COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) - When Mark Kingston went through the process of learning about Gamecocks baseball, he fell in love with everything the program had to offer.
The former University of South Florida baseball coach remained in constant contact with USC athletics director Ray Tanner so much throughout the process, Tanner wondered exactly who was keeping who on the line. Now, Kingston takes the reins that Tanner held just five years ago.
"Coach Tanner called me a few weeks ago," said Kingston. "We started to go through the process and, the more I learned about what he wants and what this place was all about, it became very clear that, if he offered me the position, it would be really hard to turn down."
Kingston is well-aware of the program's expectations as well as the fans' expectations and he has no intention of running from them.
"It's a grind," Kingston said when asked about coaching against SEC opponents. "There's no doubt. There's some great programs in this conference, there's some great coaches, and there's great players in this conference. It's big boy baseball. There's no doubt about it. The National Championship just had two SEC teams. To me, that's very exciting. That's the challenge. I've coached long enough now to say it's time. I want to test what we do against the best and I want to be the best and I want our team to be the best. So, to me, it's the right time. It's the right place. That's very invigorating to me."
Last season, Kingston led the Golden Bulls to a 49-21 record and an appearance in the Gainesville Regional. It was the team's second appearance in the NCAA Tournament under Kingston. Come next year, Kingston is hoping to make it a little further.
I will tell the fans we want Omaha as much as you do and we will work hard to get there," Kingston said. "Only eight teams get there every year, but we can work everyday and make sure that's our focus."
Even though the Gamecocks averaged 5.1 runs per game, USC struggled to put timely runs on the board when they needed them most. That could change under Kingston, who told reporters that the team will focus on speed and power to score rather than relying on small ball and the players are looking forward to playing under Kingston's philosophy.
"Whatever he tells us to do, we're going to do it," said Gamecocks infielder Madison Stokes. "However he wants Coach Billy to train us to get us where he wants us to be, we're going to do it. We're going to respect him in those regards and just give it our best."
For Kingston, the decision to leave USF wasn't an easy one. In fact, he talked about the difficulty he had in telling the Golden Bulls about his new opportunity during a conference call he held with them on Friday. Nevertheless, Kingston is hungry and ready to get to work.
"What I can tell you today is I'm very humbled to be here as your new coach," said Kingston, "and I'm hungry to get to work."