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Baseball  . 

One On One with Head Baseball Coach Paul Mainieri

by Brad Muller

Check out the full interview with Coach Mainieri on Gamecocks+ to hear what he said about making the decision, how he made up his coaching staff, and his thoughts in NIL and the transfer portal. It’s free to watch for all this weekend! (June 14-16)

South Carolina’s new head baseball coach Paul Mainieri hasn’t been on campus long, but he has certainly hit the ground running. The American Baseball Coaches Association Hall of Famer has already put his staff in place, is meeting with players, and is ready to build the Gamecocks for the 2025 season.

“I can’t tell you how excited I am,” Mainieri said. “Ray Tanner is a friend of mine. We coached against each other for several years in the SEC. There is a great mutual respect. So, we have been friends for a long time.

“He called me up one day and asked me if I would go over the candidates that he was talking to. He would ask me for my opinion on each of them. Then the conversation turned into ‘how are you enjoying retirement.’ Basically, my answers were, you know what? I’m kind of bored. You can only play so much golf.”

Mainieri retired for health reasons following the 2021 season, but with those issues resolved, he’s excited to be back in the dugout.

“I’m feeling great,” Mainieri said. “I’m feeling very much recovered from the issues I had a few years ago. He (Tanner) said, do you think you would consider it. The more I thought about it, the more excited I would get about it. I talked with my wife and talked with my children and evaluated the situation through and through. The next day I called back and said if you really want me, I’d really like to do it! I’ve got the energy, the fight and the hunger back to do it. I can’t wait to work on the field with the players.

“There is no other school in the country I’d like to do it with, primarily because of him. What a tremendous opportunity to work with an Athletics Director who is one of the greatest baseball coaches in history and that I have great relationship with.”

Mainieri announced that Monte Lee, who had been the associate head coach/hitting coach the last two years for the Gamecocks would remain on staff, and he added pitching coach/recruiting coordinator Terry Rooney, who comes over from LSU where he was the Associate Director of Program Development and Recruiting, and assistant coach John Hendry, who spent the last three seasons as the University of Virginia’s Director of Player Development. While the game hasn’t changed much in three years, NCAA Athletics has with NIL and the transfer portal, and he has quickly adapted to those intricacies.

“I pinched myself and said, is this real? I feel very honored and privileged and blessed to be here.”
Paul Mainieri  . 

“Not only am I a baseball coach, but I’m an educator,” Mainieri said. “One of the most important things you teach young people is how to deal with adversity and have resilience and not give up. I was afraid what was going to happen was that anytime a player started to feel a little adversity, let’s just run away and go somewhere else. That was my initial feeling.”

Those feelings changed in his second year out of the game when he was asked to work some ACC Network telecasts and he spoke to a former colleague who was still coaching and asked him about the large number of transfers on the roster.

“He said, ‘it has been wonderful,’” Mainieri recalled. “That caught me off guard. He said that these kids were so grateful for the opportunity. They’re leaders of the team. My whole attitude about the whole system started to change. I’ve hired coaches that have been in it and know how to manage it. I’m going to learn a little bit from them. There won’t be a problem with me not being in the game the last few years. My focus is going to be on the players that are here, and the ones that I can influence.

“As far as NIL, I’ve always been a very loud opponent of only 11.7 scholarships (for baseball). So hey, if the kids are able to get some more money to fully pay for their education, what a wonderful thing!”

His resume is long and well-accomplished. Mainieri is the active leader in career wins in Division I (1,505), guided LSU to a 2009 national championship and a 2017 runner-up finish. He has made six College World Series appearances, five with LSU and one with Notre Dame, four SEC championships, six SEC Tournament championships and 10 NCAA regional championships. Mainieri is a two-time SEC Coach of the Year and a four-time National Coach of the Year. Even with all those accolades secured, the opportunity to come back at a place like South Carolina was too good to pass up.

“I was well aware of the program at Carolina,” Mainieri said. “I thought the world of Ray. I thought the programs (South Carolina and LSU) were pretty much the same.

“When I got here today, one of the first things I did I was a walk out on the field at Founders Park. I just stood there and looked around. It didn’t take long for me to feel like a part of it. I pinched myself and said, is this real? I feel very honored and privileged and blessed to be here.”