July 6, 2013
By Phillip Marshall
AUBURN – Sunny Golloway, Auburn’s new baseball coach, laughs as he tells the story. He was an assistant at Oklahoma in 1994 when he put in a call to late LSU assistant Beetle Bailey.
Golloway had heard of LSU head coach Skip Bertman’s inspirational story about everyone holding on to the same rope. And he wanted to share it with Oklahoma players. He asked Bailey if he could get it on paper.
Bailey told him that Bertman had it in his office, but he wasn’t sure he would share it.
“He said ‘I’m going to sneak in Skip’s office and get it for you, but don’t tell anybody,’” Golloway says. “I shared it with our Oklahoma team in 1994 and we went on to win the national championship. When I talked to Beetle, I said, ‘Hey, the rope is 2 for 2.’”
Bertman writes about the rope in his book “The Baseball Coaching Bible – Inspiring Today’s Player.” He writes that it came from his high school football coach.
“I called each player into my office and showed him a piece of rope that I threw over the edge of my desk,” Bertman writes. “ I asked each player, ‘If you were at one end of the rope with nothing between you and a thousand foot fall to certain death, who would you want holding the other end of the rope, knowing that his hands were so strong and that he loved you so much he would never let go?’
Various players responded with the names of various teammates, but Bertman told them all they needed more.
“Fellas, when you tell me, ‘It doesn't matter who holds on to the other end of the rope, as long as he’s a teammate of mine,’ then we’ll be one,” Bertman writes that he told them. “We’ll be free to trust one another, make mistakes, and still feel good about our decisions.”
Golloway, introduced on June 15 as Auburn’s head baseball coach, says he will take that message to Auburn players, too.
Golloway was fascinated with Bertman’s inspirational leadership. He admired how Augie Garrido taught the bunting game as head coach at Cal State Fullerton. He tried to emulate the toughness former Oklahoma State coach Gary Ward instilled in his teams that won 16 consecutive Big Eight Conference championships.
In 15 seasons as a head coach, Golloway has incorporated things from those coaches and others. And he has added a healthy helping of his own beliefs. The result has been 14 NCAA regional appearances, four super regionals and a College world Series.
Golloway says his Auburn teams will bunt, steal bases and hit-and-run. He says they will play defense and pitch with passion.
“With the new bats, you have to bunt,” Golloway says. “I looked at the stats for Auburn last season: Middle of the pack in hitting, middle of the pack in pitching, bottom of the pack in scoring. Bottom of the pack in sacrifice flies, bottom of the pack in sacrifice bunting. They just didn’t play enough small ball. And there were too many unearned runs. Pitching was pretty good, though, and the hitting was good.
“We have to shore up things we control. To me, those are the things we can control. Them going to the plate and getting hits as a team is on the kids. You can develop them and you can train them, but they have to go to the plate and do that. Our job is, once they get on, to get them over and get them in. That’s where coaching strategy comes in. We have to get a little better defensively. We have to take care of the baseball.”
More from Golloway:
On dealing with the state of Alabama’s lack of lottery scholarships
“People are aware of it, and that’s good enough for me. You adjust and make sure you don’t make mistakes recruiting. That’s probably the best way to put it. It’s about player development. If you don’t put as much scholarship in this guy and because of the Hope scholarship he goes to another school, you just go to the next guy and do a little bit better job of developing him.
“From what I’ve seen, there are a couple of players I’ve already seen here that would have started for me last year. We had three freshman All-Americans and eight freshmen contribute. One guy would have been as good as anybody I had, and he only played in 15-16 games. He is a big-time talent.”
On teaching his system to Auburn players
“There are no excuses. If it starts out bad and we have to adjust, they are still my guys and I’ll be their coach. We’ll find a way to get it done. My philosophy is you have to steal some bases and get thrown out for them to learn how to steal some bases and be safe. You have to probably swing and miss on some hit-and-runs before they understand we can’t swing and miss on hit-and-runs.”
On retaining Scott Foxhall as pitching coach
“I had no thoughts of retaining Scott Foxhall. Once I talked to him, I couldn’t be more impressed. I knew he could recruit because I’d seen the talent. That’s like (freshman signee Keegan) Thompson. That’s one of the top arms in the United States. They have nothing but crimson in their house. They are Alabama through and through. I looked at them and said ‘What are you doing sitting in this office in Auburn?’ They said ‘Scott Foxhall.’ I just had to find out if he could coach pitchers. He can.”
On his day-to-day role as head coach
“I am the head coach and I am going to delegate and make sure you do what you are supposed to do. I’m going to help Coach Foxhall decide who should be on the mound Friday, Saturday and Sunday and who is the closer.”
Phillip Marshall is a Senior Writer for AuburnTigers.com. Follow Marshall on Twitter: