With his future more in doubt than at any other point in his 10-year tenure at LSU, Paul Mainieri called his wife, Karen, at 1 p.m. Thursday from his office.
A school, one Mainieri declined to name specifically, contacted the 58-year-old coach “out of the clear blue.”
“I think I want to stay,” Mainieri told her. “I think the best thing to do is to stay.”
Less than three minutes later, pitcher Alex Lange phoned his coach, a conversation Mainieri called “very emotional.” Freshman All-American Antoine Duplantis followed. Greg Deichmann called, too.
“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,’ ” Mainieri told The Advocate on Thursday.
“There was just no way I could leave those kids. No way. I love them, and they’re great kids.”
After LSU administrators offered Mainieri a significant boost in pay, he rebuffed that other school. It was Texas, multiple sources confirmed. The skipper will receive an enhanced contract from LSU, multiple sources confirmed to The Advocate.
Mainieri and athletic director Joe Alleva met at about 11 a.m. Thursday as reports swirled about the Longhorns’ interest. Details of LSU’s offer were not immediately known. Mainieri said he was not offered a job by another institution.
Mainieri chose not to comment when asked Thursday if the administration offered him a pay raise. The talks with UT officials were serious enough to prompt an immediate response from LSU’s administration.
In September 2015, Mainieri got a two-year contract extension valid through the 2020 season. His base salary is $750,000. At the time, he didn’t receive a raise.
Alleva did not return a message for comment but offered a statement in a university news release reaffirming Mainieri’s commitment to the program.
“I’m extremely pleased that Paul Mainieri is the baseball coach at LSU,” Alleva said in the statement. “He has established a consistent record of excellence in all facets of our program, and I’m confident that the Tigers will continue to contend for national championships during his tenure.
“In addition to their accomplishments on the field, our players are actively involved in community service projects, and the team regularly delivers strong academic performances. Coach Mainieri has embraced the high standards inherent in our baseball program, and I look forward to its future under his leadership.”
Sources earlier Monday confirmed a report from D1Baseball.com that Texas officials interviewed Mainieri for their open job, which opened when Augie Garrido, the winningest coach in college baseball history, relinquished his duties — that’s how the school put it — May 30 after 20 seasons at Texas.
Before this season, Mainieri told The Advocate he’d like to coach eight more years at LSU. He wants to retire as a 66-year-old coach having spent 18 seasons with the Tigers.
Mainieri just wrapped up his 10th season at LSU, leading a youthful team to a national seed and the super regionals in what many pundits have described as his best overall coaching job since arriving at LSU in 2007. The Tigers were swept by Coastal Carolina in the super regionals.
Amid Mainieri’s 27 exit meetings with players following the Tigers’ super regional loss, the courting began. It began a week Mainieri termed “traumatic.”
“It wasn’t anything I looked for or searched for,” Mainieri said. “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.”
In a purple, checkered fishing shirt with “LSU” on the left breast, Mainieri spoke in hushed tones throughout a 15-minute interview inside his office, where he spent most of Thursday contemplating a career move he “never dreamt” would manifest.
The negotiations, Mainieri said, forced him into a needed self-evaluation.
“I learned the feelings that I had that maybe I was being taken for granted or underappreciated aren’t necessarily true,” Mainieri said. “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.”
His decision finalized, Mainieri again called his wife. He playfully suggested he felt 10 years younger, like this Thursday in early June was his first as LSU’s coach after a two-day “emotional roller coaster.”
“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,” Mainieri said. “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.”