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September 11, 2013
Back on Aug. 5, head baseball coach Chad Holbrook annoucced two new additions to his staff. One name was familiar - beloved third-baseman and two-time national champion Adrian Morales - and the other, well, not so much.
Meet Tyson Lusk, a Winston-Salem native and 2009 University of North Carolina graduate who has been with the Tar Heel baseball program for eight years and who is now the University of South Carolina's director of baseball operations.
GamecockCentral.com's Ron Aiken sat down with Lusk earlier this week to talk about his background with coach Holbrook, his six trips to Omaha with UNC and what he hopes to accomplish in Columbia.
GamecockCentral.com: First things first. Has it been tough to switch Carolinas?
Tyson Lusk: Not terribly. I had familiarity with Coach Holbrook and actually all his staff, really. I met them at the Super Regional (in June) and from games here before. It was a little bit easier than if I'd gone into a job completely blind. That familiarity made it easy, and everyone here has been so nice, too.
GC: Coach Holbrook told me he first met you while he was recruiting a high school classmate of yours. What's the story there?
Lusk: It was Northside High School, and he was recruiting Addison Johnson, who actually ended up going to Clemson, and we met. That was my senior year. That was the first time we met. I went to UNC, applied for a job in the baseball office and we kind of put it together that we'd met. That was in May of 2005.
GC: So obviously you've had a good relationship with Coach Holbrook for the past eight years.
Lusk: We hit it off from the start. We became really good friends. When he left in 2008 we kept in good contact with each other and remained friends. We were extremely close at North Carolina, so it was a natural fit when you came down here.
GC: What were the conversations like when the Gamecocks were playing in the Chapel Hill Super Regional?
Lusk: It was almost like we were weren't on separate teams, because I think our friendship is bigger than working for separate teams. It wasn't like Coach Holbrook at South Carolina and me at North Carolina, it was just two friends who don't get to see each other that much.
GC: Did the talk of a job here in Columbia come up?
Lusk: No. Nothing was open until after North Carolina's season ended. There was no discussion of that.
GC: How did the job come about?
Lusk: Our season ended when we lost to UCLA. We got back to Chapel Hill and a few days later coach Holbrook texted me and said there was the potential this job would be open and what did I think about it? We talked on the phone and I came down and ended up feeling very comfortable and thought it was a very good opportunity.
GC: What were your first thoughts when getting that initial text?
Lusk: At the end of the year, when your team loses it's kind of depressing, so you're not really thinking about much of anything, but it was definitely intriguing because I think this position is kind of the next step up for me from where I was. I knew Coach Holbrook, how much he enjoyed his staff and support staff here that it could be a possibility where it could work out, and it has. It was tough to leave, but this was a great opportunity and one I didn't think I could pass up.
GC: I see you majored in political science; is athletics what you want to do the rest of your career?
Lusk: I majored in poly sci, but once I started working with the baseball team I kind of realized college athletics was where I wanted to be. It's work but it's also a whole lot of fun. You get to meet so many great new people every year. The relationships you build on a team are great. I can't speak for other career paths, but I don't know you'd get those same strong relationships if you weren't involved with a team.
GC: What excited you about South Carolina?
Lusk: The success is unprecedented. If you're involved in college baseball you know that the University of South Carolina is the preeminent college baseball program in the country. What they've done the last few years, seeing it from North Carolina, obviously I followed coach Holbrook closely, the national championships, the fan support, the facilities...I can't say I've been to every facility, but I Can't imagine there are many better than this one.
And the fact that you get seven, eight thousand people most every game, conference games and a couple thousand people for our scrimmages, that's pretty foreign to me. I think it's a great thing. You combine the support and success of South Carolina baseball and it's something I'm really excited to be a part of.
GC: Speaking of following coach Holbrook as he left for USC, was it nice to see him experience a championship after losing in back-to-back years at North Carolina?
Lusk: I was really pulling for him. We lost (the national championship series) in 2006 and 2007, and that's an unbelievable painful feeling, and I think we all still carry around that bitter taste in our mouths. So it was great for me to see him be able to win one, then two, and I was pulling for him to win a third one.
I think it was great for him. He's such a good coach and a good person, I felt like he really deserved it. I'd like to win one, too.
GC: Having known him for longer than most South Carolina fans, what's special about Chad Holbrook?
Lusk: I think he has a great personality, a great sense of humor. Much like the other coacehs on this staff, very kind. He's a person you can trust and depend on. I think that's why he's such a good recruiter; people are naturally attracted to him, present company included.
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