Twenty years and 500 or more
Twenty years and 500 or more victories amount to a tidy accomplishment for a 50-year-old coach. The numbers reflect a solid career. The combination works. However, Todd Wilkinson, who observes his 50th birthday next season, elected not to stay around as Barton College head baseball coach for a 20th campaign. He would have entered next season just four wins shy of the 500 milestone. Instead, Wilkinson accepted the opportunity to field the Barton athletic program’s new position of assistant athletic director and compliance coordinator.
He has been functioning in that capacity for nearly a month. “I’m through with coaching right now,” the relaxed Wilkinson said in an office interview Friday morning. “With what was presented to me, I have to be. This is a direction I have seen myself going in for some time, and the door opened. I’ve got 24 years in coaching; I’ve been doing it a long time.”
I never really got into it
Regarding the 500 wins, Willkinson responded: “I never really got into it; I never have charted any of that. (Milestones) of 200, then 300, next 400 … I never thought about it. Actually, I would have liked to have won a lot more games. “Now until whenever, I’m like anybody else. If opportunities come my way, I’ll consider them. But at this point, I wasn’t going to let this door close on me.” The opportunity surfaced through the athletic department’s ongoing reorganization process. It was not a matter of Wilkinson approaching athletic director Gary Hall and inquiring about the possibility of shifting to another position. “The thinking was that having an administrative assistant who was a non-coach could be a big help with the addition of (four new) sports, the college’s growth and compliance duties,” Wilkinson explained.
NEARING THE END
“The facilities are a big part of the job, and that part was created by me a long time ago.” Wilkinson, indeed, was a driving force into the development of the Barton College Athletic Complex into a highly regarded facility. The baseball facility, now named Nixon Field, attracted national acclaim. Emerging in the complex’s midst was a multi-purpose fieldhouse and press box. Wilkinson will also be handling assignments as a games manager. NEARING THE END But he will not be over the shoulder of new head baseball coach Josh Simmons, who was strongly recommended by Wilkinson. He will be interacting with Simmons in the care of the facilities but, from the standpoint of coaching baseball, Wilkinson is confident Simmons has enough respect for him that he will seek his input if needed. In fact, retaining Simmons as an assistant influenced Wilkinson’s decision to step away from coaching.
“I had been feeling that for probably the last three years,” Wilkinson revealed. “My first recollection is that, when we hired Josh, I was probably nearing the end of wanting to be the coach. “I am very, very comfortable and so excited for Josh. He connects very well with the players, and that voice is what the program needs now. I’m his No. 1 fan and my only regret is that I’m not going to be a part of the turnaround.” Wilkinson then reiterated: “I was not going to let this door close.” The decision to retire comes on the heels of his second poorest season in terms of wins. The Bulldogs managed just 16 wins in 2011 and struggled to be one of the six teams qualifying for the Conference Carolinas Tournament.
See part 2