On Monday, longtime Lamar Cardinals head baseball coach Jim Gilligan announced that he would be retiring after the 2016 season.
Gilligan, who was head coach of the Cardinals between 1973 and 1986 and then returned to lead the team beginning again in 1992, boasts more than 1,300 career wins. He is a five-time Southland Conference Coach of the Year and he was named Sun Belt Coach of the Year in 1993. He is also a member of the Texas Baseball Hall of Fame.
During his tenure, his Lamar teams have made 12 appearances in NCAA regionals, with a particularly successful period of time falling between 1976 and 1985, when the Cardinals made six regional appearances.
The talent that has come through the school’s Beaumont, Texas, campus is pretty impressive as well. Among the players Gilligan has developed are big leaguers like Clay Hensley, Micah Hoffpauir, Brian Sanches, Kevin Millar, and Jerald Clark.
More than anything else, though, the consistency of Gilligan’s Lamar teams stands out. On only five occasions has a Gilligan-led Lamar team finished under .500 and they’ve won 35 or more games in a season 23 times. He’s been so consistent for such a long time that when the Southland Conference named it’s 50th anniversary teams by decade, he was named the head coach of three different decades (70s, 80s, and 00s).
Gilligan has been a very, very good coach for a long time, and his successor, whoever it may be, is going to have big shoes to fill.
Of course, the next head coach will also have quite a bit to work with at Lamar. The program boasts a quality facility, Vincent-Beck Stadium, and their location in east Texas provides advantages as well. They find themselves close enough to Houston to effectively recruit that talent-rich metropolis, while also finding themselves no more than a hop, skip, and a jump away from some fertile recruiting grounds in Louisiana.
On top of that, the Southland Conference is perhaps as wide open now as it has been in a while. SHSU isn’t likely to go anywhere as a top-flight program, but they did miss the postseason in 2015 for the first time since 2011. Southeastern Louisiana has emerged as a solid contender after winning the league tournament in 2014 and winning the regular season crown last year, but they are far from entrenched as the class of the SLC.
Those are issues for another day, though. For now, let’s take a moment to appreciate what Gilligan has done for the Lamar Cardinals and the game of college baseball. Here’s hoping that his 2016 team can send him out in style.