CARBONDALE -- Southern Illinois University Director of Athletics Jerry Kill introduced Lance Rhodes as the eighth head coach in Saluki Baseball history on Monday afternoon at a news conference in Banterra Center.
Following are the opening statements from both Coach Kill and Coach Rhodes.
Jerry Kill's opening statement
Thank you for being here today in a great moment for us. We are excited about the direction we're going with our baseball program. Before I go any further, I definitely want to thank Ken Hendersonfor all the things he has done for the program. There are not very many times you can stay at one place as long as he has stayed here.
I promise you, I couldn't. I usually got run off about Year 5 or Year 7. Actually, (SIU) was the only place I stayed seven (years), so that's a pretty good tenure, there. I want to thank Ken, but we're moving on to a new era. We went through an extensive search. Mike Reis was a part of that search. He has been here a long time, and is a longtime baseball guy. Jimmy Karayiannis was a part of that search. We also reached out to a lot of people. I can't mention them all, to protect them a little bit. I will tell you, one of our own: Mark Newman -- that name should be familiar to anyone who follows baseball; he has been with the Yankees organization forever and George Steinbrenner's right-hand man; he also coached and played here. So we had a lot of great help; and with that, we had great candidates. Any time you have that, you have to do your research. At the end of the day, it kept coming back to one person. It kept coming back to Lance. Not very often can you get three people in the same room all on the same page, but we all (Reis, Karayiannis, Kill) got on the same page. We always look for the perfect fit. What's the perfect fit for us at Southern Illinois? There is no question in my mind that we have found the perfect fit. We have invested in baseball; we're going to be good in baseball; and we're going to win in baseball. That's what we're going to do. At this time, you don't want to listen to me, you want to listen to the next head coach: Lance Rhodes.
Coach Rhodes's opening statement
Thank you all for coming out. I didn't expect this crowd. This is impressive. I've been on campus now for three days. When I see a family like I've seen for the past three days, that's something truly special to be a part of. My first day on campus, I walked into the Banterra Center and met hundreds of people, and I've forgotten their names. Hopefully I'll learn those in the coming months. Maybe it was a Friday and everyone was happy because they're about to go on a weekend, but it was a truly a family environment. That's what's special about me coming here: being able to dive into this family and get my family involved. You welcomed me better than I could have ever imagined, and I'm extremely thankful for that.
There are many people that I need to thank for where I'm standing today. I'm going to keep it pretty short because if I get to naming a bunch of names, I will forget some special people who have put me in this position I'm in today. First of all, I want to thank Coach Kill for giving me the opportunity to lead this program that has so much storied success. For him to trust me as a first-time head coach is something that I will remember for the rest of my life and be extremely thankful for.
I want to thank all the former players who have worked extremely hard and put in extra hours and time, and who have been extremely successful, that has given me an opportunity to be a head coach. Without those players, I wouldn't be standing here today. I'm thankful for all the former players I have had the opportunity to coach.
I have been around three unbelievable head coaches as an assistant. Mark Hogan was a friend of mine when I was growing up. I couldn't have asked for a better coach to guide me. He led me at Southeast Missouri State. He showed me what it was like, as a coach to a player, to treat people like family. He also gave me my first opportunity as a coach.
When you're trying to break into this business, you have to have someone who takes a chance on you. He did that. When I was a 23-year-old kid, he gave me an opportunity. Without that opportunity, I wouldn't be here today. Rob Fournier, a legend in junior college baseball, gave me an opportunity as a pitching coach to guide a program. For the first time, he said, 'It's on you. Go do it.'
Who knows how many times I screwed it up those first three years, but he stuck with me. I can't thank him enough. I got the opportunity to work with Steve Bieser for eight years. He is one of the best college baseball coaches in the country. He showed me the value of running an entire program with culture and so many other factors other than X's and O's. He showed me what it's like to treat players with respect and earn their respect. I couldn't be in this position without him. I'm thankful for my mom and dad. They've thought I have been the best player and the best coach forever.
As a volunteer coach, you need a family that can help support you. They did that 11 years ago, supporting me when I first got in. I'm thankful for them. The most important person is my wife, Brittney. She has allowed me to have a job to where I get to show up to a baseball field for 11 years. We had no idea what we were getting into the coaching business.
There have been so many times when she has had to take care of the kids on her own when I'm out recruiting. She works a heck of a lot harder than I do. I'm thankful for her and what she does to allow me to coach college baseball. It wouldn't be fun if she wasn't on board. I'm extremely thankful for what she's done for me so far.
When I talk about who I am -- I'm a builder. I have been a builder at two programs before I got the opportunity to come here. The same message I've said for the last seven years is going to be the same message that I will send to recruits here immediately at SIU: Do you want to be a builder, or do you want to be a renter? I want recruits that share that vision to build something extremely impressive, that's going to be dear to their hearts. When they come back in 15 or 20 years on alumni days, they can say, 'We're the guys who helped build SIU baseball into what it is today.'
I'm all about building. I want to build as a family. I want your support into building SIU baseball into what I truly believe and envision it to be.
The motto we're going to go by is, 'Climb The Ladder.' It's a one-step-at-a-time approach. We're not going to get too far ahead of ourselves. One step at a time, we can make this program into what we all believe it can be. When you talk about that, for me, there are four steps:
I didn't get an opportunity to recruit these players. It's my job to earn their trust with work ethic and relationships. I want them to know that everyone in this athletics department has their best interest at heart. I will do everything I can do to express that to our guys, so that they can buy into doing what we want them to do as coaches.
I want to get 35 like-minded guys in that locker room, where they love and want to be around each other. Where they can build that brotherhood of friendships for the rest of their lives. If we can get like-minded guys on the same page, we have an opportunity to walk out of that clubhouse and onto the field and do some special things.
I want our guys to be out in this great community. I want them to be involved. That way, people in this community want to come out and support the baseball program, whether that's being in the stands supporting us, or being excited about the program in general. Our guys are going to do a lot of community service hours.
I want them to be visible. I want the program to be seen in this region and nationally. It's a program that, in my opinion, has a chance to really make an impression on the nation with what we have here at SIU.
What I want our product to look like is a relentless pursuit of excellence in all areas. I want you to, whenever you see a baseball player on campus, you know it's a baseball player by the way he carries himself, by the way he looks, by the way he dresses, by the way he interacts, the way he talks.
I want him to have that aura about him that you just know, there's something special about him, there's something special about that team. I want you to be able to come to the field and watch us play and walk away with a 'Wow' moment that, for 27 outs, those guys really get after it. They play extremely hard. There's never a sign of panic, and I want to come back and see these guys play more.
If we can do that and have high-character guys in this program, there's no reason why we can't have the opportunity to go to Omaha. That's my goal as a college coach. I've dreamed of getting to Omaha, Nebraska ever since I became a college baseball coach, and it will be my dream until I'm done coaching college baseball.
I truly believe it can be done. I can't wait to get started here and take this program to the vision that Coach Kill has. I'm right on board with everything he has laid out for me. Again, I'm extremely thankful to Coach for giving me this opportunity. I can't wait to get involved with the athletic department, to get to know you better, to get my family involved with your families.