Hours after reaffirming his position as LSU’s head baseball coach, Paul Mainieri spoke with The Advocate from his office inside Alex Box Stadium.
Though Mainieri did not mention Texas by name, The Advocate confirmed through sources that the Longhorns were after the 58-year-old Tigers coach, and the LSU administration countered with a substantial pay raise.
Can you talk me through today’s proceedings and how they came about?
Paul Mainieri: “This time of year, coaching jobs open at other schools — lots of schools, I should say — and sometimes there’s speculation whether or not you’d be interested in other jobs. Something came out of the clear blue; it wasn’t anything I looked for or searched for. I was very flattered. I did a lot of soul-searching and had a lot of good counsel from people. Ultimately, I knew my heart was at LSU. Quite frankly, I’d like to finish my career at LSU. The players in our program played a big role in that. Several of them called me when word got out that I may be considering something else. Several of them called me and expressed to me their feelings and, quite frankly, it was very moving and it played a big part in my decision to want to be the coach at LSU for the rest of my career. I’m relieved. I’m flattered that somebody thought enough of me to be their coach. But my heart’s at LSU, and I just didn’t want to leave.”
How long of a process has this been for you?
“Just a couple days. I received contact yesterday morning, and from that time until this afternoon, when I made my decision, I didn’t want to entertain any other ideas about coaching anywhere else other than LSU. I love LSU, I love the players here, I love the community, I love our fans, everything about being at LSU. There was no reason for me to uproot and leave. My family is here.”
Who did you seek counsel from?
“Close friends, other coaches, former coaches of mine. Close friends that I wanted to seek their opinions. But most of the counsel was within my own family. Fortunately I have some very intelligent children and a wonderful wife, and we discussed what possibilities existed out there. Ultimately, the decision was this is where we wanted to spend the rest of our career.”
What made this offer one to listen to?
“I don’t want to mention specifically any schools, so it’s hard to answer that without mentioning any schools.”
You said you were ‘flattered’ when you were contacted. Was it just in human nature to listen when you were contacted?
“I don’t care if you’re 18 years old or 58 years old — everyone has a human need to feel appreciated and wanted. And I’m no different than anybody else. It’s flattering when people say nice things to you. At the end of the day, you have to make decisions that are best for you and your family, and it affects many other people — assistant coaches, staff, the players in your program and the recruits that you’ve recruited. And so you can’t be selfish either. You have to look at all the things a decision impacts. I’ve left three other schools. I don’t want to leave a fourth school. When I came here 10 years ago, I wanted this to be my last stop. And I never dreamt that I’d have to consider anything else. I didn’t really want to consider anything else. But however the process happens, the possibility existed and I just felt that I should look at it. But now that I’ve looked at it and done a real self-evaluation, this is where I want to be.”
What did your players say when they called you?
“It was probably around 1 (p.m.) and I called my wife. As you might imagine, it’s been a pretty emotional two days for us. I called my wife and I said, ‘I think I want to stay. I think the best thing to do is to stay.’ She was like, ‘OK, I’m going to support you in whatever you want to do.’ Not even three minutes after I hung up the phone with her, Alex Lange called me out of the clear blue and expressed his sentiments. I’m not ashamed to tell you it was a very emotional moment for me. Hung up the phone and, not too long after that, Antoine Duplantis called me. Not long after that, Greg Deichmann called me. I started to think maybe this was an orchestrated effort after a while. Then a few more guys called me. Basically they just wanted to tell me ... ‘We’re going to have a good team next year and we want you to be our leader; we want you to be our coach. And not just you, the rest of the staff.’ There was just no way I could leave those kids. No way. I love them and they’re great kids. They’ve worked so hard. We’ve gone through some growing pains and made some real progress. I think our best days are ahead of us. I couldn’t leave them, it’s that simple.
How much was your staff involved in your decision and thoughts in the last two days?
“They were kept abreast of everything. They all have families as well, so they would have been impacted. And that was another strong consideration. Quite frankly, the majority of the staff really didn’t want to leave. … I didn’t want to do something, consider something that was going to impact a lot of people in a way they didn’t want to be impacted. All those things are considerations when you evaluate something like this.”
Coming off the super regional loss and then this, what has this last week been like emotionally?
“Pretty emotional week. The end of the season happens, and it’s just so disappointing. The suddenness and the finality of it all is so traumatic. You have to say goodbye to your team for the last time. You have 27 individual exit meetings through the course of two days, then there’s the possibility of what happens exists. It’s like an emotional roller coaster. It was almost too much to bear, to be honest with you. It was pretty traumatic. At the end of the day, I wish we were in Omaha instead of having to deal with these other things, but at the end of the day, it forced me to really do a serious self-evaluation of not only what I wanted in life but how we’re running the program (and) how we do everything. How can we get better? How can we improve? How can we give ourselves the best chance to win a national championship next year and in the future? It was hard to go through, but it was probably a good exercise.”
I know it’s so fresh; you only made the decision a few hours ago. But what did you learn from this?
“I learned the feelings that I had that maybe I was being taken for granted or underappreciated aren’t necessarily true. By my players, by the administration here. It’s a good feeling to be wanted. It motivates me, it inspires me and it rejuvenates me. I told my wife a few minutes ago that I feel like this is my first day at LSU again. ‘OK, let’s get it going again.’ I feel 10 years younger today. I am so excited about what the future holds. I just can’t wait until we get back with the team and get working in August, and I can’t wait for the 2017 season to begin.”
After 10 years, did you sort of need this to get a new perspective and a new lease on this place?
“That’s what I was saying. There’s a lot of people in coaching that think 10 years is the amount of time you should spend in one place. I don’t know why that is, but I’m very proud of the season we just had. But, at the end, it was disappointing. Something like this happens and it forces you to take a good, hard look at yourself, what you want in life and also the way you’re running the program. I think there’s some things that I need to change about myself in a critical analysis way. I think there’s some things we can do better and I’ll share those with my team and my staff. I’ll be a better coach next year and I’ll be ready to lead our team and guide them along the way, along the journey to Omaha next year.”
Were you offered a pay raise by the LSU administration?
“I’d rather not comment on that.”
Were you offered a job by another institution?