Inside Pitch caught up with University of Florida head coach Kevin O’Sullivan, who is married to wife Barbara Jo and has a daughter, Payton Tyler O’Sullivan, to discuss just how he’s made the Gator chomp so vicious.
Inside Pitch: When did you realize you were going to be a coach?
Kevin O’Sullivan: After I graduated from the University of Virginia I basically had two career paths: physical therapy or med school, or get into the coaching side of things. I graduated in December, so I had the spring semester at home in Jupiter (Fl.), where I did some substitute teaching and got into high school coaching and from that point on, I knew it was what I was going to do.
A big influence on me was Bob Shaw. He lived in my hometown and took me under his wing. It was very eye opening, an opportunity that most people don’t get. After practice, we’d go get something to eat and we’d break it down: pitching, bunting, base running, infield play, you name it. He was such a knowledgeable guy in all phases of the game and to this day, I still remember writing notes down on napkins, going home and thinking about some of the things we spoke about.
Having Coach Shaw get me started in coaching really got me going. He’s still probably the smartest baseball guy I’ve ever met. He’d been at every level- played in the big leagues, worked his way through the minor leagues, was a big league pitching coach, and got into American Legion baseball, which was really competitive at the time. And he referenced people- when he talked about base running, he talked about Maury Wills, when he talked about catching, he talked about Del Crandall. He had such a wealth of knowledge from so many people, and he passed it on, and I was smart enough to really pay attention.
IP: Who are some of the other mentors?
KO: I think you take something from everybody. There are a lot of good X’s and O’s guys out there, but running a program is more than that- academics, behavior, representing your program and how you’re perceived, and getting involved in the community. I learned a lot from Coach Leggett at Clemson. Dennis Womack gave me the opportunity to be a pitching coach. Kevin Cooney was also very instrumental. The bottom line is if you’re not observant and you’re not paying attention, I think you’re missing the boat.
IP: What would you like for people to notice when they watch a Kevin O’Sullivan-coached team?
KO: Hopefully we play the game the right way- fundamentally sound. We’re going to play hard; we’re going to play fair. The bottom line is that we try to do everything the right way- win with class, lose with class, play hard, play spirited, but at the end of the game, win or lose, we have a tremendous amount of respect for our opponent.
IP: When you got the job at Florida, how did you assemble your staff?
KO: We all come from the Bob Shaw coaching tree. Our assistant coaches, Brad Weitzel and Craig Bell, were both involved in professional baseball and they both were scouts, but really they were baseball people first. I’ve known them both for over 20 years, and to be able to evaluate talent, to coach and be on the same page- what we want to get across to players is basically the same thing- it’s a natural fit. They also have Florida ties, they’re very well respected people and they know the state.
I knew it was a little bit different than what others have done in the past, but with the players we’re recruiting at Florida, there needed to be professional influence because the players get scouted so much. Above all, they’re baseball guys first.
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