CWS Practice

CWS Practice Old friends Brian O'Connor, left, with Paul Mainieri, right, during practice for the College World Series at Rosenblatt Stadium in Omaha, Ne. on June 12, 2009.

While LSU’s coaching search continues, Paul Mainieri said over the weekend he at one point talked to Brian O’Connor about succeeding him as LSU’s baseball coach, but O’Connor told him he wants to stay at Virginia.

“I wish I could have talked him into leaving Virginia and coming to replace me at LSU, but he wouldn’t bite,” Mainieri said on the Jerry Ratcliffe Show. “He loves it where he’s at. He loves Virginia. He wants to be the coach at Virginia and nowhere else.”

Mainieri’s statement, made the day before Virginia beat Tennessee in its opening game of the College World Series, quieted speculation LSU could be looking at O’Connor, who won the 2015 national championship.

LSU continues to search for a coach to replace Mainieri, who retired after 15 seasons at LSU. The process is expected to stretch into this week and possibly further, sources said, as athletic director Scott Woodward evaluates coaches at the College World Series.

Mainieri considers O’Connor one of his closest friends. O’Connor, 50, worked as Mainieri’s top assistant for nine years at Notre Dame before taking the job at Virginia. They reunited when Mainieri coached the U.S. Collegiate National Team in 2018 and he picked O’Connor as the pitching coach. Mainieri said they talk about once a week.

Though Mainieri spoke to O’Connor, he has recently said he doesn’t want to interfere in LSU’s coaching search. After LSU returned last week from its loss in the NCAA super regional, Mainieri said Woodward had asked him about the candidates, but “I certainly don’t have that much input, and I don’t want that much input. I want Scott to make the decision.”

LSU sports news in your inbox

If you're a Tiger fan you won't want to miss this newsletter. Sign up today.

“I’m very grateful they’ve asked me my opinion about people, and I’ve given them some names of people I think would be really good candidates,” Mainieri said at the time. “I think they’re working their way through the process right now.”

Since leaving Notre Dame, O’Connor has led Virginia’s program for 18 seasons. In that time, Virginia has won its only national championship, reached five College World Series and made 14 straight NCAA tournaments, a streak that ended in 2018.

Virginia hadn’t returned to the postseason until this year. It started 4-12 within the ACC, but then Virginia won six of its last seven series to reach the NCAA Columbia regional. The Cavaliers advanced, and they won their super regional on a go-ahead grand slam.

In Virginia’s opening game of the College World Series, it beat Tennessee 6-0 to remain in the winner’s bracket. Mainieri rooted for his friend.

“I’m hoping they’ll win and get Tennessee out of the tournament,” Mainieri said. “Then I’ll head up to Omaha and hopefully watch him win his second national championship later in the tournament.”

Email Wilson Alexander at walexander@theadvocate.com