A New Approach to Baseball

The Florida Gators have had plenty of success during the last 15 months in football and basketball. The reason – young and energetic coaches. Jeremy Foley is using that same approach and applying it to the baseball team.

Foley and the Gators officially announced Clemson associate head coach and pitching coach Kevin O'Sullivan as the new coach for the Gator baseball squad. Sullivan is just 38 years old and doesn't have head coaching experience, but he does bring new life to a baseball program that has failed to reach the NCAA Tournament in the last two seasons after making it to the College World Series in 2005.

"It's been a busy couple of days for me," O'Sullivan said. "It's an honor to be standing here in front of you as the new baseball coach at Florida. First of all, I'd like to thank Jeremy and Chip for giving me this opportunity. I promised them that I would do it right, and I think they believe me."

Foley first contacted O'Sullivan on Sunday, and the process moved quickly. Foley said they would have announced him on Tuesday had weather not affected the plans.

"We were looking for the up-and-comer," Foley said. "I identified Kevin very early. I liked his background at Clemson. I liked the fact that he has developed pitchers, and I liked the fact that he focuses on defense. I'm very happy that he's on board and he has recruiting connections to Florida."

O'Sullivan will average $300,000 over the next five years with a focus on building a consistent program at Florida. Clemson has made it to the NCAA Tournament the last nine seasons with three appearances in Omaha.

"We want to build a program here," O'Sullivan said. "We don't want to have a quick fix and have a good team for just a couple years. We want to build this thing right. In doing so, we are going to recruit high school kids and junior college kids when we need to do so. We're going to build for the ground up and do it that way."

O'Sullivan was the recruiting coordinator at Clemson and is a Florida native with close connections to the state. Most of his family reside here, and he is very familiar with Florida high school baseball. The Tigers had seven players from Florida on their 2007 roster.

"This is kind of what we did in basketball," Foley said. "I don't want to put the pressures on Kevin to do what Billy has done. But, we wanted to find a young up-and-comer who wanted to establish himself. I don't think we were being as consistent as we could be."

Like Donovan who learned under Rick Pitino and Urban Meyer who learned from Earl Bruce and Lou Holtz, O'Sullivan has learned from some of the best. For the last nine seasons, he's worked with Clemson coach Jack Legget who is the fourth winningest coach in college baseball over the last 14 seasons. During his early years with the Tigers, he also worked beside Vanderbilt head coach Tim Corbin whose Commodores won the SEC this season.

"I come from a great background and I'm ready to get going," O'Sullivan said. "In fact, I'm going recruiting tonight and trying to get my staff together as quick as I can. I come from great protégés in Jack Legget and Tim Corbin. This is going to be a great thing for me."

O'Sullivan identified the major ideas he learned from both Legget and Corbin.

"It's pride in your program and ownership of your program," he said. "Making sure kids know their alma-mater, kids respecting the gear that they get and respecting everyone involved with the program. That sense of ownership is what Jack instills at Clemson. The main ingredient is that we are all hard working."

O'Sullivan mentioned his great respect and friendship with former Gator coach Pat McMahon, but said he did not want to talk about the past. He looks to the future of Florida baseball, which all starts with recruiting.

"I form relationships with kids," O'Sullivan said. "Having them trust you that they will get better and that we are going to give them a great experience. It's a matter of picking the right talent – the kids that are going to get better, and we've had a lot of success recruiting in Florida. There are player here, and we look forward to keeping those players in-state and getting back to Omaha."

O'Sullivan has talked with most of the signees from the class of 2007 and plans to touch base with all the signees and current roster players by Sunday. He's working on putting together a coaching staff, so he can begin the process of getting the Gators back into the NCAA Tournament.

"The key is here is not to put a timetable on it," he said. "We all have expectations. The goal is to work hard everyday and get better everyday and the rest will take care of itself. The goal is to get back to the NCAA tournament."

"This is a dream job for anybody," O'Sullivan added. "Was I surprised when Jeremy called? No, but I was real excited. I knew as things went on that he had his mind set on a certain kind of guy."

"The goal was to do something different," Foley said. "Will it work? Only time will tell. I firmly believe this will succeed."

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