Nick Mingione hired as new Kentucky Wildcats head baseball coach

Having been part of two SEC championships and a team that made the College World Series finals, Nick Mingione has a firm grasp on the most competitive conference in America and what it takes to build a contender within it.

So said Kentucky Athletics Director Mitch Barnhart on Tuesday as he introduced the former UK and Mississippi State assistant coach as the new head coach of the Wildcats' baseball program.

"If you begin to have those conversations with people across the country, you look for people that are involved in college baseball, and you've been in our league for a period of time, there's a few folks that sort of have an eye for the landscape. You begin to have those conversations," Barnhart said. "One name kept coming up at the top of that list time and time again.

"If you think about passion, competitiveness, effort, integrity, character, people that are good stewards, people that are learners, that was Nick over and over."

Mingione, 37, will be a first-time head coach after spending the last nine seasons in Starkville under former UK head coach John Cohen. He was part of the Bulldogs' 2016 SEC regular season championship as well as a member of the MSU staff that advanced to the 2013 College World Series championship against UCLA.

In 2006, Mingione was a young assistant coach on Cohen's staff at UK when the Wildcats won their only SEC title in program history.

He's ready to get Kentucky back into the hunt.

"Our goal is to win a national championship," Mingione flatly stated. "... We will mention Omaha on a daily basis."

That journey begins with battling against the best competition in the country.

"I will never forget being in Athens, Georgia, in 2006, watching our guys dog pile and win the Southeastern Conference championship," he added. "I will never forget that. It's our goal. It's my goal to make sure that happens again."

To get there, Mingione said recruiting the right type of players will be key.

"During the recruiting process, I'll have a series of questions that I'll sit down and ask players to try to figure out what their goals are," he said. "One of my questions is, ‘What is your longterm baseball goal?’ I don't care if the guy throws 95 with a good breaking ball, if he doesn't want to play in the big leagues, I'm not so sure he would fit in our system. We want guys that it's so important to them with the understanding they have to be good people and good students."

He also explained an "inside-out" recruiting approach that will focus heavily on talent-rich Lexington and central Kentucky, but won't be limited to any certain geographic area.

"Our 2006 conference championship team had six guys from the city of Lexington," said Mingione, who was born in New York and raised in Florida. " We'll move out to the surrounding counties and cities, and have done a really good job recruiting all over the country. When you're at the University of Kentucky, our brand is what it is, you can go wherever.  Have contacts in Texas, the South, the Southeast, the North, the Northeast, Midwest, even Canada.  We can go wherever.  We're looking for players that want to be here."

He says he's still learning the personnel at UK, but realizes the pitching rotation will be the first priority. The Cats had all three of its weekend starters -- Zack Brown, Kyle Cody and Dustin Beggs -- selected in the MLB Draft last week.

"We have to replace over 300 innings," Mingione said. "That's going to be a challenge."

Mingione developed a reputation as one of the nation's top recruiters at Mississippi State. He helped reel in top three classes at MSU from 2013-15 and has coached 64 players selected in the MLB Draft during his career. That figure includes 36 All-Americans and five conference players of the year.

His five-year contract at UK calls for a base salary of $300,000 in the first year, followed by a raise of $50,000 in 2018 and 2019. He's scheduled to make $400,000 in years four and five of his deal, plus an additional $75,000 each year for participation in radio, television and various endorsements.

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