TIM PEELER: Holliday's Goal is Getting Pack to Omaha
BY TIM PEELER
For The Wolfpacker
RALEIGH -- Tom Holliday knows exactly what direction he would like to push NC State’s baseball program 1,256 miles due west to Omaha, Neb.
Few coaches in college baseball know how to get to 1202 Bert Murphy Ave. the Omaha address of Rosenblatt Stadium, the site of the College World Series since 1950 better than Holliday. He’s been there 14 times in his 31 years in coaching, helping Arizona State and Texas win national championships in his four combined years at those schools, and going 11 times as an assistant coach and head coach at Oklahoma State.
Along the way, he befriended NC State head coach Elliott Avent, and the two baseball coaches have maintained a close relationship for decades. Avent declared last year when the Wolfpack was sent to Austin, Texas where Holliday was an assistant coach for legendary Texas baseball coach Augie Garrido for its third consecutive NCAA Regional that he was off to see his best friend.
Following the 2006 season, Avent shook up his staff and finally convinced Holliday to come to Raleigh to be the Wolfpack’s associate head coach and recruiting coordinator, in an effort to help the Wolfpack take another step forward. Avent has taken the Wolfpack to the NCAAs six times and to one NCAA Super Regional. But State hasn’t been to Omaha since the school’s lone appearance at the CWS in 1968.
“Our friendship formed a long time ago out of respect that we have for each other in the game of baseball,” Avent said. “We are both old-school baseball guys, who have given our entire life to the sport of baseball. We are two very unbalanced people when it comes to other stuff in our life. We don’t play golf or hunt or fish or ski or play pool. We don’t have any other hobbies but baseball and we never have.
The two had talked after Holliday left Oklahoma State in 2003, the same year that Holliday’s son Josh was a volunteer assistant on Avent’s staff. At that time, Holliday opted to join Garrido’s staff as pitching coach and recruiting coordinator, and he helped the Longhorns reach the 2004 CWS championship series and win the 2005 CWS title. Last season, the Longhorns were eliminated from the NCAA Regional by the Wolfpack.
“At the University of Texas, it’s like somebody putting everything on the table and saying, Here, fix dinner,’” said Holliday, who won 281 games as a head coach and has been part of nearly 1,500 college victories.
“That’s why I am here, and that is why Elliott wanted me here.”
And there is no question about the feast that Holliday wants to attend.
“Omaha,” Holliday said. “It’s not quite the Super Bowl, but when you get there you are in the final eight. You are playing for a chance to be in the national championship.
Holliday didn’t come in talking about his ability to help Avent and his team win an ACC Championship or qualify for a regional. He talked only about Omaha.
“If your players don’t swallow the pill that it is failure not to get to Omaha, then you are never going to get there,” said Holliday. “You can’t just set your sights on your conference tournament. You can’t be taken seriously if that is your goal. If you don’t work towards Omaha, people will know it and they will eat you alive. You will never get there.
That’s fine with Avent, who enters his 11th season at NC State with most of the key components he needs to build a national contender: an experienced staff, a revamped and renovated stadium, and a strong pitching staff.
The Wolfpack’s offense, though, was decimated by the 2006 Major League Draft, losing first baseman Aaron Bates, designated hitter Jon Still, shortstop Jonathan Diaz and center fielder Matt Camp. And third baseman Matt Mangini transferred out of the program.
Tim Peeler is managing editor of www.GoPack.com and a regular contributor to The Wolfpacker. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.