Monte Lee: 5 things to know about potential South Carolina baseball coach

South Carolina assistant Monte Lee was named interim baseball coach after Mark Kingston was fired on Monday. Lee is expected to be one of the candidates considered to replace Kingston.

Here are five things to know about the longtime coach with deep S.C. connections.

Palmetto State through and through

Lee has spent almost all of his baseball life in South Carolina, except the years he was playing in the minor leagues.

Lee was a standout at Lugoff-Elgin High School and went on to play at College of Charleston, where he was inducted into the school’s Wall of Fame and became the first Cougars position player to be drafted when the St. Louis Cardinals picked him in 1999.

Lee’s coaching career started at Spartanburg Methodist. He’s been an assistant coach in two stints at USC — once under Ray Tanner and again under Kingston — and had successful head coaching runs at College of Charleston and Clemson.

Success at other SC colleges

Lee won more than 500 games in his 14 years as head coach at CofC and Clemson. He led the Cougars to the program’s second super regional appearance in 2014.

In his first year at Clemson, the Tigers won the 2016 ACC Tournament championship for the first time since 2006. Clemson recorded three straight 40-plus win seasons in Lee’s first three years.

The knock on Lee was that he didn’t make it to a super regional at Clemson despite four straight trips to the NCAA Tournament from 2016-19 and hosting a regional in three straight years.

Popular with players

If Lee gets the USC head coaching job, it would be a popular choice with current and future players.

Several Class of 2024 signees, including the state’s top prospect PJ Morlando, and current players Dalton Reeves and Kennedy Jones voiced their support for Lee on social media after Kingston was fired.

“@CoachMonteLee has my vote for next Head Coach of Gamecock Baseball. Few people care more about this program and its success than him,” Reeves wrote on X (formerly known as Twitter.)

Lee has been hard at work the past two days in the interim role, meeting with players and keeping the roster intact. He also has been doing his best to try and add players either through the transfer portal or through high school commitments.

The Gamecocks got a pledge from North Myrtle Beach Class of 2025 pitcher Luke Roupe on Tuesday and Winthrop transfer pitcher Caleb Jones on Monday.

He’s been mentioned for USC job before

This isn’t the first time Lee has been rumored for the Gamecocks’ opening. His name came up when Chad Holbrook resigned in 2017.

At that point, Lee had just completed his second season at Clemson, making the timing of a move unlikely so early in his Tigers’ tenure. Now, he’s been at USC for the last two years and appears ready to be a head coach again after two years as an assistant. Lee has also been connected to the head baseball opening at The Citadel.

Known for offense

Lee coached nine All-Americans at Clemson and was known for his hitting approach, which is one of the reasons Kingston brought him back to USC in 2023.

Last season, the Gamecocks were 10th in the nation with 117 home runs and second in the country with 398 walks. USC was sixth in the Southeastern Conference in home runs this year and fifth in on-base percentage.

Lee also has worked with some of the country’s top power hitters at Clemson in Seth Beer and Max Wagner. Beer hit 56 home runs and had a program-high .648 slugging percentage in his career. Wagner was ACC Player of the Year in 2022.

At USC, Ethan Petry and Cole Messina are among those who have shined the past two seasons. Petry has a chance to become the school’s all-time home run leader. He has 44 in two seasons, trailing Justin Smoak’s 62.