With only seven previous head coaches in more than 70 years of baseball, stability has been a hallmark of the Southern baseball program. When the Jaguars promoted Chris Crenshaw to interim head coach last December, it was a move that also promoted stability for the program.
In 2019, Southern had won the Southwestern Athletic Conference and advanced to the NCAA tournament for the first time in 10 years under then-coach Kerrick Jackson. Southern had also posted its first overall winning record in six seasons, ending its longest such streak in modern times.
So when Jackson took a job with Major League Baseball after the abbreviated 2020 season, it was only natural that Southern would look to maintain the momentum he had established.
As a result, it didn’t take Southern long to pinpoint a replacement.
Four days after Jackson resigned from Southern, athletic director Roman Banks promoted Crenshaw from his post as pitching coach Dec. 3, 2020.
"With the challenges that our student-athletes have endured during these unprecedented times, we wanted to ensure some continuity in the leadership of the baseball program," Banks said. "I believe this is a great opportunity for (him) and his family and expect him to do well."
His official title is interim head coach — but for Crenshaw, 34, the chance to put his mark on the program and have the interim tag removed is there.
“Its been exciting for me and my family,” Crenshaw said. “My dad (Gregory) played at Southern. I played at Southern. My mom’s excited, as well.”
Originally from Memphis, Tennessee, Crenshaw was a pitcher for Southern and former coach Roger Cador in 2006 and 2007. After taking his shot at the big leagues, he got into coaching and returned to Southern three years ago as the team’s pitching coach when Jackson was named as Cador’s replacement.
Crenshaw’s ties to the program made him an obvious choice in Jackson’s eyes.
“I think he was excited (about the promotion),” Crenshaw said. “He already knew what coming to Southern meant to me and my family. When I was named interim coach he thought it was the best decision they could have made with me already being here and knowing the lay of the land. He kind of thought it was a no-brainer.”
Working with Jackson helped Crenshaw develop his coaching philosophy, one that has been influenced all of the coaches he has been around, including Cador.
“All of the coaches I’ve been around have been influential,” he said. “They all did things their own way, but the end goal was always the same as far as how to manage people, manage the game ... just managing people almost like managing a big company.”
Another plus will be the relationships Crenshaw has maintained with those coaches.
“I still have a relationship with coach Cador,” Crenshaw said. “Being able to call him or coach Jackson and ask, ‘Hey, how would you handle this situation, or what about that situation?’ is important.”
Crenshaw’s existing relationship with the team, an obvious factor, has been important while the team navigated the pandemic and its restrictions.
“There’s a comfort level with them knowing me and who I am as a person,” he said. “There’s still some inexperience with me being in charge of everybody, but now I’m more involved with the hitters and still involved with the pitchers.
“With the COVID, I haven’t had many opportunities to coach everybody yet, but we’re starting to matriculate in the right direction. We’ve had a string of good practices, and they’re starting to get a good feel for me and me for them.”