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Making the case for and against hiring Paul Mainieri as South Carolina's next baseball coach

imageby:Jack Veltri06/10/24


Breaking down the potential hiring of Paul Mainieri as South Carolina’s next head baseball coach

With each day that passes, South Carolina moves closer to hiring its next head baseball coach.

There have been a healthy list of candidates that the Gamecocks have been eyeing. But it seems there’s at least one new name joining that group. Baseball America’s Teddy Cahill, citing sources, reported Monday afternoon that South Carolina athletics director Ray Tanner is targeting former LSU skipper Paul Mainieri.

As of right now, Cahill reported there is no confirmation of a potential deal being in place. D1Baseball’s Kendall Rogers further reported that Mainieri is expected to be named the head coach. Let’s look at the reasons for why and why not Mainieri should be the next coach in Columbia.

Why South Carolina should hire Mainieri

To put it simply, Mainieri is a winner. And that’s what South Carolina should be looking for in the quest to get back to Omaha.

Mainieri’s track record as a coach spans nearly 40 years with a lot of winning in that time. He got his start at St. Thomas (FL) where he went 179-121-2 in six seasons and became the winningest coach in program history. In his first year, the Tomcats finished six games under .500. But after that, they went on to win 32 or more games in four of the next five years.

He would then move onto the Air Force Academy, where he would also coach for six seasons. His tenure there would be a little more underwhelming as the Falcons never finished above fifth in the Western Athletic Conference. But still, Mainieri went 152-158, good for becoming the second-winningest coach in the program’s history.

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By 1995, Mainieri became the head coach for Notre Dame and saw a great deal of consistent success. Despite only making the NCAA Tournament once in his first four years, the Fighting Irish won at least 40 games in each of those years. Then from 1999 on, his teams never missed the postseason during his time in South Bend.

From 1999-2001, Notre Dame made it to regionals but no further than that. But by 2002, Mainieri led the Irish to a 50-win campaign and a trip to the College World Series, where they’d go 2-2 in Omaha. It was the program’s first time back in Omaha since 1957, so Mainieri was able to turn it around in the span of eight seasons.

Over the next four years, the Irish made it back to the postseason and had a 51-win season in 2004. But they’d never make it out of regional play. By the time Mainieri’s time at Notre Dame came to an end, he finished 533-213-3, good for a .714 winning percentage in 12 seasons.

Mainieri’s most recent coaching stop was at LSU, where he coached from 2007-21. After finishing three games over .500 in year one in Baton Rouge, he led the Tigers back to the College World Series in 2008. The following year, LSU got back to Omaha and this time won it all. That year’s squad featured future big leaguers like DJ LeMahieu, Austin Nola and Ryan Schimpf.

That would be the only national championship title Mainieri won as a head coach. He’d get back to Omaha three more times during his tenure and finished runner-up to Florida in 2017. He’d make two more trips to Super Regionals in 2019 and 2021 before announcing his retirement.

Mainieri finished with a 641-283-3 record in Baton Rouge. For his entire career as a head coach, he’s 1,505-775-8, which results in a .659 winning percentage.

So if there’s one thing to like about this candidate, he’s shown he can win ballgames. He has more years of experience under his belt and has pretty much seen everything there is in college baseball. Plus, he coached for more than a decade in the SEC and consistently made the postseason with a few trips to Omaha sprinkled in. That should get South Carolina fans excited if this is the route the program goes.

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Why South Carolina shouldn’t hire Mainieri

There’s a lot to like about Mainieri’s resume and the places he’s been. But there is a glaring issue, which is the fact that he’s been out of the game for the last four seasons. Mainieri will turn 67 in August. To put it into perspective, he’s the same age as Tanner, who hasn’t coached since 2012.

So he’s been out of baseball for a few years and the game continues to advance with analytics and NIL becoming what it is. So that could cause some concern.

But it looks like Mainieri has been wanting to get back into baseball for the last few years. Cahill pointed out that Mainieri was involved in the coaching searches at Notre Dame in 2022 and Miami in 2023. But he passed on both opportunities.

How would this move translate at South Carolina? It’s unclear what the results may look like. But there’s no denying how good his track record is. Hiring him would show the Gamecocks are truly in win-now mode and ready to get back to the top as soon as possible.

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