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'A proven winner': The Bengal Tiger's Shea Dixon details what Paul Mainieri could bring to the table at South Carolina

imageby:Jack Veltri06/11/24


After just over a week, South Carolina’s baseball coaching search looks to be nearing an end.

The USC Board of Trustees will meet on Tuesday at 4 p.m. for the “Approval of Athletics Employment Contracts,” which should most likely include former national title winner Paul Mainieri as the school’s new baseball coach.

Mainieri boasts a track record that is perfect for what the Gamecocks have been looking for. He owns a 1,501-775-8 record over his career at St. Thomas, Air Force, Notre Dame and LSU. He’s been to the College World Series six times, winning his only title with LSU in 2009.

“I think it’s clear that Ray Tanner knows Paul Mainieri’s coaching career and what he’s capable of as well as anyone out there, because they were doing it at the same time,” The Bengal Tiger’s Shea Dixon told GamecockCentral. “If Ray Tanner thinks that this is the right move and they can assemble the right staff, you’re getting a head coach that’s won a national championship, who’s made five College World Series appearances and hosted plenty of postseason baseball at Alex Box (Stadium). … I think just getting a proven winner is something that Ray Tanner probably had his sights set on and was able to do here.”

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Over his nearly 40-year coaching career, Mainieri has been to the postseason 21 times. He’s also one of only 13 coaches to lead two different programs to Omaha. And that will certainly be the expectation at South Carolina.

“I mean, when you’ve won 11 titles in 14 full seasons at a place like LSU, when you’re following in the shadow of a guy like Skip Bertman through the 90’s, and you take that job at a place you went to school and played college baseball. Coming from Air Force and Notre Dame, to do it at LSU in the SEC and get those results and continue to carry that LSU baseball name into the 21st century, that was Paul Mainieri,” said Dixon, who covered LSU baseball during Mainieri’s tenure, including the 2009 national championship.

“With the win in 2009 and being able to consistently field teams that were competitive, that made the postseason, that knew how to win ballgames, guys that went on to become high level Major League Baseball players, which is recipe for a program like South Carolina with where they want to get back to and where they’ve been before.”

If approved, Mainieri will become the 31st head coach in program history at South Carolina. However, one worry that many have is his age. Mainieri will turn 67 in August and hasn’t coached since 2021 when he retired citing health issues.

While these are fair concerns to have, Dixon says Mainieri is “still youthful enough to where he can get it done.”

“He was at plenty of LSU baseball this year, I think he was at Hoover the whole time when LSU made a run until Sunday,” Dixon said. “So he’s not just sitting around the house. He’s a guy who’s still pretty active in the community here, stays around baseball. He saw his dad coach until a late age and might say, ‘Hey, I’ve still got more in me.'”

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But the good news with this presumed hire is that South Carolina is looking to win right now. Mainieri’s resume speaks for itself. He knows how to win consistently. He’s also someone that the Gamecock fanbase will come to like, Dixon said.

“I think he’s considered around Baton Rouge to be one of the nicest head coaches that’s come through the program in any sport,” he said. “He’s a guy who takes a ton of time with the media, the fans. He knows everybody by name — very personable. It was 15 years of 11 of the full seasons he was there, he won a title of some sort, whether it was the SEC or the SEC Tournament or getting into the postseason and making the College World Series. I definitely think this is a hire that if you’re a South Carolina baseball fan and you’re looking for someone to come in, who knows how to win and has been there before and knows the lay of the land in the SEC and you can couple that with a really impressive staff, there’s nobody out there that would probably fit that bill more than Mainieri right now.”

And with Mainieri should also come a very strong supporting cast with his coaching staff. If things continue to trend the way they are, there should be a few more names in line for contracts on Tuesday afternoon.

“There were numerous people from his staffs that went onto become head coaches, went onto become recruiting coordinators, whatever it might be, at different colleges around the country. I think he’s always been smart enough to surround himself with a really good staff,” Dixon said. “I think that probably with this move, for him to step out of retirement to do this after three years of not being in baseball, that he’s agreed with Ray Tanner, ‘Hey, here’s what I want the staff to look like. Here’s what we’ll do to get it done.’ My guess would be once they announce the whole staff, it’ll be an impressive one with a lot of skins on the wall.”

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