By David Teel
11:58 AM EDT, June 21, 2011
As an All-ACC catcher for Virginia, Kevin O’Sullivan saw the Cavaliers struggle. As the program’s pitching coach, he contributed to what was then the finest back-to-back seasons in U.Va. history. As pitching coach at ACC rival Clemson, O’Sullivan watched the Cavaliers emerge as a top-15 power.
Today, O’Sullivan is Florida’s head coach and poised for a potential College World Series championship showdown against his alma mater.
O’Sullivan’s Gators are 2-0 in the CWS after completing a rain-delayed, 3-1 victory over Vanderbilt on Tuesday morning. Win one more game, and Florida will advance to the best-of-3 championship series starting Monday.
There the Gators could face Virginia. The Cavaliers are 1-0 in the other half of the CWS bracket entering Tuesday night’s game against defending national champion South Carolina.
Like Florida, the U.Va.-USC survivor will be a win away from the title series.
O’Sullivan, 42, transferred to Virginia from Florida Community College in 1989. He earned all-conference honors in 1990 and ’91, hitting a combined .351 in the process, and graduated with a degree in education and sports medicine.
The Cavaliers finished sixth among eight ACC teams in both those seasons, but when O’Sullivan returned as an assistant coach under Dennis Womack, they thrived. Virginia won the 1996 ACC tournament en route to a 44-21 record and followed up with a 32-22 mark.
O’Sullivan worked at Clemson from 1999-2007, and during the latter stages of that tenure the Cavaliers became a national force under Brian O’Connor.
In fact, Virginia considered O’Sullivan for its head-coaching position before hiring O’Connor, then a Notre Dame assistant, in 2003. How serious was O’Sullivan’s candidacy? Phone interview? On-campus finalist?
Athletic director Craig Littlepage offered only this via email: “I can say that Kevin was considered but will not comment on anyone we did or did not interview.”
Suffice to say, all parties have prospered.
O’Connor has coached the Cavaliers to eight NCAA tournaments in as many seasons and two College World Series. Florida hired O’Sullivan four years ago, and he’s since guided the Gators to a 175-80 record. He was the Southeastern Conference Coach of the Year in 2010, when Florida won the league tournament and reached the CWS.
Here's O'Sullivan's bio on the Florida website.
If you watched Florida’s Super Regional against Mississippi State, you know that O’Sullivan is more demonstrative than O’Connor, inciting fans and fussing at umps. But clearly, both can recruit, teach, strategize and motivate.
Virginia and Florida are the top two seeds in this NCAA tournament for good reason. A best-of-3 CWS collision would be a reunion for O’Sullivan and a classic for fans.
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