If OSU baseball coach steps down, it has been a heck of a run

I don't know if Pat Casey will be back as head baseball coach at Oregon State next year.

I'm pretty sure Casey doesn't know yet, either.

What I do know is Casey, who recently completed his 17th season at the OSU helm, has contemplated retirement every year since after the 2008 season.

That was the year the Beavers failed to make the NCAA Tournament after claiming consecutive College World Series championships the previous two seasons.

It's a much different situation now. A young OSU team made a great run at another CWS appearance this spring, falling to an outstanding Vanderbilt club in the Super Regionals.

There is plenty of talent returning and what recruiting coordinator Marty Lees believes is a terrific group of freshmen on their way in the fall. The potential for a pitching staff reminiscent of the Buck/Nickerson/Gunderson/Stutes years is there. So Casey is not looking to get out as the program is headed for a downturn.

It's just that Casey, 52, struggles with his emotions after every season.

'Over the past couple of years, I have self-evaluated at the end of the season,' Casey told me Wednesday. 'I'm doing the same thing right now.

'I'm not discouraged with coaching. I'm not unhappy at Oregon State. It's about nothing more than the responsibility I feel for the program and the energy I want to coach with.

'I want to do what's right for Oregon State baseball. I owe it to the program to evaluate myself every year.'

Few put their heart and soul into the job as Casey, Baseball America's 'Coach of the Decade in the 2000s,' does at Oregon State.

In 35 years in the sports writing business, I can count on one hand the number of people as competitive on the athletic field as the Newberg native.

Casey, the reigning Pac-10 coach of the year, lives and dies with the program that he built from the ground up and turned into one of the Cinderella stories in the annals of college sports.

It's hard for Casey to decompress after a season. He's a 24/7/365 guy. Susan Casey will tell you that even on vacation, her husband is still engaged in Beaver baseball in some way.

Besides the grind of coaching six weeks in the fall and four to five months in the winter and spring, there is recruiting and fund-raising and the job of turning boys into fine young men. Nobody does it better.

The youngest of Casey's four offspring, Joe, is in middle school. Pat has missed a lot of the lives of his three older children while coaching. More time to watch Joe play sports might be a healthy proposition for a father who has given up a lot for the profession he loves.

If this is the time Casey has chosen to get away from the game - and we should know in a few weeks - he deserves an administrative position somewhere in the OSU athletic department.

I have great respect for Lees, Casey's likely successor. But if Casey leaves, it will be a gigantic blow not just to the OSU baseball program but to the entire athletic department.

Casey is an institution in college baseball throughout the land. His presence is the primary reason why national-caliber recruits consider Oregon State. If he were to bow out, it would be comparable to Ralph Miller's retirement as basketball coach in 1989.

I'm not saying OSU baseball would become an also-ran as have the Beaver hoopers, but it would be difficult to maintain the same level of success the baseball team has enjoyed over the past decade.

Casey loves his coaches, his players and his school. He holds great respect for athletic director Bob De Carolis and appreciates the autonomy he has had running his program in recent years.

Perhaps Casey will recharge again this summer and choose to return next season. For now, he's not tipping his hand one way or the other.

'I don't want to talk about it, to be honest with you,' Casey told me Wednesday. "I'm just going about doing my work.'

It's what champions do. It's what Pat Casey does. I hope he does it at Oregon State a while longer.

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