By Jeff Owens | Photo by Allen Sharpe
After finishing 28-28 and 12th in the 14-team SEC, South Carolina head coach Mark Kingston is making changes to his coaching staff going into the offseason.
“It didn’t go as well as any of us wanted, but we are going to move on and we are going to make things better,” Kingston said Tuesday.
Part of Kingston’s plan involves shuffling his assistant coaches into new roles. Director of Player Development Trip Couch and assistant Mike Current will basically swap roles, with Couch going on the road as the chief recruiter and Current taking over the player development role and serving as Kingston’s right-hand man day to day and in the dugout. Assistant coach Stuart Lake will become the full-time hitting coach, a role Current split with his recruiting duties last year.
“I think that will optimize everybody’s talents and continue to get this program as good as it possibly can be,” Kingston said. “I think this is clearly the best use of all of our guys’ talent.”
Current came to South Carolina from South Florida with Kingston, while Couch was a long-time assistant at the University of Houston before joining Kingston in Columbia. Lake is in his second stint at South Carolina after serving as head coach at Charleston Southern and as an assistant at Ole Miss after staring his coaching career under Ray Tanner in 1999.
“Mike Current has done a really good job on the recruiting trail for us, but with me, he has always been close to me in terms of the inner workings of our program and he has not been able to do that the last two years and I think that’s where he helps me the most,” Kingston said.
Couch, a former scout with the Arizona Diamondbacks, has been a talent evaluator for most of his career and Kingston calls him one of the most highly regarded scouts in the country. “This puts him in a perfect role for him,” he said.
Lake’s role could be particularly crucial as the Gamecocks were either at or near the bottom of the SEC in nearly every offensive category last year. They were last in the league with a .236 team batting average, 13th in on-base percentage (.333) and tied for second in strikeouts.
“Stuart Lake has developed a lot of hitters over the years, here and at Ole Miss, wherever he has been,” Kingston said. “Last year with Mike Current being the hitting coach/recruiting coordinator he got spread thin. When he was recruiting, he was away from the hitters, and when he was with the hitters he was away from recruiting. This is a much more seamless way to have everybody doing their strengths and making sure nothing is missed. I’m really excited about these guys maximizing what they can do for this program in these roles.”
While Kingston will still have a role with the offense, having a full-time hitting coach should make an impact, he said.
“The biggest thing is Stu will just be able to be in the trenches with those guys every second,” Kingston said. “Stu has been the assistant hitting coach, but at times, it hasn’t been his baby. He will have full ownership of that offense. I think him being able to be in the trenches for every swing in the cages and every swing on the field, he’s the voice that’s leading that group. … He will be there every second and that’s going to be a major part.
“He’s an old-school guy that will bring an attitude to that group that we are looking for. He’s proven and he’s coached a ton of offenses over the years and he will do a really good job.”