A lesson in success: Coaching and Tim Corbin

VandyMania's Katy Hamlett gives Vanderbilt fans an inside look into the career of Commodore coach Tim Corbin. Hamlett talked exclusively with the coach about the difficulties he had even getting into coaching and how he progressed to eventually become Vanderbilt head coach.

Commodore fans know Vanderbilt Head Baseball Coach Tim Corbin as an up-beat coach with an energetic presence at games. The media knows Corbin as an easy-going speaker with a down-to-earth eloquence. Players and their families know Corbin as a coach with a personal priority to see that every player succeeds. But anyone who has spent only a small amount of time with Corbin may come away only knowing one thing: his passion for coaching.

I think more than anything I've been given a gift to coach," Corbin said. "I never thought in a million years that that would become my occupation."

Though Corbin's talent and love for coaching is obvious through his actions and words, he had a rough road to trod before his ability was noticed. But before any coaching headway could be made, Corbin first had to develop a love of baseball.

Corbin's future baseball coaching career didn't begin with a whistle or a bat, but with a radio.

"I was a huge Red Sox fan, like any kid growing up. Listening to the Red Sox on the radio and watching them play led me into baseball probably more than anything else," Corbin said.

After easily picking a favorite sport, Corbin avidly pursued baseball in high school. He quickly saw he only had "average" playing ability but knew he wanted to stay in the game.

"I knew I was going to coach in high school. When I was a high school baseball player I knew I wanted to stay in baseball," Corbin explained.

After high school, Corbin attended Ohio Wesleyan College and tried to make contacts with people who could set him up with coaching jobs.

I didn't really know anyone. I sent out tons of letters to try and get a graduate assistant position but got really no positive response," Corbin said. "So I just took it upon myself to go to graduate school and then just try to make some inroads that way. But it wasn't like I had person that said ‘okay I'm going to help you get here.'"

The frustration of sitting stagnate was finally relieved when an advisor told Corbin that there "could possibly" be an opening at Wofford College, but Corbin would have to wait a few weeks to know for sure.

But Corbin had had enough waiting.

"I just jumped in my car and just took off in the middle of the night. 15 hours later I was in Spartanburg, South Carolina, in front of the athletic director asking him if it was possible for me to work there."

In his first weeks at Wofford, Corbin was the only resident of a 100-bed team room in the loft of an old gym. The new coach didn't inform his parents of his living conditions or that he was even in South Carolina until the job was confirmed two weeks later.

"I didn't want them to think I was running off the side of the road mentally," Corbin laughed. "But I knew I had to do something to meet my goals and follow my dreams as a coach."

After a brief assistant coaching career with Wofford, the Wofford athletic director put in a good word for Corbin at the near by Presbyterian College.

"Presbyterian College, which was their rival, was starting a baseball program and the athletic director knew I had a great chance of doing that, so he called over there and got me the position," Corbin explained. "That was probably one of the best things that could have happened to me."

At 24 years old, Corbin snagged his first head coaching job and stayed with Presbyterian for six years.

In 1994, Corbin was hired at Clemson as an assistant coach. Throughout his eight years with the Tigers, Corbin was promoted several times, eventually earning an associate head coach title.

Clemson Head coach, Jack Leggett, became one of Corbin's most influential coaching role models.

I really paid attention to everything he did. He just brought a lot of intensity and a lot of energy to practice everyday and his expectation level was very high," Corbin said. "I think from a knowledge standpoint and just hanging around a true coach and true friend, that probably had more of an influence on me than anything else."

Corbin also picked up some additional support at Clemson. Although they had met at Presbyterian College, Corbin began dating his future wife Maggie at Clemson.

The two were married in 1996 and Corbin quickly became part of the family.

"She had two girls at the time. I started raising them right about the time they were four and seven," Corbin said.

"That has probably been a blessing in disguise, actually. I was like any other guy who thought he was going to have his own kids and have a bunch of boys and have a basketball court in the back yard. I didn't, but I felt like it was a huge blessing. We have a great family and I enjoy it. I have three girls and my boys are what I coach. Once you immerse yourself in other people's kids you kind of learn how to coach other people's kids too."

After working his way up at Clemson and building a family of his own, in 2003 Corbin was hired as Vanderbilt head coach.

"When he came in he was all about changing the mentality about work ethic and determination," Vandy Pitcher Jensen Lewis explained.

In 2003 Corbin's work ethic showed in the stats. Corbin helped lead the Commodores to 14-16 in SEC play, rocking VU's 2002 7-21 record.

The historic 2004 season earned Vanderbilt a 16-14 record in the SEC, the Commodore's first SEC winning season since 1980.

"He's really pushed all these guys to work hard," Commodore first baseman Mike Baxter said. "He's always there to let you know that you could be doing more and pressing you and being an inspiration."

But despite his Coach of the Year award, Nashville celebrity status and winning record, Corbin's most satisfying coaching perk is his relationship with the players.

"The success is one thing, you can't always have success. It's there one moment and gone the next. I would say the relationships with the kids, the day in day out relationships are probably the most fun for me," Corbin explained. "Seeing the guys have success and enjoying success knowing how they earned it, through hard work and dedication."

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