Gilmore gets his 1,000th win the old fashioned way

col-tbuzz (2)It was only fitting that Coastal Carolina baseball coach Gary Gilmore’s 1,000th career victory came in extra innings. After all, much of his success is a product of putting in lots of overtime.

Gilmore reached the milestone Thursday when the Chants needed 13 innings to knock off Presbyterian, which coincidentally was the same team Gilmore got his first victory during his head coaching debut at USC Aiken.

When Gilmore returned to take the top job at Coastal, his alma mater, in 1996, I was a rookie reporter who was assigned to catch up with the coach after his first few weeks on the job. I arrived at the CCU coaches offices to learn that Gilmore was at his new home – living in a pop-up camper under the baseball stadium.

With his family still back in Aiken, including his infant son Chance, who ended up playing for his father at CCU, Gilmore was spending his every waking hour – and even his sleeping ones – at the Chants’ ballpark. And even when his family finally relocated to the Grand Strand and moved into their new home, it was not uncommon for him to pull some all-nighters on campus.

Gilmore quickly gave Coastal something it desperately needed – a high-profile program that could compete with anyone in the nation. Football was still a pipe dream, and the basketball program was struggling from the NCAA haymaker it received in 1994. Gilmore took what little he had to work with and built the baseball program into a powerhouse.

In his tenure, the Chants have been to the NCAA Regional in each of the last seven years, with 13 NCAA berths in all. His teams have won 40-plus games over 12 of the last 15 years, and the Chants have a streak of 16 straight winning seasons. Big South championships are the norm, and big-name programs now know about Coastal Carolina.

The lone hurdle left for Gilmore and his program is a trip to Omaha for the College World Series. After several close calls over the years, Coastal continues its quest to play in college baseball’s version of the Elite Eight. It’s one of the reasons he has passed up bigger, higher paying jobs over the years to be true to his school.

So here’s to Gilmore’s accomplishment, which shows just how far he and CCU have come during his 19 years. May his next milestone, an all-expense paid trip to Omaha, be the next item to get crossed off on his to-do list.

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