on my rear end, that feels the same! What doesn’t feel the same is READ THE REST