CLEMSON – Clemson baseball coach Monte Lee and University of South Carolina Athletic Director Ray Tanner are good friends.
Lee did, after all, work as an assistant coach with the Gamecocks under Tanner for six years prior to taking the head post at the College of Charleston in 2009.
But that doesn’t mean that either would be willing to cross the rivalry divide as Tanner continues his search for a replacement for Chad Holbrook, who resigned June 6 after five seasons at the helm.
Lee said Friday that he has not been among those contacted about the opening in Columbia.
“Ray Tanner is a good friend of mine,” Lee said. “Ray Tanner is somebody who I obviously have a tremendous amount of respect for. I talk with Ray from time to time; we’ll call and just check in with each other to see how each other is doing. But he has not called me about the job at South Carolina.”
Lee replaced longtime coach Jack Leggett at Clemson in 2016 and has guided the Tigers to an 86-41 record and two NCAA Regional berths in two seasons.
“I’m very happy at Clemson,” Lee said Friday. “I don’t anticipate going anywhere for anytime soon. If Clemson is going to have me for a head coach, this is where I want to be.”
Lee said rules changes to the college game have helped foster parity.
“There are some unique challenges in college baseball now that probably weren’t there 10, 15 years ago,” Lee said. “Just with the roster limitations that we have, you can only have 27 guys on scholarship, you have to offer 25 percent as a bare minimum, you can’t transfer without sitting out anymore – all that has created a lot of parity in college baseball.
“And college baseball is much more competitive across the board than it used to be. We’ve won a lot of mid-week games and a lot of them have been one-run games and a lot have been extra-inning games. Even at the so-called mid-major level, these teams are very competitive. Everybody’s playing pretty good baseball these days.”
Lee also emphasized that losing a player here or there – much like the Gamecocks did last season – can have a devastating impact.
“Lose your catcher, lose your Friday night starter, lose your closer, lose your shortstop, and see what happens,” Lee said. “Chad lost his catcher and his Friday night starter and his top reliever for a number of weeks. It’s tough to recover from that.
“I’ve always gotten along great with Chad Holbrook and I’m sure he’ll be fine. I’m sure he’ll land on his feet. He’s an excellent recruiter and an excellent coach with a great track record.
“It’s a tough business, but we know what the expectations are. If our programs aren’t competing to go to a Super Regional and Omaha ever year, the fan bases are going to view that as a disappointment and the coaches are, too. I’m sure they (South Carolina) are going to find the right guy.”
Scott Keepfer, The Greenville News