Pat Casey took his seat and for a few quick seconds began to survey the throng of media members assembled in the Valley Football Center on Thursday afternoon.
As he scanned the who’s who of Oregon media members, it appeared the longtime Oregon State baseball was on the verge of choking up.
Flanked by Oregon State President Ed Ray on his left and Vice President and Director of Athletics Scott Barnes on his right, Casey was able to settle in to make one of the most difficult and gut-wrenching announcements of his life.
He was stepping away from the game of baseball.
“If this wasn’t good, it wouldn’t be difficult,” Casey said. “It’s very, very difficult because it’s been very, very good.
“… I am so thankful, grateful and I can tell you it’s been one of the most humbling experiences my entire life. I have no oceans to sail, no mountains to climb, I have no hobbies. I don’t know what the hell I’m going to do. … I’m a blessed man.”
Still, it appears he’s not entirely sure it’s the right decision.
“There’s nothing about this I feel good about because I’m a coach,” Casey said. “… Maybe I’ll miss it. Maybe I’ll miss it and I made a mistake. If I did that I would be the first guy to tell you I would try to get back into coaching.”
It might seem odd to step away with the program at the high level it's at, coming off a third national title and two seasons that saw the Beavers go 111-18-1, including a remarkable 56-6 campaign in 2017 that fell one victory short of playing for another national title.
But after 24 seasons at Oregon State and 31 overall, Casey admitted he doesn’t feel like he can give the same kind of passion and energy he expects out of his players.
“My problem is that what I expect out of my players on the field, I expect out of myself,” he said. “And right now I’m not positive I can give that same effort I expect of them. But I will never put the uniform on unless I do it with that same passion I expect of them.”
He said at times last season, he was “miserable.”
“Coaching is hard on me,” he said. “The Tuesday game is just as important as the Stanford Friday night game and I mean that and that’s a hard thing.”
Casey said he talked with his wife, Susan, before the start of the 2018 season and told her this could be his last season.
“She said. ‘I’ve heard that before,’” Casey said.
Casey said he also talked with Barnes in March or April and said there were days it felt like this was his last run so he was going to “air it out.”
Still, he struggled over the decision. He told his staff a few weeks back he was going to retire, before changing his mind.
One of the feelings he had to overcome was of letting people down. That’s when Ray spoke up.
“He said 'don’t make the decision on that, get over that,'” Casey said Ray told him. “But I do, I feel like I’m letting a lot of people down. I guess you would feel like that whenever you retire. I guess people would feel better if you got your tail kicked and you retired.”
That’s not to say Ray wanted to see Casey leave. After all, Casey has won 900 games as the Beavers' coach and led them to six College World Series appearances and the three national titles.
“We’d be happy to have him doing this the next 20 years, but that’s probably not in his best interest and he needed to make an affirmative decision about what he wanted to do for himself and family,” Ray said.
“For my own selfish standpoint, 20 more years of Pat Casey would be pretty good.”
While Casey gets so much credit, and rightfully so, he has always deflected the praise to the players and coaches.
Thursday, he talked about the loyalty of his assistants, and how much he has enjoyed his players.
“Whether you’re chewing on them or loving on them, those guys made my life,” he said. “I think about the people I coached and that will send me a text when we win a game. I think about those guys who are out there that are husbands, doctors, teachers, players. It’s all about the players. It has absolutely driven me to be the best I could be.”
In the end, Casey said the relationships will also be the most important.
“National championships are awesome, and they go in trophy cases and people get to look at them, and they mean a lot but they don’t mean one damn thing if you don’t have a relationship with the people you work with,” he said.