‘Shockwaves across college baseball’: Reaction to USC’s choice for next baseball coach

The expected hire of Paul Mainieri as South Carolina’s new baseball coach created a stir across the college baseball landscape on Monday.

College baseball and Southeastern Conference writers weighed on the move on X (formerly Twitter) as word spread that USC was targeting the former LSU coach to be Mark Kingston’s replacement. Baseball America’s Teddy Cahill was the first to report the news that was confirmed by The State from a source close to the situation.

“The move to hire Paul Mainieri has caused shockwaves across college baseball,” D1 Baseball managing editor Kendall Rogers posted on X (formerly Twitter).

“THIS LEAGUE,” SEC Network’s Peter Burns wrote in response to the news.

The move was surprising for a variety of reasons. Mainieri is 66 years old and has been out of college baseball for three years, even though his name has come up in openings at Notre Dame and Miami the past two seasons.

“He retired due to health concerns. He’s had time to overcome those & had the itch to return. He did a solid job at LSU,” D1 Baseball’s SEC writer Mark Etheridge wrote. “The game has changed since he left, but he’s stayed close, giving hope he can pick up where he left off. That said, I didn’t see this coming.”

No one did. Mainieri wasn’t mentioned by any local or national media as a possible replacement for Kingston, who was fired a week ago after losing in the NCAA Tournament regional round. Coaches who were mentioned most often were East Carolina’s Cliff Godwin, Duke’s Chris Pollard, Wake Forest’s Tom Walter, USC assistant coach Monte Lee, Louisville’s Dan McDonnell and Tennessee assistant coach Josh Elander.

“Interesting move to say the least. Ray Tanner definitely kept a tight lid on this search, because no one brought this up at all,” said Heath Cline, a former 107.5 The Game radio host Heath Cline who now works in Atlanta.

This isn’t the first time USC has hired a former national champion coach to lead one of its major sports. Lou Holtz was hired to resurrect South Carolina’s football program in 1999 and then was replaced by Steve Spurrier.

But that was a different era for college athletics. There was no transfer portal or NIL. The move for most programs lately has been to go with younger coaches.

“While super successful, Paul Mainieri hasn’t led a program since 2021 and the recruiting game’s changed considerably since,” 247Sports Brad Crawford posted.