STILLWATER — The people have spoken, and Mike Holder has listened.
And the Oklahoma State athletic director is still listening, absorbing thoughts and takes and input on the Cowboys baseball coaching job that sits vacant after last week's firing of Frank Anderson.
Holder, acknowledging he's no expert on the college baseball landscape, won't go solo on this hire. Regents and supporters will be involved.
And the program's rich past will be tapped, too, with Holder reaching out to those who shaped the glory days of the '80s and '90s, most notably former coach Gary Ward.
“I value his opinion,” Holder said of the man who crafted the most wins in program history, along with 16 consecutive Big 12 Tournament titles. “He's a coaching legend here. He's fully invested in OSU baseball, he cares about it.
“So I value his opinion. I've talked to him a couple of times.”
Holder's calls have extended to the professional level.
“I've talked to Robin Ventura. I've talked to John Farrell,” Ward said of the former Cowboys now managing in the majors. “The list of people I've talked to would be way too long to put in any newspaper article.
“But everyone who has played a part in making OSU baseball what it is or was, who's had a desire to express an opinion, I've listened to them.”
Holder's timeline for the hire: ASAP, although the “possible” part of that equation may create a delay.
First, he must form a legitimate list of candidates, which could involve coaches still working, with 16 teams entering Super Regional play this weekend. The opening, according to Holder, has created much interest.
“Anyone in college baseball and anyone who follows college baseball is aware of the history of OSU baseball,” Holder said. “We've shown that we can win at the highest level. So a lot of great people are interested.”
There is a level of urgency, however. Recruits who have been signed must be reassured. Recruits still dangling unsigned could be pursued. And there's some recruiting to be done on the Cowboys with eligibility remaining.
For now, Anderson assistants Greg Evans and Billy Jones remain on the job, pushing the program.
“We'd like to have a coach named as soon as possible, but it's more important to get the right guy,” Holder said. “The best that I can tell everyone out there who's concerned about this is we're expediting the process as quickly as possible, but we're not going to get in a hurry just to name a coach.”
A common theme among the alums, as well as fans, is a desire to tap into the program's past and bring in someone who understands the history and tradition and what it means — and what it takes — to win in Stillwater.
“Among the former greats, it's unanimous that it should be a Cowboy,” Holder said. “And they make some good points. They feel like that would do a lot to unite the fan base, galvanize support for the new coach.
“And I don't disagree with that.”
And yet, Holder isn't solely locked in to candidates with ties to OSU.
“The most important thing is to find a coach whose best for our program,” he said, “the best fit, someone who has demonstrated an ability to win at the highest level. Wonderful if that's a Cowboy. Not absolutely essential.
“People tend to forget that arguably — and without question in my mind — the greatest baseball coach we ever had was Gary Ward. Now, Henry Iba was also a baseball coach. Gary Ward didn't go to school here. And Henry Iba didn't go to school here.
“It's not absolutely essential that it be a Cowboy, although we've had great success with former OSU athletes as head coaches in the past. And there's no reason that trend couldn't continue in the future.
“And I will say this, if it comes down to a choice between two people and they're pretty much equal, and one's a Cowboy and one's not, my history would cause me to lean toward the Cowboy.”
From the OSU family, four former Cowboys are current head coaches: ORU's Rob Walton, New Mexico State's Rocky Ward, Hawaii's Mike Trapasso and Penn State's Robbie Wine. All would figure to be in play.
Josh Holliday, an assistant at Vanderbilt, is another former Cowboy mentioned prominently with the opening.
From the outside, OSU insiders report that several high profile head coaches and assistants have inquired about the job.
Holder said he considers this “a very important hire.” Not only is there pressure to return to the program to the top of the Big 12, but there's a need to repair fractures in the fan base that have developed in recent years.
That's another reason Holder won't make this call on his own.
“We continue to do our due diligence and identify the best candidates,” Holder said. “It's going to be a team effort. I've got a lot of the regents involved and key supporters.
“At the end of the day, this coach will be hired as a team effort, because it's very, very important to pull everybody back together and headed in the right direction. That's critical.”