It's been a tough couple of days for Ole Miss head baseball coach Mike Bianco. There aren't many times in life one has to make such a decision. And he indeed had one to make.
Add that to the fact that the Rebels had lost Monday night to Miami in a Super Regional here and this had clearly been a couple of gut-wrenching days for Bianco.
Skip Bertman, Bianco's former coach, did call. He and Bianco talked.
Pete Boone, his current boss, and Bianco also talked.
But maybe the most important conversation Bianco had was the one with his wife, Cammie. After all, the decisions made in their home are the most important of all. With five children ages 11 and under, decisions like these are not only difficult, they are about many important lives.
This decision also involved the cheering of the crowds, the masses, the fans. Two entire states, and people in other parts of the south and country, wondered aloud if the man who has led Ole Miss to an SEC Tournament title, an SEC West title, five NCAA tourney appearances, and two Super Regionals would continue to lead the Rebels.
Would he stay in Mississippi, in Oxford to be exact, to continue to to build a powerhouse baseball program? Or would he return to the place where he played and served as an assistant coach, Baton Rouge, to revive a sagging LSU program that won five national championships from 1991 through 2000?
The envelope, please.
What this appears to have come down to was a life that he and his family have built here, vs. a life they once knew there, one that they would have to restart in a place that may or may not be exactly as they remembered it. There have been some changes there, especially lately.
Cammie is from there, basically. She grew up near Baton Rouge and attended LSU. Her parents now live in Kansas and have for years, but she has sisters in St. Francisville, not far from the Louisiana capital, as well as other relatives in the area.
Bianco himself is from the state of Florida, but alma mater usually means something. In this case it was probably the person who did the calling more than the school itself.
"I've said it before and I mean it from the bottom of my heart, I wouldn't be here today if it wasn't for Skip Bertman," Bianco said of his former coach, now the AD at LSU. "There's almost nothing I wouldn't do for him."
One thing obviously was to leave Ole Miss at this time for the job opening at LSU.
So when Bianco told Bertman earlier today that he would be staying at Ole Miss, it was tough telling his mentor but the correct call, according to Bianco.
"He was very good about it," Bianco said. "He understood. He knows there isn't a lot I wouldn't do for him. I also know they'll hire a great coach."
But it won't be Bianco. It will be someone else. Bianco coaches at Ole Miss.
"This is where we need to be now," said Bianco of him and his family. "Cammie and I talked it over at length last night. It's a big decision and now we've made it."
Bianco's staff of Dan McDonnell, Stuart Lake, Kyle Bunn, and Carl Lafferty will be taken care of in his new deal as well; otherwise Bianco wouldn't have signed on for more years in Oxford.
But who knew this day wasn't coming? Sure, Smoke Laval had a chance to succeed at LSU. But if he didn't, we all knew that with Bianco's success and given his ties to the program, that they'd come calling.
And they did. And though some of our own fans might not think it that way because of the Ole Miss-LSU rivalry, it was a very tough decision he had to make. In the end, Ole Miss and Oxford won out.
There was a calm in Bianco's voice today. He admitted he was pretty tired. I can only imagine.
But I could also sense a peace from him in knowing he had made the right choice for himself and his family and for all involved.
He would have won lots of games and championships at LSU. He's already doing that here. Except for the big one. And that one's coming someday, too.
"The bottom line is we haven't gotten there yet," he said at the end of our conversation. "We've talked about going through the front door. We have to keep talking about that. We have to keep knocking on it and trying to get in. It isn't easy. It's tough.
"We have to keep working and keep getting better and keep playing in Super Regionals, and then it will happen."
Because of all the winning in the recent past and thanks to the news they received today, Ole Miss baseball fans everywhere are believing that like never before.
Decision ends tough days for Bianco family
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