Beth Torina’s office chair sticks out like a sore thumb among the workspaces on the fourth floor of LSU's athletic administration building.
While the rest of the furnishing for most of the coaches are periodically replaced, Torina’s chair sits in tatters from decades of use with its arms ripped and the seat barely held together.
LSU offered to replace it with something more comfortable for one of the university’s most consistently successful coaches, but Torina won’t consider it.
A little discomfort is a small price to pay to sit in a piece of history.
“I won’t let them get rid of it,” said Torina, in her seventh year at LSU. “It means a lot to me. I’m sitting at the desk of a hall of famer every day.”
A deeply superstitious person, Torina refuses to change what’s working.
Before she sat in the dilapidated throne of LSU softball, the chair belonged to legendary coach Yvette Girouard. And if the chair was good enough for Girouard to help build LSU into a national power — bringing the program to its first Women’s College World Series and five Southeastern Conference titles — it’s certainly good enough for Torina.
She’s done a little more than that, though.
Under Torina’s watch, LSU softball is even better today as it hosts its fourth consecutive NCAA regional tournament this weekend — more than than at any point in its 25 years of existence.
In Torina's first six seasons, LSU went to four Women’s College World Series, claimed its first No. 1 ranking, produced five first-team NFCA All Americans and is about to graduate its most successful senior class of all time.
Even if the Tigers don’t win a game this weekend, Torina is nearly 60 percent of the way to becoming LSU’s winningest coach.
Girouard is honored by the memory to her success, but in her mind it isn’t necessary. The crown for the best coach in LSU history is Torina, she said.
“I didn’t go to the World Series four times at LSU,” Girouard said.
Girouard touts herself as Torina’s biggest cheerleader.
Back in 2007, Girouard tried to convince the then Houston pitching coach to join her staff in the same position. Unfortunately, Torina turned down the offer to take a head coaching job at Florida International.
Girouard retired four years later, leaving athletic director Joe Alleva to find a replacement. Departed on good terms, Girouard was allowed to submit a list of coaching candidates.
Alleva ultimately hired the well-established Patrick Murphy, who had led Alabama to three SEC tournament titles. But in a dramatic turn of events, Murphy reneged on his acceptance of the position two days after the official announcement, sending Alleva into a mad dash to find a replacement.
Luckily, there was another name on Girouard’s list.
“She had a great passion for the sport and her job and she’s very, very smart,” Alleva said. “When you combine those things, you have a really good formula for success. That’s what I saw when I interviewed her.”
When Torina arrived the morning of her first LSU news conference, she was admittedly nervous. Not because expectations were high, but because many expected her to fail.
Alleva said the pressure Torina felt was mostly self-generated, but she didn’t need to to hear it explicitly stated to know some felt LSU settled for its second choice.
“There was a lot of question marks about me,” Torina said. “I was here to prove everybody wrong more than pressure. I don’t know if there was a lot of pressure because nobody expected anything from me. Patrick Murphy would’ve had pressure because he was supposed to be great.”
As she would throughout her tenure, Torina turned to Girouard for guidance. Girouard would respond, “I truly feel that LSU hired the right coach for the job.”
Torina lost the first two games of her tenure. By Week 3, LSU fell out of the Top 25 after starting 4-4.
Again, questions swirled around Torina’s hiring. Any time Girouard met with fans, she was met with concerns that everything she built was collapsing.
Girouard’s response? Take a chill pill.
Since watching Torina pitch at Florida in the early years of SEC softball, Girouard knew she had what it took to be successful. She was one of the best pitching coaches in the country, and, with the proper resources and talent, more than capable of building a winner.
LSU had the facilities with the then new Tiger Park, and Girouard made sure she had the talent before she left.
Sure enough, Torina built a winner.
LSU’s 2012 postseason began in College Station, Texas, as the No. 2 regional seed. After upsetting Texas A&M on its home field, the Tigers went to another future conference opponent in Missouri for the super regional, again upsetting a program fresh off three straight WCWS appearances.
Going to Oklahoma City in her first season was surreal and a little shocking to Torina, but it didn’t matter — no one was complaining anymore.
“What college coach has taken their team to the College World Series four out of their six first years at a program?” Girouard said. “(UCLA or Arizona) might match that ... but her success is mind-blowing and I’m almost positive it’s record setting.”
The downside to success is that more success is expected.
To this day Torina feels she has to prove herself — if not that she belongs, then that she can be the one to raise LSU higher.
Amid all the records and accolades, Torina’s résumé lacks an SEC or national title. As the conference and sport continues to grow, those goals become more challenging.
But despite her strict adherence to routine and sticking with what works, Torina prides herself on her ability to adapt and learn as a coach.
Throughout the season she’ll seek advice from Girouard, who now serves as the team’s color commentator. It isn’t frequent or substantial advice. The two coaches have differing styles. But her’s is a voice Torina knows and trusts.
And, after all, if LSU is to take the next step, it’ll have to build on the foundation that came before it.
“We’re still trying to win a national championship,” Torina said. “I’ve said it all year and said it the past three years, everyone thinks we’re close, but we have no idea if we’re close. We’ve never done it yet. We’re still trying to figure that out and navigate that. That’s the next step for the program.”