A new era is officially underway for USC baseball.
The Trojans will play their first game of the 2020 season Friday against Western Michigan under new head coach Jason Gill. Gill, who came to USC in June after 11 seasons at Loyola Marymount, has spent the time leading up to this season implementing his greatest philosophy: Never accept average.
“If I could pass on to [my players] anything, it would be for them to never accept mediocrity of themselves,” Gill said. “To set standards that are achievable for them to reach. Whether it’s in the classroom, socially or on the baseball field, anywhere they’re at to not settle for being just OK at anything.”
Gill, a Southern California native, is finally at a place he has always wanted to be with USC. “It’s been my dream job since I got into the profession,” Gill said. “The history of the program is better than any college baseball program. [USC has produced] more big leaguers than anybody, we have Hall of Famers, we have All-Stars, we have Cy Young Award winners. And I think if you’re from Southern California, you want to be at the top — this is where you want to be. So it’s kind of a no-brainer for me, to be honest with you.”
Gill credits his parents for his positive and determined outlook on life, as he believes the resources that were provided to him from an early age have shaped him and defined his coaching career.
“Growing up in a loving family, with a mom and dad that taught me perspective, that taught me work ethic, that relayed to me that your attitude is your decision and that you choose the path that you want to go on,” Gill said.
At Gill’s high school, Mater Dei, his baseball coach Bob Ikes taught him all the skills he would later exemplify for his own players: accountability, responsibility, being on time and knowing who you are. At Cal State Fullerton, Gill played for coach Augie Garrido, a well-known College Baseball Hall of Famer and, as Gill puts it, “arguably the best college baseball coach to ever work.”
Now, Gill aims to transfer the skills and lessons he learned from his mentors into his own players.
“He’s been in this for so long … and he just brings so much to the table instilling discipline within us and just motivating us every single day,” junior outfielder Bart West said about Gill’s leadership.
Gill started as an assistant coach at Nevada from 1997-98. During his time there, he helped lead the Wolfpack to their second postseason appearance ever. In 1999 and 2000, Gill was the assistant coach for LMU. In both those seasons, the Lions won West Coast Conference titles.
He then spent three years at UC Irvine alongside head coach John Savage, recruiting a No. 8 class in the country in 2002 with a pair of top-30 classes succeeding that. The Anteaters reappeared in the postseason in 2004.
Gill was later the hitting coach and recruiting coordinator at both Cal State Fullerton and Oregon. He brought in a top-10 recruiting class at Fullerton in 2007 before rebuilding the Oregon baseball program.
At LMU, Gill led the team to the WCC Tournament five out of the last six years, winning it last season and in 2017. Overall, Gill posted a 322-286-1 (.530) record during his time with the Lions.
To add to his impressive resume, he also served as an assistant coach for the U.S. Collegiate National Team in 2012 and 2016.
“In any venture of life, if you’re fortunate enough to be in the same business and you love your job, you’re gonna learn from your mistakes,” Gill said of what his experience has taught him about coaching. “So I think at the end of the day, I’ve learned more than anything that it’s about relationships and about development over wins. I think the wins are a byproduct of that.”
As for his USC players, Gill has already made a striking impact in motivating them for the 2020 season.
“Coach Gill’s doing an incredible job with kind of instilling his mindset into us and how we carry ourselves every day,” said senior first baseman John Thomas, who added that Gill’s mentorship has led him to become a better leader for his teammates.
Bringing together all of his experience as a player, recruiter, assistant coach and head coach, Gill hopes to continue the great track record the Trojan baseball program has accumulated over the years. With 12 national championships, 21 visits to the College World Series and 114 players sent to the major leagues, Gill is now tasked with bringing the Trojans back to national relevance and the College World Series for the first time since 2001.
But Gill is ready for that challenge.
“The biggest gift that I can give [the players] is to be present,” Gill said. “Be where you’re at and reach your full potential. Don’t settle.”
Nathan Hyun contributed to this report.