It’s the time of year Carolina fans are beginning to become all too familiar with. The end of a season, aka… “Time to decide if we’re going to fire a head coach.” Mark Kingston’s career at South Carolina appeared to be in jeopardy fairly early on in the season, as South Carolina was swept by Clemson early on and fell to Xavier shortly after.
Although the boys managed to win a few big series, that even had me believing at times; it eventually became apparent that Carolina (pitching injuries or not) lacked the skills to be considered even an average ball club.
Unlike Tanner’s decision with Frank Martin, (a coach who found himself in a similar situation but finished the season on a stronger note), he decided to hold off on Kingston’s dismissal after the season’s conclusion.
Carolina finished its season below .500 for the first time since 1996. To rub more salt in the wound, Carolina has only finished below .500 three times in its history before this season.
And just in case you weren’t already disgusted enough; two of those seasons concluded with the firing of a head coach, while one (1970) was Bobby Richardson’s first season as head coach of the Gamecocks.
Kingston obviously has not been fired and will be entering his 6TH season as head coach! What’s the hold up? Seriously! I don’t understand. Are we only allowed to fire one head coach per season?
As if I haven’t given enough of a reason to send Kingston off, here are three reasons why the decision should have been made weeks ago.
Quiet Bats Are Becoming Far Too Common
Earlier in Kingston’s career, players could score runs. They certainly were not a group of sluggers, but they could get the job done for the most part.
Last season, our chances of winning games were low if our opponents scored over 5 runs. This season, we had trouble winning mid week games, because we couldn’t score enough runs against teams like Presbyterian and Citadel. Pitching injuries or not, you can’t score 3 or 4 runs against teams like the Citadel or North Florida and expect to be competitive.
A number of times this season, our pitchers have pitched lights out, only for our hitters to bring in one or two runs in a loss. Moments such as these are just unfair to your pitchers, who more than once, have done everything they could, only to lose the game.
Pull up ESPN and watch some of the NCAA tournament games. Tell me how many 3 and 4 run games you see. Very few? Then how on earth are we going to compete with these types of teams next season?
Way Too Many Questionable Decisions
Kingston has made calls and made statements this season that would have, even the kids on the playground at Founders scratching their heads. From in game decisions, to downright ridiculous post game interviews, Kinston has honestly established himself as laughing stock with Carolina fans this season.
I’ll definitely cut the man some slack. Pitching injuries this season forced Kingston into some difficult situations. However, decisions such as, sending your game 3 starter to close out the 9th inning when you’re up 7 runs is just mind numbing.
That’s okay though, because next week we’ll have a closer start a Friday night game against a ranked opponent. Pitching injuries or not, these actions were simply inexcusable on Kingston’s end.
Second off, Kingston’s interviews and answers for and after losses have been absolutely loaded with excuses. After bad losses you expect a coach to come out and say, “we played terrible and that’s on me. We’ll make some changes in practice, and come out fighting next weekend.”
Instead you have to hear about how stacked the odds have been against us, or how much better the opponent was. I’m sorry, but any fanbase out there will not take kindly to these types of excuses. Especially when you’re losing more than you’re winning. It comes off as unprofessional and helpless, and it is not the Carolina Baseball that I know.
Also, don’t even get me started on the Atlanta Braves postgame interview. Hate to break it to you Kingston, but the Atlanta Braves don’t have the opportunity to play weaker opponents such as Citadel, or Xavier at home.
If they did however, I guarantee you they wouldn’t lose nearly half of their games against them.
Finally, I’m all for letting the players stay loose and relaxed. By all means let the players have fun. Tanner allowed for his players to play the same way back in 2010 and 2011. However, when you’re down by 8 runs to a team like Xavier, and your players are laughing and cutting up, you must make changes.
Near the end of the season it appeared the players had simply given up on the season as efforts were lackluster at best (watch the UNC Charlotte game). Instances such as these are evidence of a failing program and coaching staff.
So, why are we not making a change for next year?
The Coaching Job at Carolina is Losing Value as these Seasons Continue
I think it is quite easy to say after the 2011 season, South Carolina was the most desirable baseball coaching job in the nation. Founders Park was always packed and it was difficult to find a ticket.
At that time, it seemed that there wasn’t a school out there a successful coach would pick over South Carolina. Today, I could name several programs a coach would desire over South Carolina.
It’s quite simple. You win games. Fans buy more tickets. You pull in more money for facilities that are desirable. You pull in top recruits and talent.
Long story short, the coaching job overall becomes a more desirable position. At 138-108, I wouldn’t exactly say Kingston has been killing it with fans. As South Carolina has suffered a number of disappointing seasons since the end of the Tanner era, other programs have worked their way up and over South Carolina.
For example, Mississippi State, Arkansas, Vandy. These programs have been finding success while South Carolina has been degressing.
With this idea in mind, why hold on to Kingston? Is he going to miraculously push the program in the right direction for next season?
I can tell you what will start putting fans in seats. A Super Regional. Hosting a Regional. Do I dare say Omaha? Do I believe Kingston will take us to any of these? I can’t say I do.
As we wait and suffer through these disappointing seasons, we slowly see the chances of hiring a top tier sought after coach, fade away.
Do I want to see Kingston fail? Absolutely not. Personally, I want nothing but the best for him. I would love to see Kingston win a title with the Gamecocks. However, as a diehard Carolina fan, I value my team’s success over the success of Kington as an individual.
Kingston inherited a flagship program on a major decline. Although he had a strong start, as of now, the program has only sunk further than where it was when he took over..
To put it simply, it’s just not working out. I will agree that it is unfair to expect a national championship out of Kingston thus far.
However, fans and *cough cough* Ray Tanner should certainly expect improvement from the team each season. That is something we have seen and it is unacceptable that we have yet to.
Sorry Ray, but it’s about time to pull the plug on this one. As much as I want to see it, it’s just not working out.