Q & A with Da Boot Sports!
Da Boot Sports
By: Terrill J. Weil
Former LSU baseball head coach Paul Mainieri sat down with us at Da Boot Sports for a Q & A session. Mainieri has a 1,501-774-8 (.659) career record that includes six seasons at St. Thomas (1983-88), six seasons at Air Force (1989-94), 12 seasons at Notre Dame (1995-2006) and 15 seasons at LSU (2007-21). He is No. 7 all-time among NCAA Division I Baseball coaches in career wins.
He is one of only five coaches in NCAA Division I Baseball history to win 1,500 games and a national championship. The others are Augie Garrido (Cal State Fullerton/Texas), Gene Stephenson (Wichita State), Jim Morris (Miami, Fla.) and Mark Marquess (Stanford).
During Mainieri’s 15 seasons at LSU, the Tigers have captured an incredible 30 team championships, including the 2009 NCAA title, eight NCAA Regional championships, five College World Series appearances/NCAA Super Regional championships, four Southeastern Conference championships, six SEC Tournament titles and six SEC Western Division crowns. His six SEC tournament titles tie him with former LSU coach Skip Bertman and former Alabama coach Jim Wells for the most in league history.
Q - I see you were born in Morgantown, West Virginia. How long did you live there until your family relocated?
Mainieri - Yes, that's something Nick Saban and I have in common, we were both born in West Virginia. The difference is he was raised there but we moved away when I was two weeks old, so I don't remember much about living there.
My father married my mom who was a West Virginia graduate. My father, Demie Mainieri was from New Jersey but went to West Virginia and played baseball there. He went into coaching and got tired of the cold weather and was able to get a job in Miami, Florida and that's where I was raised.
I was the luckiest kid in the world because I grew up loving sports and my father was actually a teacher and a coach. When he retired from coaching, he was generally regarded as the greatest junior college coach in history.
He was the coach at a school called Miami Dade Community College and he was first junior college coach in history to win
1,000 games. He also won a national championship and had about 35 of his former players make it to the Major Leagues.
So I grew up in a very intense baseball environment watching players like Steve Carlton, a hall of famer left handed pitcher. So my father's range of players stretched from the 60s with Steve Carlton all the way into the 90s with Mike Piazza and a lot of great players in between there.
Q - When you were a little boy, what did you want to grow up to be?
Mainieri - Most kids grow up wanting to be Major League baseball player but I just knew in my mind that I wanted to be
a college baseball coach like my father. I was very fortunate to have an opportunity eventually to coach at four wonderful institutions, ultimately at LSU.
Q - At what age did you start playing organized sports and what sports did you play?
Mainieri - I remember being in a uniform when I was four years old, but that was as a bat boy for my father's team. My mother made the uniform. She has a lot of pictures me at four years old being in a dugout wearing a uniform for Miami Dade Community College.
I really don't remember the exact dates of my first team but it was probably when I was six or seven years old. The only thing I played organized when I was young was baseball, but I loved football and we had a lot of pick up games in my neighborhood in those days and I always wanted to be the quarterback. My idols were Johnny Unitus and Joe Namath.
Q - When you attended Christopher Columbus High in Miami did you play multiple sports?
Mainieri - I played quarterback on the football team and I played short stop on the baseball team. I knew I wasn't big enough or good enough to play college football so baseball was going to be my direction.
My dad was a wonderful father and a great mentor for me as an athlete.
Q - Any personal or team accomplishments in high school that you would like to mention?
Mainieri - In baseball we did make it to the high school state championship game in my sophomore and senior years but lost both times. In the State of Florida that's a pretty big deal because there are so many great baseball teams and great players.
Our football team didn't have a stellar record. We were a small school playing amoung all the big public schools in Miami so we were outmanned in those days. Today, Columbus High School has one of the best football programs in the State, so I guess I was lucky through high school and to graduate in 1975, because I probably wouldn't be able to make the team they have today. They have so many great athletes.
Q - Tell us about your recruiting process and why did you choose LSU?
Mainieri - Recruiting back in those days was so much different then it is now. Now the players get so much exposure through all the different travel ball teams and show cases. They had none of that when I was coming out of high school. My dream was always to play for my father at Miami Dade Community College. The dream of most players back then was hoping they were good enough for local schools to invite you to be a part of their team. So I grew up hoping that one day I would be good enough to play for my dad at Miami Dade.
When I was in high school I was always a huge Pete Maravich fan. I wasn't a basketball player but I loved Pistol Pete. Whenever a LSU football game was on TV, I'd watch it. Mike Miley was always someone who I thought was really cool and lets face it, the purple and gold colors just grab ya.
So what happened in the spring of my junior year, LSU made a trip down to Miami to play the Hurricanes in a three game series. But they came in town a day early. So on Thursday they ended up playing an exhibition game against my father's team before their three games against Miami. I was at the field for this game. I met the LSU coach, Jim Smith that day and he said he was going to keep an eye on me because of what he heard about me as a ball player. He said he wanted me to visit LSU in the fall so I went to LSU for a football game and saw the campus and fell in love with LSU. It was a real big decision coming out of high school whether to accept the scholarship to LSU or to play for my dad. I decided to accept the scholarship to LSU to help my family financially, besides really liking LSU.
Just to mention, LSU baseball wasn't the power house back then that it is today. Jim Smith had a duel job. He was the head baseball coach, but he was also the equipment manager for the football team. I know that's hard to believe, but that's where SEC baseball was back then. It didn't become a big deal until Skip Bertman came to LSU and transformed the program into a national power.
Q - Did you play any other positions besides second base?
Mainieri - Actually primarily I was a short stop all the way until I got to LSU as a freshman during the 1976 season. When I got to LSU they had a returning short stop by the name of, Tony Tupps who was a good ball player. I wanted to get into the lineup somehow so the coach ended up putting me in left field my freshman year to give me an opportunity to play. Coach Smith planned on moving me to short stop for my sophomore season, but I decided to leave to play for my dad.
Q - After one season at LSU you decided to head back home to play for your dad at Miami Dade Community College and then ended up at UNO. Tell us about those decisions?
Mainieri - After my freshman year at LSU my heart strings started tugging on me, because I've always wanted to play for my father. That was always my goal while growing up. But the opportunity to go to LSU was so attractive that I decided to go there out of high school. Also with the LSU baseball head coach being a part time position, the program wasn't a challenging one. It wasn't going to push me to fulfill my potential, because coach wasn't out there for fall practice while being involved with the football team. I didn't want to go through my life wondering whether I was good enough to be a Major League baseball player and I wanted to be pushed and challenged. I knew I'd be challenged at Miami Dade Community College by the way my father ran the baseball program there.
So I transferred away from LSU and played for him my sophomore year. Again, I was back at short stop. After my sophomore season at Miami Dade concluded, so was my community college eligibility. So I needed to find another school to attend to finish my college career. By the grace of God I ended up back in the State of Louisiana and went to the University of New Orleans. I played for a wonderful coach by the name was Ron Maestri who became like a second father to me and gave me another coaching role model that I could develop my future coaching philosophy by having played for him.
When I got to UNO, they had a returning short stop who was a tremendous player by the name of Manny Coletti, so
Coach Maestri moved me over to second base and we ended up having a pretty good infield. We had great teams at UNO in 1978 and 1979.
Q - I see that in the summer of 1978 you played in the College Summer Baseball League in Cape Cod and was named a League All-Star?
Maineiri - Yes. That was a great experience. The Cape Cod Summer League is known as the best college summer league out there. It's where all college players want to play summer ball. If you can't play for the USA team, then Cape Cod is the place to play. I was very fortunate. I had a pretty good summer and made the all-star team there.
Q - Tell us about your two season in the Minor Leagues for the Chicago White Socks organization?
Mainieri - I was drafted by the Chicago White Socks after my senior year at UNO and I'm really glad I had the experience to play professional baseball. It was a good thing to have on my resume. It probably helped vault my coaching career, to have that experience.
I really didn't like professional baseball personally. I was really into the 'team concept' where everyone was striving to win the game that day and trying to win a championship. But the reality is, in the minor leagues your only concern is the advancement of your own career. It leans towards players being selfish and being only concerned about themselves and winning is not the goal. It's all about player development.
Personally, professional baseball was not for me. I didn't really like it. I loved high school baseball. I loved college
When I decided to be a coach and perused coaching I much preferred the collage level then I would have enjoyed coaching
in professional baseball. I could have gone into professional baseball. I had many friends that became executives in professional baseball and I think if I wanted to do that I probably could have been a big league manager. But that wasn't my goal. My goal was to be a college baseball coach.
Like I mentioned, I really enjoy the team concept, but I also enjoyed getting players in informative years where you can mold them into men. Not just baseball players and filling their potential, but seeing a youngster come to you at 18 years old and then leaving you as a productive adult for society.
So I'm glad I had the experience of pro ball because it made it very clear to me that my personal professional goal was going to be on the collage level, not in professional baseball.
Q - When did you realize that you wanted to be a baseball coach?
Mainieri - At a very young age I decided that I wanted to be college baseball coach like my father. I think I was maybe 15 years old when I went to my father and told him what I wanted to do with my life. He mentored me through that whole decision.
Honestly, I don't remember much about my childhood or growing up other than that I was always on the ball field with my dad or playing myself with whatever team I was a member of. It was a wonderful childhood. Maybe it was a little bit limited as far as other people may look at it, but I was so in love with sports, playing baseball and watching my father coach, that it was a wonderful childhood growing up.
The most important thing that I got from my father was he told me that if I wanted to go into coaching, you have to do it for the right reasons. You can't do it for prestige. You can't do it for the idea of a lot of money. You can't do it because of ambition or because you love baseball or you enjoy winning. The reason that you want to go into coaching is to feel like you can make an impact in young people's lives and teach them how to be successful. Today it might be on the baseball field, but those qualities that they learn will later be useful in life. To allow them to be a successful husband, father, or in any walk of life that they choose to do. So that was always my guiding light throughout my coaching career.
Q - When did you get your first head coaching job?
Mainieri - While I started playing professional baseball during the summer I moved back to Miami got married in December after my senior year and started coaching in the off-season at my alma mater Columbus High School. When I got released from pro baseball they put me on as a full time teacher and coach. That's how I started my coaching career.
Q - Tell us about your first collage head coaching position?
Mainieri - I received my first college head coaching job at St. Thomas University when I was 25 years old.
I had already been married for three years and I took that head coaching job for the whopping $3,200 a year. I laugh now because of the salaries coaches are receiving now in college baseball. How many people would take a leap of faith into a profession for $3,200? But I was the happiest guy in the world because I had fulfilled my dream of becoming a college baseball coach.
I didn't dwell on the fact that I was hardly making any money. I didn't dwell on the fact that we only had two scholarships and that we had a very below par facility. I was just happy to be a coach.
I worked day and night to try and develop a program there. I worked with the players and impacted their lives. It's amazing that through a lot of will, belief and hard work eventually I became full time at the University.
After being the coach there for three years they made me the athletic director. I became a 27 year old athletic director after teaching sports administration for a couple of years.
We improved the facility and the field is now actually named after me. Since the team is now in the NAIA, they are now actually
competing for national championships at the highest level of NAIA baseball.
I feel very proud of the time that I put in there. I guess you could say we were the pioneers of the program. We laid the ground work for what they are accomplishing now.
Back then it was a low budget university. We didn't have much money. The school only had 1,200 students. I had to
do everything. I had to fix the field. I had to write the press releases. I had to do it all. That was great training for me. It was a wonderful experience and then I ended up as the head coach at the Air Force Academy at the age of 30.
**Coach Mainieri coached at St. Thomas from 1983-1988. He is in the St. Thomas Hall of Fame and has had his jersey number retired by the school.
Q - How did you become interested in the Air Force head coach position?
Mainieri - When I was coaching at St. Thomas we played the Air Force Academy in what turned out to be my last year. The coach of their team explained to me that he was an active duty Captain in the Air Force and he was going back into Operation Air Force and that they were going to civilianize the head coach position. He thought that I would be a good candidate for the job if I was interested in taking it.
Every year that I was at St. Thomas we would play the Naval Academy and I had become friends with the Navy coach even though there was a large age difference. I thought, not only are you a baseball coach, but you're such an important person in those cadets' lives at this service academy because your teaching them how to be successful and how to be leaders.
These were young men. You had them at 18 and 22 years old and they were going to go onto serve our country in vital roles. In leadership roles. So that really appealed to me. I went into coaching because I wanted to impact young people's lives. Well, what more important thing can you do then to impact the lives of a future officer that were going to be the custodians of our way of life.
I'm proud to tell you, I'm probably the only former coach that has five former players that became general officers in the Air Force and probably 25 former players that are colonels. Most of the players that played for me became fighter pilots and fought in wars. They have done real heroic things in defense of our country. That was an unbelievable honor to be named the head coach at the United States Air Force Academy.
Q - Tell us how you ended up as the head coach at Notre Dame after six successful seasons at the Air Force Academy?
Mainieri - Honestly I thought I'd be at the Air Force Academy for the rest of my life. Then one day I was sitting at my desk and the phone rang. It was the athletic director at the University of Notre Dame. He told me that he wanted me to be the baseball coach at Notre Dame.
Like I mentioned I played quarterback at an all boys Catholic high school, dreaming of being the quarterback at Notre Dame someday. Of course I wasn't good enough to be that, but now they think I'm good enough to be their baseball head coach. It was just something that I needed to do.
Of course the University of Notre Dame means the University of Our Mother, and I thought, well I do want to go to heaven. So you can't turn Our Mother down, (laughing)… So I thought I'd better take the job. I ended up being their for 12 years and it was a tremendous experience.
Q - Tell us about the challenges of coaching baseball in such a cold weather environment?
Mainieri - For a boy who grew up in Miami, Florida and spent the first 30 years of my life there with the exception of the three years I went north to Louisiana for college, going to Colorado Springs and then South Bend, Indiana was a big adjustment for me.
I had never seen snow before I went to the Air Force Academy and of course the winter in the Mid-West could be very treacherous. It presented a big challenge to deal with the weather.
Notre Dame was also a very selective university, as was the Air Force Academy. It was difficult to find quality baseball players that were of the caliber of student that could gain admission into the university and it was also a very expensive university.
There were a lot of reasons why we shouldn't have been successful at Notre Dame. But my attitude was nothing is going to stop us and we're not going to make excuses. We were going to get players that understood that there will be things that we will need to overcome, but through hard work and belief in ourselves, we will overcome them.
I felt like during the 12 years I was there we probably were universally regarded as the strongest northern
baseball program in the country. We actually had a team in 2001 that held the #1 ranking in the college baseball polls for about a three week period. Then in 2002 we advanced to the College World Series. Our time there was very successful and very rewarding. I loved it.
Q - Please tell us about your opportunity to become the head coach at LSU?
Mainieri - I actually turned down several other jobs in warm weather climates, including in the SEC, the Big 12 and even at UNO to stay at Notre Dame. But when LSU called that was the one school that I just couldn't turn down. It was the only school that I would consider leaving Notre Dame for. I took a leap of faith, because as much as I loved Notre Dame, and I thought I'd be there for the rest of my life, I knew that if I turned LSU down that I'd regret it for the rest of my life.
Skip Bertman contacted me about the position. I actually knew Skip for decades before he became the coach at LSU. He was a dominate high school coach in Miami, Florida at Miami Beach High School. He use to send players to my dad's college. So he and my father were friends and I knew him well. Then he went from there to being the associate head coach at the University of Miami. I actually coached against him when I was the coach at St. Thomas University my first year, so Skip knew of me. I also followed LSU baseball program from a distance all those years, having gone to school there and from knowing Skip. I followed them very closely, never dreaming that someday I'd be the baseball coach here. It ended up happening. It was just an opportunity that you can't pass up. I was very flattered that Skip felt that I was the guy that would help restore the glory to LSU baseball, so it was virtually impossible to say no to him.
When we got to LSU it was a little bit of a challenge at first but we stuck with it . Our very first recruiting class at LSU which didn't come in until my second year was the #1 recruiting class. So the foundation was laid with the first team. Then we added to it, going to Omaha in my second year. Then in my third year we won the national championship. It was really a script played out and I was very proud of the way it happened. I wish we would have won another championship or two, because I felt like we had the teams to do it, but it's really hard to win national championships. A lot of things need to fall your way. We almost won another one in 2017 when we lost in the finals to Florida. We had some really great teams, especially when Alex Bregman was here. We just couldn't finish it up to get another one or two. I think we had a lot of success here and I'm very proud of the things that we did. I'm very honored that I was able to be the coach here for 15 years.
Q - Looking back at your first three seasons, your first season finished with a 29-26-1 record, missing the postseason. Then it seemed like the team started slow in 2008 before going on that amazing SEC record 23 game winning streak and end up advancing to Omaha. Then in 2009 the team wins the national championship. Can you elaborate a little more those first three seasons as the LSU head coach?
Mainieri - Well, I wasn't able to recruit any players for the first team that I had. During the course of my first year here is when I was able to recruit my first class, which didn't come to school until the fall of my second year. So we had simply play with the guys that were already here in year one.
There were some areas that we obviously needed improvement in, but we worked hard and 29-26-1 doesn't seem to be anything that anyone would be proud of, but in a sense quite frankly I thought we overachieved that year. I know LSU fans don't like to hear that, but that was a challenging year. That's why they needed a new coach to come in and build the program back up.
Like I said, the foundation of our national championship team came from that first season. The previous staff had recruited freshmen by the names of Blake Dean, Sean Ochinko, Jared Mitchell and Ryan Schimpf. By their third year, they had the experience and we won the national championship. So we took our lumps that first year.
Then in our second year we brought in that great recruiting class, combined with the foundation guys from the previous season, but we were losing a lot of games early in the year that could have gone either way. We were just that one pitch, that one play, that one at bat away from winning and we weren't getting the job done. But I was still encouraged, because I knew we were much more competitive then we were in my first year. Then all of a sudden two thirds of the way through the season it just clicked. We ended up winning the last 16 games of the regular season, (four three game sweeps consecutively to end the SEC schedule). That had never been done before and hasn't been done since. We had to do it when we really needed the games.
Then we swept the SEC Tournament and then swept the regional. So we won 23 in a row before our streak was stopped in the first game of the super regional before winning the next two games against Cal-Irvine and qualified for Omaha.
Even though we didn't win the national championship in 2008, in Omaha we went 1-2. It just laid the ground work for the following year.
In 2009 we started the season ranked #1 in the nation and culminated it with a national championship. Some people who follow LSU are disappointed that we didn't win another championship in my tenure, but it wasn't like we didn't have a lot of success. We had a stretch of six straight years where we were a national seed. That had only been done one other time previously in college baseball history. We won SEC championships. I think we won 31 different championships including regionals, super regionals, western division championships, SEC regular season championships and SEC tournaments. We just didn't win the last game of the year again. I know that was disappointing.
Some people evaluate your season by if you won the last game of the year. That attitude is a result of what Skip Bertman created here. He won five national championships and that became the standard at LSU, and that's what makes LSU so unique and so special, but at the same time that's an unreal expectation.
Q - I want to bring up your second season again. Your final two wins in the super regional were the final two games played and won in the old Alex Box Stadium. Then you end up winning the national championship the next season, which was the team's first season in the new stadium. How did you and the team handle the move from such a historic site where so many wonderful moments happened, into the new building 200 yards down the street?
Mainieri - When Skip hired me, he told me that we would play one more season and then move into this sparkling new Alex Box Stadium. That certainly was attractive to me in deciding to come here. As it turned out we actually had to play two more seasons in the old Box because we were a year removed from Hurricane Katrina.
All of the contractors were busy repairing and rebuilding hospitals and schools back up so baseball stadiums had to take a back seat and understandably so.
But I'm really glad we had that extra season in the old Box, because when we had that 23 game winning streak we ended up closing out with a regional and hosting a super regional and I'm really glad we had that experience. Of course we won the super regional against Cal-Irvine, sending out the old Box in the most appropriate way by qualifying for Omaha.
Then going into a new stadium and winning a national championship that year is something no one can take away from us. We were just so proud of the new stadium. We had a veteran team here in my third year. The crowds were coming out in record numbers. It was only appropriate that we won it all our first year there.
It was a two year period that I'll never forget obviously for a lot of reasons, but just the pride in closing out the old stadium and then opening up the new stadium was just phenomenal.
Q - I have a question about winning the national championship in your third year. You and your team had the face something that none of the previous LSU teams had to face in winning a national championship in Omaha and that was the format change to the championship game in the College World Series. Previous LSU teams only had to play one game for all the marbles on the final day. Now it's a best out of three series. I personally like the old format better. The gritty one game, need to be your best on one day to win a championship. That had to have been added pressure to win a national championship in that new championship series format?
Mainieri - Yes. Well we won the first game, lost game two so it came down to a final game. Like you said, there's nothing like going to bed at night, waking up in the morning and knowing it's do or die for the national championship. It's like playing the Super Bowl. What an amazing feeling that was. But our team was so confident and I believed in our kids so much that there was no doubt in our mind that we were going to win that final game against Texas that night.
We jumped out to a 4-0 lead before finding ourselves in a tie after five innings at 4-4. So I grouped up the guys in the dugout before we went to bat in the sixth inning and I said. "Hey, Nobody hang their heads guys. We have a four inning game for the national championship. So lets be the better team in these last four innings."
We went out there in the top of the sixth and scored five runs. We had tremendous relief pitching. Then we ended up adding another run in the eighth and another in the ninth. We ended up winning 11-4. It looked to the casual fan like it was easy win, but it wasn't.
We had to beat a coach who had won five national championships in Augie Garrido. We had to beat the University of Texas who had won six national championships overall.
That was our sixth national championship to tie Texas for the second most in history. I think USC has the most with 11 or 12. It was an amazing night and something I'll never forget. I feel very blessed to have experienced it.
Q - How do you feel about the job that Jay Johnson has done so far?
Mainieri - I'm obviously pulling for him. Most of the players on this year's team played for me last year. I recruited most of the players on the team. All of the returning players I recruited and coached. But we also recruited most of this new recruiting class for this year. Jay helped by bringing in a few transfers.
I feel good about what we left for him. There's a theory in coaching that when you leave or retire, you want to leave the program in really good shape for the new coach. I feel very proud about that.
We won a regional last year and these guys have a year of experience, plus the additional recruiting class, so I think Jay is very grateful that we left him an outstanding team. There is no question that it's an Omaha caliber, national championship caliber team.
For that reason, it was hard for me to walk away, because I knew we had the making of a championship caliber team for the next year. So when I made the decision to retire, it was very complicated and a lot of it had to do with health reasons.
I think Jay has come in and has done a good job preparing the team for the new season. He's going to find out that there is a lot of expectations for the coach of the LSU baseball program. There will be criticism and there will be days when people are questioning if they made the right decision on who the new coach is. It all comes with the territory. But I think he's experienced enough to understand that. I think he's a quality coach and a quality person. I think he will keep the program at a very high level and I wish him nothing but the best.
I'm here to help him. He has called on me a lot and I've made myself available to him a lot. He knows that I want nothing but great success for the program.
Q - What adjustments have you made since retiring after 39 years of coaching? Do you miss it?
Mainieri - Sure. I miss it a lot. I knew I was going to miss it. I just have to keep reminding myself that all good things have to come to an end at some point. I made the decision to retire for my own personal health reasons. I also felt that it was time to hand the program over to a younger person that had maybe a little more energy and that could do the little things that I always did. I was just running out of gas.
I've coached almost 2,300 games. I've coached over 900 games at LSU. With the expectations as high as they are at LSU, it could wear you down a little bit. I just felt it was the right time and it's been a big adjustment for me.
For the first time in four decades I'm not preparing a team to start a season. That's a big void in my life. I'm trying to fill it by spending a lot of time with my children and grandchildren. Doing some things that I never got to do in the spring time and even in the fall. I'm playing a lot of golf. I've gone visit my son in South Bend a couple of times and I've been able to babysit my grandkids.
I'm just trying to adjust to my new life. That doesn't mean I don't miss my old life either. I think this first year will be a huge adjustment for me. I gave the job everything I had to offer for 39 years, 15 at LSU. I just felt like I didn't have anymore to give. I think I was man enough to understand that and realize that. It was the toughest thing I've ever done in my life going into the athletic director's office and tell him that I was giving up my dream job. I made the decision and there's no looking back now.
I'm very grateful and appreciative to have had the opportunity and I feel like I've done a pretty good job while I was here. I hope most people feel that way. I'm thankful to God that I got to do what I wanted to do with my life and I did it for 39 years. How many people can say that?
Q - From what I understand, you are still involved with the LSU athletic department?
Mainieri - Officially I am. My official title is 'Ambassador to LSU Athletics'... If Scott Woodward needs me for something, I'm there for him. I visit and mingle with people who donate to LSU athletics, letting them know how appreciative we are for their support.
Q - Is there anything you want to tell the LSU fans?
Mainieri - I've had so many other coaches and people from around the country ask me, how do I handle the pressure coaching at LSU? How did you do it for 15 years? You know what I tell them? ... I never felt pressure, not for one moment. Because when I was a young boy my father gave me the greatest advice that he could ever give to someone. 'The only person that you have to please is the man that you look at everyday in the mirror and know that you gave it your very best effort'.
I know LSU fans are very demanding and have high expectations, but they are also very supportive and that makes coaching at LSU very special.
I never felt pressure because I held myself to a higher standard than even LSU fans held me to. In a job I had where there is a lot of people that care about the team, you're going to have some criticism, you're going to have some praise and you take it all equally because LSU fans are very passionate about their teams, especially their baseball team.
I never took criticism personally. I took it just as they were passionate about their team and I was very proud to be their coach. When I put that LSU uniform on, I knew we were representing a great fan base, a great university, and a great state. I was very proud of that everyday. Nobody wanted to win more than I did. Every game I coached in Alex Box Stadium, I'd look around and see 10,000 people in the stands and I'd say to myself, "Wow, what a huge responsibility. My job is to send these people home happy tonight." and I tried my best to do that every single game.
I think the feedback I've gotten from most fans is that they were very thankful and grateful for the time that I was here. I'm sure there may have been some fans that were glad to see me go, but I've never felt anything but love for LSU people and I'm very proud that I was their baseball coach for 15 years.
Photos Below By: Terrill Weil