Last week, Greenbrier confirmed a rumor that had been swirling through the county when Jason Osborn was named as the new head baseball coach. And while many folks in Columbia County may not know the name, and although Osborn has never coached or played at Greenbrier, this was a move made to bring back tradition. Osborn knows all about the baseball tradition in the CSRA. He played for Westside in the early ’90s for Gerald Barnes, the all-time winningest coach in Georgia history. He also served as an assistant for four seasons under Columbia County coaching legend Terry Holder at Thomson. Those two coaches have combined for nearly 1,400 victories in their Hall of Fame careers, and Holder will forever be a part of Columbia County lore after winning eight state championships in a 12-year span between 1988 and 1999. The final three titles came when he helmed Greenbrier High School’s team.
Back in 1996, when Greenbrier opened its doors, from day one the man running the athletic program was Holder. He guided the football team to incredible heights for a new program, but what he did in baseball will never be duplicated. Holder’s Wolfpack teams won the state title in their first three years of existence. Schools go decades without even playing for a title and Greenbrier had three crowns right out of the gate. Everyone expected success at Greenbrier, but no one expected a three-peat in the school’s first three years. Maybe we underestimated Holder. After all, he had made the move to Greenbrier after leading Evans to five state championships in eight seasons.
A few of his players, most notably Mark Thornhill, made the jump to Greenbrier too. Thornhill, who would go on to be a four-year starter at Georgia, helped establish the Greenbrier tradition. Holder’s teams at Evans were known for discipline and their pinstripes. Both were staples of those early teams at Greenbrier. Holder was a no-nonsense coach who had no patience for misbehavior and lack of effort. He always got the most out of his players and that quality was a major reason Greenbrier got off to such an amazing start. When he retired after the 1999 season, Holder was the all-time leader in victories in the history of Georgia high school baseball, and he left the program in the capable hands of his long-time assistant Ed Williams. When Williams stepped down to become an administrator, he handed the reins to Rodney Holder (Terry’s middle son). Each won state titles and carried on the ’Pack tradition built by Terry Holder, Danny Black, and so many others back in the late ’90s.
At some point the school’s reputation started to take a hit. Who really knows when it happened or who was to blame, but gradually a team that had been known for excellence on the field and discipline off it, was gaining a reputation as arrogant and tough on officials. Some complained about the parents, others blamed the coaches and some even cited the players as the problem, but for whatever reason, they had strayed from some of the values that served Greenbrier so well early on.
That is probably why, when faced with a decision on a new coach, Greenbrier Athletic Director Garrett Black sought one man’s guidance. He put Terry Holder in charge of the school’s search committee for a new coach. Holder knew immediately that he would consider Jason Osborn. Osborn did not play for Holder at Greenbrier, but he knows the “Holder Way.” Osborn spent fours years under Holder at Thomson, when Holder came out of retirement to guide the Bulldog’s program. In 2009, Holder led Thomson to the school’s first region title in 40 years.
Then Holder handed over the program to his young assistant, Osborn. Osborn promptly guided the Bulldogs to back-to-back Final Four appearances in 2010 and 2011. Osborn, who also coached Thomson’s softball team, next took the softball coaching job at Lumpkin County. There, Osborn took a team that had won eight games in 2010 and led them to 22 wins and an Elite 8 appearance in 2012.
It was important for Black to make Holder a part of the process and to have the legendary coach by Osborn’s side as he was named the new coach.
It was a sign to everyone that Greenbrier was going back to the ideals that made the Wolfpack one of the top programs in the Southeast.
Let there be no doubt, this will be Osborn’s team, but having a connection to the Holder tradition of excellence can only be a good thing for Greenbrier.
The pinstripe uniforms have already been ordered.