COLUMBIA, S.C. — The talks lasted for hours and they were many, but the talks between South Carolina baseball coach Mark Kingston and athletic director Ray Tanner didn’t delve much into the subject of winning.
Tanner’s message to the new Gamecocks head coach, who was hired Friday afternoon, was quite simple: “We have to beat Clemson and I’d like to go to Omaha.”
But Kingston didn’t need to be told. He already knew what he was getting himself into in Columbia, home of a program that expects College World Series appearances and high win totals.
“I know what the expectations are,” Kingston said in his introductory press conference. “Coach Tanner made sure I knew what the expectations were many, many times. We won’t run from the expectations. We will run toward the expectations.”
Kingston accepted the head coaching job at South Carolina, an agreement which was approved Friday morning by the USC board of trustees. He spent the previous three years at South Florida as the head coach, leading the Bulls to a 42-win season in 2017 and an NCAA Tournament appearance.
But everything dials up now for Kingston and a staff that he will build in coming days and weeks, with members from his group at USF likely following and the current USC staff under consideration.
And in his opening remarks, which lasted more than 10 minutes, Kingston shared his message to the fan base that he understands the high expectations the program has each year.
“I know how important the in-state rivalry is here with Clemson — I get that,” Kingston said. “We will work very hard to do the absolute best we can in winning those games. I know how important that is. We will do our best to make sure those games go in a positive fashion.
“We want Omaha as much as you do. I will tell the fans, we want Omaha as much as you do. We will work hard to get there. Only eight teams get there, but we will work hard every day. I have been very fortunate that I’ve been there three times.”
Two of Kingston’s future players, Jonah Bride and Madison Stokes, were on hand to hear Kingston’s introduction. Bride had met Kingston when he came to campus for an interview, while Stokes had only heard from teammates as he was on vacation at the time.
After hearing Kingston make his first remarks as the South Carolina baseball coach, they walked away impressed with his grasp on program expectations.
“I think he knows what he is getting himself into,” Stokes said. ‘We are going to be there for him and I’m sure he is going to be there for us and have our backs through the whole process.”
Kingston speaks from experience when he talks about getting to the College World Series and Omaha. He’s been there as both a player and assistant coach, reaching it during his career at North Carolina. Then he got a taste of winning it all in 2001 as a member of the Miami staff and got back again in 2005 with Tulane.
He’s got his sights set on making it again, but for the first time as head coach.
“I’ve been there three times with three schools,” Kingston said. “I want to get there a fourth time with a fourth school wearing these colors. I know that’s what your goals are and those are our goals, too.”