Pat Casey enjoying retirement (from coaching), but might he come back?
CORVALLIS — Earlier this month, Chris Petersen — 55 years of age — resigned as head football coach at Washington, citing burnout after 31 years of continuous coaching at the college level.
At his home in Corvallis, Pat Casey watched Petersen's press conference with empathy.
"I felt like I was sitting in his chair," said Casey, who retired as Oregon State's head baseball coach in June 2018 after 31 years of continuous coaching at the college level.
"I have a lot of respect for Chris Petersen," said Casey, 60, whose retirement came on the heels of his third national championships at OSU in 13 years. "I followed his career and watched the success he had. I understand his decision. A lot of people looked at that with shock ... but I understand the unbelievable overload that we have as coaches who care about every detail.
"I've coached against guys who are great people who don't take it home with them. I was never able to do that. Therefore, (I felt) the stress and the accountability and responsibility. I never felt anxiety, but I put a lot of pressure on myself. What he's saying is real. There's such a big part of you that doesn't want to do it. There's such a big part of you that doesn't know what to do. There's another part of you that says, 'I can only do it one way.' And I'm cheating myself and every player if I can't do it that way."
Casey, now serving as senior associate athletic director and special assistant to AD Scott Barnes, contemplated retirement a couple of times during the final five of his 24 years at the OSU helm.
"You put yourself under a lot of pressure," Casey said. "Chris Petersen looks at championships as success on the field. His expectations were, 'I want to win this thing.' I felt like that all the time. There are times during the season where you feel, 'Hey, how much longer can I do this?' "
Casey would generally recharge during the summer months and be ready to go in time for fall ball. His resilience and persistence paid off when the Beavers rallied from the brink of despair to beat Arkansas for the national championship last year.
"I'm so glad I didn't step down five years ago," Casey said.
But Casey increasingly felt a tug from things he had missed over the years. He wasn't sure he could continue to give 100% to the standards he had set as coach.
"People don't realize the time you take away from the things you never got to experience," he said. "There were times when I could have spent more time with my kids, but I spent it recruiting. There were times when I could have spent more time talking with my wife. Instead, I was upset and stressed about things I couldn't control.
"(When he retired) I felt, in my heart, my mind and my soul, if I can't (coach) the way I want to do it, that's cheating the guys, and it's cheating myself."
A year and a half later, has Casey had second thoughts about his retirement?
'Oh yeah, all the time," he said. "That's what we do. We're coaches. We question every move we make. I'm not one of those guys who says, 'I wouldn't have changed a thing.' I wasn't smart enough to do everything right the first time. There are a lot of things I got better at.
"There are a lot of things about coaching that I miss. I miss having an impact in young men's lives, with the ultimate goal on the field of winning a championship. The ultimate goal off the field is to be a championship human being, to chase excellence in everything we do in our lives, whether it's being a baker, a butcher, a barber, a candy maker or a carpenter. It's how you do it, what you do and your will to succeed. I certainly miss that element of it. I'm assuming somewhere down the line I'll be involved in something that will fulfill that."
Casey's current job has him wearing several hats. He visits with boosters and alumni groups, attends fundraising events and serves as a mentor for other coaches in the athletic department and as an ambassador to the university. He has a warm relationship with the school president, Ed Ray.
"Ed and I talk like guys who are working together in the dugout," Casey said. "I might be the only baseball coach in America who had our president in the dugout for a game (in 2015). I knew I had to really mind my Ps and Qs. At one point, I might have used some Irish language to explain myself. I turned around and he was looking right at me."
Casey picked long-time assistant Pat Bailey as his interim successor and had something to do with the hiring of Mitch Canham as the next permanent coach, though he was not a member of the search committee. Casey had a year to decide if he wanted his job back, and made that decision in June.
"I was adamant that Bailes be the interim guy," Casey said. "When I decided not to come back, that decision was going to be Scott's as to how we pursued the next coach — whether it be a veteran guy or a young guy who could be here for a long time. Scott gave me the freedom to make sure people I thought were really important had an opportunity to get that job. Bailey and Canham were two of those people."
The third was pitching coach Nate Yeskie, who soon left to assume the job of associate head coach at Arizona. Bailey stayed on to be Canham's top assistant.
"I was so happy with the people who got interviewed and were the finalists," Casey said. "I wanted to have someone with Oregon State ties in that chair. Mitch is a Beaver for life. I think he'll be here for 25 years."
Canham was an All-America catcher for Casey from 2005-07, a spiritual leader of the teams that won back-to-back CWS titles in '06 and '07.
"Mitch is a dynamite personality and human being, a young coach who is going to be fabulous," Casey said. "He'll be a tremendous mentor of young men. And Bailes is doing everything possible as an assistant coach to help make the success continue. That's what he did for me."
Out of respect for Bailey, Casey stayed away from Oregon State practices last season. And because there would be no privacy, he didn't attend games at Goss Stadium. That will change some this season, in part because he doesn't want to miss seeing his youngest son play. Joe Casey is a junior outfielder.
"Last year, I wasn't physically at the games, but I saw every pitch of every game — some of them in person on the road, the others on TV or through streaming the games," he said. "I couldn't have gone to those games at Goss Stadium, but I was never away from the team. This year, I feel more comfortable about my presence around the club. I just need to find a place to sit where I can watch the game and enjoy it and not be a distraction.
"I'm excited about watching Joe's development. There are a lot of guys on that club who I coached and recruited. And getting to watch Mitch in his first college coaching job is a proud moment for me. He's one of the warriors that I had the opportunity to coach. He had an unbelievable ability to persevere through difficult times."
Casey has enjoyed his "down time" year. He was able to vacation in Hawaii with his parents. He has spent more time with his wife, four children and two grandchildren.
"It's a blessing to be around my family," he said. "I've had a chance to slow down and see some things that I wasn't able to see. There are things in life I didn't even know existed."
Don't get the idea though, that Casey has lost the itch to coach.
"Would I coach baseball again? Absolutely," he said. "Do I want to coach baseball again? I don't know. I'm not opposed to it. If the right opportunity came ..."
Last season, Casey mulled the decision of whether or not to return to his job at Oregon State.
"I wasn't going to leave Oregon State to coach at another school," he said. "It was coach at Oregon State or not at all. That opportunity isn't there for me anymore. Mitch is the coach. That makes things different."
Casey has spoken to representatives of several major league organizations.
"I could get a job in professional baseball if I chose to do that," he said. "I'm not sure what I'd want to do. There are so many elements — front office, managing, coaching, field jobs. If I did something, I'd want it to be something I felt was important."
Casey — a lock for induction into the College Baseball Hall of Fame someday — had opportunities last year to be the head coach at several major college baseball programs. He'll get that chance again after the 2020 season.
"The first thing I would do is go to Ed and Scott and tell them there was something on my plate," he said. "That's not on my to-do list right now. But if it were the right situation, it really wouldn't matter if it was college or pro baseball or helping somebody out in 2A high school ball."
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