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South Carolina seeks Paul Mainieri as next head coach

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LSU coach Paul Mainieri (Justin Tafoya/NCAA Photos Via Getty)

Multiple sources told Baseball America on Monday that South Carolina is eyeing Paul Mainieri as its next head coach, but there is no confirmation that a deal has been finalized.

Mainieri, who won the national championship with LSU in 2009, has been out of baseball for the past three seasons after retiring as Tigers coach following the 2021 season.

Mainieri, 66, brings an impressive pedigree. He was the head coach for 39 seasons at LSU, Notre Dame, Air Force and St. Thomas (Fla.) and ranks eighth on the all-time list with 1,505 wins. Mainieri led LSU to the national championship in 2009 and a runner-up finish in 2017. He is one of 13 coaches to lead two different programs to the College World Series and was named Baseball America Coach of the Year in 2009.

When Mainieri retired three years ago, sources said he resigned for health reasons, as he suffered from migraines in 2021. After retiring, however, Mainieri never strayed far from coaching, being involved in coaching searches at Notre Dame in 2022 and Miami in 2023 before turning down both opportunities.

If Mainieri takes the job, he will return to the team's bench after three seasons away, and he will do so in a very interesting place. He will work for Ray Tanner, who he competed against in the SEC before being promoted to athletic director in 2012. Tanner is also the guy every baseball coach in South Carolina is measured against. Tanner won two consecutive national titles in 2010-11 and played for his third straight title in 2012. In his 16 years at the helm of the program, he built the Gamecocks into one of the best programs in the sport, competing in Omaha six times.

Since Tanner became athletic director, however, South Carolina has not been able to maintain that level of success. First under Chad Holbrook and then under Mark Kingston, the Gamecocks have slipped to the middle of the SEC standings over the past 12 years. They have made the NCAA Tournament seven times, which is still a strong percentage, and have made it to the Super Regionals four times. But they have not been to Omaha, have not won the SEC and have hosted the Super Regionals only once.

In the 12 years since South Carolina's last CWS appearance, 10 SEC schools have made it to Omaha – and that's not counting Oklahoma and Texas, both of which were there during that time period and are now joining the conference.

Getting South Carolina back to that level would be Mainieri's job. He must navigate the transfer portal, the new NIL realities, a 16-team superconference and potentially a completely restructured college baseball landscape following the agreement of House of Representatives vs. NCAA. All of that has changed significantly since he took over as LSU coach.

It won't be easy, but Mainieri has proven to be an impressive adaptable player in his career. He's coached at a military academy, an elite Midwestern school and arguably the biggest job in the sport. He won all three. Leading South Carolina in 2025 may require the biggest adjustment for him.

Anna Harden

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