Scott Whitlock, Kennesaw State’s longtime softball coach, announced Saturday that he would be retiring after the 2013 season, choosing to remain on staff as an associate athletic director under AD Vaughn Williams.
This spring will be Whitlock’s 27th season at the softball team’s helm.
“The time is right,” he said Saturday about his decision to retire. “The game and the job have grown to where it’s hard to adjust to both. After (27) years, you want to do what you can for the university and let fresher eyes take over the ballclub. It’s the right time and right place, and I have the utmost confidence in Holly.”
Williams, in a statement, called Whitlock, who served as the university’s interim athletic director between Dave Waples’ retirement and Williams’ hiring, “an icon to Kennesaw State University and KSU athletics.”
“He has been very instrumental to every phase of every growth of this institution,” Williams added. “His legacy does not end, but it continues just in another way that will benefit this institution. He will become an important part of the administrative senior management team.”
Whitlock’s top assistant, Wes Holly Jr., was tabbed as the coach-in-waiting for the 2014 season.
Holly has been an understudy of Whitlock’s for the past five seasons, he’s had a knack for developing pitchers. Former Kennesaw State ace Jessica Cross was named to the Atlantic Sun Conference first team and earned all-region honors, and Holly has also had a hand in the success of returning pitchers Abbey Mixon and Amanda Henderson.
“I don’t think I can pick a better person,” Whitlock said of Holly. “The assistant coaches I’ve had over the years have been great, and I am excited that one of them is going to get a chance.”
It may be hard to find an established college softball coach who hasn’t heard of Whitlock.
Whitlock holds a 1,105-295 career record and has suffered only one losing season in the nearly three decades he’s coached the Owls. He’s also captured two Division II national titles and 13 regional championships, and he’s coached more than 50 all-American players during his storied career.
Kennesaw State was still playing slow-pitch softball when Whitlock took over in 1987, and he had no difficulty turning the program into a winner. Once the Owls made the transition to fast-pitch in 1991, they finished fourth in the NAIA and were national runners-up the flowing year.
After moving to NCAA Division II in 1994, Kennesaw State finished fourth nationally in its first season. A year later, the Owls won their first national championship by battling their way through the losers’ bracket and beating Bloomsburg (Pa.) twice to seal the victory. They defended their championship in 1996 and had gone to the national tournament 11 straight years before coming up short in 2003.
A year after rising to the Division I ranks in 2006, the Owls won the Atlantic Sun Conference regular-season championship in 2007, finishing with a 44-20 record. Whitlock then clinched his 1,000th win in April 2008.
Kennesaw State’s only losing season came in 2009, but the Owls returned to their winning ways and qualified for its first A-Sun tournament as the No. 3 seed, and they made a return trip in 2011.
They tied Florida Gulf Coast for a regular-season A-Sun championship in 2012 before falling to the Eagles in the tournament championship.
The Owls will have one more season to vie for a conference tournament title under Whitlock before Holly takes over.
“It’s going to be hard to fill those shoes,” Holly said. “I will try to go forward and keep up the rich condition.”