The South Carolina athletics department added a number of new coaches to several programs during the off-season, bringing in a wide range of experience and optimism for the upcoming season.
Perhaps the most notable development was the football team finding its next offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach in Dowell Loggains. Following the conclusion of the season last winter, Loggains joined the Gamecocks from the University of Arkansas, where he served as the tight ends coach, and boasts 16 years as a quarterbacks coach and offensive coordinator in the NFL.
“It’s such a great place," Loggains said in his introductory press conference last December. "(I) played here as a player. (I) haven’t got to coach at this place yet, but I’m looking forward to it (and) my family is. We’re excited to be Gamecocks and get this process started."
The track and field team saw the most coaching changes during the off-season with four new additions to the staff, including new head coach Tim Hall. Hall was hired in late June following the retirement of Curtis Frye, who had led the program for the past 27 years. Hall most recently coached at the University of Kentucky, where he worked with sprinters for five years.
Hall made his mark on the program only about a month after being hired when he brought in three new coaches. The first coach, Shawn Jackson, joined the Gamecocks in July to coach jumps after 11 years at Texas Christian University. Hall then added Brock Moreaux to serve as the assistant coach of the cross country and distance groups. Moreaux previously was the head coach for the University of New Orleans. Lastly, Morrie Turner, who was an assitant coach for Alabama State, was hired as an assistant coach focused on 400-meter sprints, relays and intermediate hurdles.
In softball, South Carolina enlisted Jake Epstein to be the the team's new hitting coach. Epstein brings a lot of familiarity with playing at the collegiate and professional levels to the table, as well as a wealth of coaching experience at the University of Missouri. He also spent six years as a hitting consultant for the Milwaukee Brewers and founded the Epstein Online Hitting Academy.
In making his transition from being a hitting instructor for multiple levels of play to settling down at a single college, Epstein said he wanted to make sure he fit in well with South Carolina.
“It was like an instant, comfortable staff to be around. There was no awkwardness with speaking to anyone. It was just so comfortable, so that was number one for me,” Epstein said. “I need it to be a good fit for my family. I need it to be a good fit for me to enjoy the job everyday.”
Like Epstein, Johnny Parkes, the new associate head coach of the men’s tennis team, has trained athletes of all different levels and skill. He coached in player development for 25 years and worked with athletes in the Association of Tennis Professionals and the International Tennis Federation.
“What I’ve learned in my coaching career so far is that every athlete is different. Every person is different,” Parkes said. “I feel that a sense of individualizing based off each player, each person, is going be something that they’re going to get a lot out of.”
The beach volleyball program also made an addition to its coaching staff in hiring assistant coach Alex Luna, who built the beach volleyball program at Stephen F. Austin State University from scratch and served as head coach for five seasons. He is also currently a player in a number of professional volleyball leagues, such as the Association of Volleyball Professionals Grass Tour, AVP Beach Qualifiers and the Volleyball League of America.
“I love the coaches that are here, RJ and Ritz. It was a big thing for me, being able to join them and add value to them,” Luna said about head coach Moritz Moritz and assistant coach RJ Abella. “They’ve been together since the start of the program here, and so I think for me, having started my own program and coming here as a previous head coach, I think I can just bring a fresh perspective and a fresh lens to how they’re looking at things.”
Finally, the women’s basketball team hired Winston Gandy as an assistant coach. Gandy, like the other new coaching hires, garners a similar resume working with both professional and collegiate athletes. He worked three seasons with the player development program for the NBA’s Washington Wizards and spent six seasons coaching NCAA Division I teams, including Duke and Rice.
With each coach coming from varying backgrounds, South Carolina fans will be watching to see how the additions to the Gamecock programs will apply their fresh perspectives and talents to help develop the next generation of Gamecock student-athletes.