COLUMBIA — Missouri softball coach Ehren Earleywine has spent the past three weeks trying to figure out how to replace Phil Bradley.
Bradley, a former Major League Baseball player and Missouri graduate, left his position as volunteer assistant coach in May after five years with the program.
A small news conference Tuesday to review the 2014 season followed the departure of four players, including former prized recruit Casey Stangel, from the program last month. Earleywine said that each player had different reasons for leaving and that he wasn't surprised by their decisions.
But he acknowledged that his relationships with the four former players had ups and downs like every player he coaches. The ability to connect with the players was Bradley's forte, Earleywine said.
"Coach Bradley was such an encourager ... and we need that desperately because I'm not that guy," Earleywine said.
Earleywine said he plans to find someone with "relational" skills like Bradley's for next season.
Earleywine said he has coached with the same angry passion that fueled his success as a player at Missouri State University and Westminster College. But going forward, he said, he has made it a goal to build more amicable relationships with his players.
"If I can nudge myself into the direction of leaving some space between my anger and when I address the kids ... either to vent that out with myself or to think of a better way of phrasing it to these kids, that's something that I need to do to develop into the coach I want to be," Earleywine said.
Another target in Earleywine's sights is taking advantage of the spaces left by the transfers before the academic year begins in August.
The loss of former No. 2 pitcher Stangel, who has announced her move to the University of Washington, has created a need for another starting pitcher to round out a rotation that will include SEC Freshman of the Year Tori Finucane and incoming freshman Paige Lowary.
Earleywine expressed excitement about several potential transfers who could be coming to Missouri and said the team could bring in one to four new players by the beginning of July.
In addition to the player losses, the Tigers snapped a streak of six consecutive regional championships in a season-ending 8-1 loss to Nebraska on May 18. The team finished 43-18 (15-9 SEC) ranked No. 19 in the USA Today/NFCA Division I poll.
The team, however, has lost only two players to graduation after the season, and Earleywine said the 2015 squad is as good on paper as he's had in his eight seasons at Missouri.
Supervising editor is Raymond Howze.