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KERRY EGGERS ON SPORTS/Interim coach tag not enough of an endorsement for Pat Casey's successor at Oregon State

CORVALLIS — George Fox has to be among the best farm systems in college athletics.

At least that's the way Oregon State looks at it.

The NCAA Division III school in Newberg, 60 miles north of Corvallis, first provided Oregon State with baseball coach Pat Casey, who had coached for seven years at George Fox before taking over the OSU program in 1995.

Then there was Scott Rueck, who became Oregon State's women's basketball coach in 2010 after 14 seasons at George Fox, which he took to a national championship in 2009.

Now there is Pat Bailey, who has succeeded the retiring Casey as head baseball coach at OSU on a one-year interim basis. Bailey coached a dozen seasons at George Fox, winning a national championship in 2004.

BAILEYBailey has been Casey's associate head coach and right-hand man since joining the Oregon State staff in 2007.

"We're really close friends," Bailey, 62, said Thursday.

It's more than that. The two Pats are like family. Casey strongly suggested to OSU athletic director Scott Barnes that, in his retirement, the man who should take over the OSU program is Bailey. To his credit, Barnes listened.

Bailey isn't a carbon copy of Casey, but he's pretty close. Like Casey, he's a straight shooter, religious, a family man and an excellent baseball coach. Bailey was a head coach for 26 years at three Oregon high schools and at George Fox before joining Casey's staff.

"When Pat called me (for an interview), I had zero interest in being an assistant coach," Bailey said. "I met with him, and the first hour we spent together had nothing to do with baseball. We talked about the man-building business, the opportunity to develop and mold young men and build character. That's the most important thing we do in our program."

Bailey has been like a second head coach to the Oregon State program. He has prepared scouting reports on the opposition. He has been the program's recruiting coordinator, luring so many of the Northwest's top talents to Corvallis. He has worked with the outfielders. He has been the program's de facto academic coordinator.

Like Casey, Bailey is a ferocious competitor.

"We're very similar," Bailey said. "I'm more relaxed on game day than Pat, although there are times I get pretty mad during games. My daughter and I play cards, and my wife has to leave the room. We get after each other. I don't like to lose at anything. I want to win."

After Thursday's press conference, Bailey told me he intended to put his own stamp on the OSU program, though it won't vary a lot from the way it was run under Casey.

"I'm going to be Pat Bailey," he said. "'Case' said the same thing when he came in. Case talks about family and loving his players. I love our guys. They're like sons to me.

"Helping our players become men is the most important thing we do. I'm a firm believer that hard work starts in the classroom. I want our guys to take school seriously. I owe that to their parents and their future families."

Bailey said there was no hesitation when the job was offered to him, albeit on an interim basis.

"One of the things that helped me and Case get along so well, you want your assistants to be loyal," Bailey said. "That was something I understood. We ended up being close. We have such a great relationship. But I've always wanted to be a head coach again. I love that opportunity to organize everything.

"I've always believed that luck is where preparation meets opportunity, and I've been really involved with the preparation part for a while. It's going to be business as usual. Pat and I are close friends, but we have different personalities. There are going to be some changes. It'll be a little different. But come on. I'm always amazed when coaches come into a successful situation and try to change things. That's ridiculous. I wouldn't be coaching with Pat if we didn't have similar philosophies."

Bailey will retain pitching coach Nate Yeskie, who was recently given a raise to the $200,000 range, which might make him the highest-paid coach at his position in the Pac-12. Third-base coach Andy Jenkins, who has worked on a volunteer basis for the past seven years, will become a full-time assistant. Undergrad assistants Ryan Gorton and Bill Rowe will return, as will Tyler Graham as director of player development and Jake Rodriguez as director of operations. Bailey will soon hire a volunteer assistant to fill Jenkins' spot.

"Nate is the best pitching coach in the country," Bailey sad. "Andy has done a great job with our infield and coaching third base. I have a great coaching staff behind me."

The circumstances around Bailey's hiring on a one-year interim basis are troubling, however. Barnes announced Thursday that a national search will begin at the conclusion of the 2019 season, meaning this will be a one-year audition for Bailey to remove the "interim" tag from his title.

"It's very late in the year, so a search now wouldn't pay off," Barnes said Thursday, adding that "we would be happy" to have both Bailey and Yeskie involved in the search.

It's early September. If Barnes were to conduct a national search now, there would be plenty of time to hire a new head coach and have his system implemented well before the season starts next February. The school from which the coach were hired would have ample time to hire his replacement.

More than that, though, Bailey deserves better than to have to audition for the job. Barnes should have signed him to a multi-year contract and run with it. Bailey is fully qualified for the job. He understands — and helped build — the culture that has turned Casey's program into a national power. There is no need to turn the program over to an outsider.

Oregon State has strong recruiting groups committed for the high school classes of 2019 and '20. Those players, and their families, want to know who their head coach will be. Having Bailey in place on a one-year basis will give some of those players pause about their commitments. Rival schools will use that in their own recruiting during the upcoming year.

Bailey will offer no complaints.

"I'm not worried about (the interim tag)," he said. "I'm focused on today. We're supposed to live each day one at a time. That's what my focus will be.

"I'm going to give it my best shot. I'm a really good communicator. Our guys are going to have very clear expectations of what I believe in and what we're going to do on and off the field. I'll worry about next summer when it comes. I can promise you this: I'm a committed Christian. God expects us to work hard. I'm going to work hard."

Bailey is 62, but he's a young 62, for sure.

"I have no interest in retirement," he said. "This is my mission field. It's an opportunity for me to impact and have influence on kids' lives. As long as I stay healthy and I enjoy what I'm doing, I'm interested in continuing to coach."

Barnes should remove the interim label as soon as possible and give Bailey that opportunity. Continuity is integral to Oregon State's program remaining among the nation's best. There's no reason to leave any doubts that Pat Bailey is the right man for the job.

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@kerryeggers

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