Mainieri named Tigers' 25th Baseball Coach

Paul Mainieri, who directed Notre Dame to 533 wins and nine NCAA Tournament appearances in 12 seasons, was introduced Wednesday as LSU's 25th head baseball coach by athletics director Skip Bertman. The hiring of Mainieri, a 1976 LSU baseball letterman who also played two seasons at the University of New Orleans, is subject to approval by the LSU Board of Supervisors.

"When I began the search for a new LSU baseball coach, I was looking for a unique individual," Bertman said. "It would take someone special to lead this program, someone who would demand excellence in both athletics and academics, someone who would represent LSU with dignity and class, and someone who would thrive in the high expectations of a championship program.

 

"I believe LSU has found that man, and his name is Paul Mainieri."

 

The 48-year-old Mainieri established an unparalleled standard of excellence during his tenure at Notre Dame (1995-2006), leading his teams to 11 40-win seasons, nine conference titles and a berth in the 2002 College World Series, marking the school's first CWS trip since 1957.

 

Mainieri, a Miami, Fla. native, is ranked 22nd among active Division I coaches with 864 career victories. His Irish teams have combined for the nation's fourth-best winning percentage during the decade of the 2000s (.728; 324-120-3), trailing only Rice (.752), Oral Roberts (.737) and Florida State (.734).

 

"I have known Paul for over 30 years," Bertman said, "dating back to my days in Miami when I knew his father, the legendary Demie Mainieri at Miami-Dade North Community College. Paul's strong baseball pedigree is one of his most admirable and valuable traits.

 

"He has Louisiana roots. He played at LSU and at UNO. He understands our culture and he appreciates the nuances of our people."

 

Notre Dame has advanced to an NCAA Regional in every season since 1999, making the Irish one of 10 teams to appear in each of the past eight NCAA Tournaments – the others include Miami, Texas, Rice, Cal State Fullerton, Florida State, Stanford, Clemson, Tulane and Oral Roberts. Notre Dame also joined six other schools (LSU, Miami, Rice, South Carolina, Stanford and Texas) as the only programs to reach an NCAA Regional final every season from 2000-05.

 

Mainieri, who earlier spent six years as head coach at the U.S. Air Force Academy, completed his 24th year of coaching on the collegiate level in 2006 with an overall record of 864-492-4 (.637). He ranks second on the Notre Dame baseball career coaching wins list (533-213-3/.714), trailing Jake Kline (558-449-5; 1934-'75).

 

Forty-nine of Mainieri's Notre Dame players were drafted or signed free-agent contracts, and 18 were selected in the first 10 rounds of the Major League draft. His Irish players also combined for 14 All-America and 10 Academic All-America seasons.

 

Mainieri's Notre Dame teams combined for a 100-percent graduation rate (71 of 71) among players who completed their eligibility. Twelve players who signed professionally after their junior year have returned to Notre Dame to complete their degree requirements.

 

Notre Dame was the only Division I baseball program to produce Academic All-Americans each year from 2000-04, with two honored every season from 2000-03. The 2006 squad combined for an impressive 3.28 team GPA during the spring semester.

 

"At Notre Dame, Coach Mainieri achieved things that were never before accomplished in South Bend," Bertman said. " He was undeterred by the natural weather impediments of a Northern school in the sport of baseball. And while other coaches in the North and Midwest complain about their plight, Coach Mainieri never complains. He just wins."

 

Notre Dame was one of just four schools from 1998-2001 that produced two pitchers - Brad Lidge ('98, Houston Astros) and Aaron Heilman (`02, New York Mets) - who were drafted in the first round, with both players advancing to the Major Leagues. Mainieri and his staff consistently have molded players into top prospects, as Lidge was just a 42nd-round pick out of high school while Heilman was a 54th-round pick.

 

Three of Mainieri's former Notre Dame players - Lidge, Heilman and Christian Parker (New York Yankees) - have pitched in the Major Leagues, with Lidge emerging as one of the game's elite closers.

 

Seven other recent Irish players developed into high draft picks despite going undrafted as preps: pitchers Tim Kalita (7th round in '99), Danny Tamayo (10th round, '01), J.P. Gagne (13th round, '03) and Jeff Samardzija (5th round, '06), shortstop Alec Porzel (13th round, '01), centerfielder Steve Stanley (2nd round, '02) and first baseman Craig Cooper (7th round, '06) - with Tamayo, Porzel, Stanley, Gagne and Cooper each ranking among the highest-drafted seniors in the program's history.

 

In the Mainieri era, nine of 13 Irish players who were drafted out of high school have gone on to be drafted in a higher round at Notre Dame while 24 who were undrafted as prep players went on to be drafted as members of the Irish program.

 

The 12 years of the Mainieri era at Notre Dame include 83 noteworthy players who have gone on to distinguish themselves after their Irish careers. Among that group are: three pitchers who have reached the Major Leagues; 16 other current professional players (plus 29 former pro players); nine lawyers/current law-school students; five medical/dental-school students; seven others who have received a master's degree (including two MBAs); three engineers; five involved in medical sales; 11 college/high school coaches; three teachers; three commodities brokers; a sports agent; a contractor; and a town mayor - plus others who are involved in areas such as youth services, accounting, sales, athletic administration, technology, advertising, graphic design, banking and consulting.

 

In 12 seasons of Big East Conference play, the Irish won more league games (192-67-2, .740) than any other team in the conference. Mainieri owns the top career Big East winning percentage (.740) in the 22-year history of the league and four of his teams have posted 20-plus wins in Big East play (no other school has won more than 18 Big East games in a season).

 

The most recent season in the Mainieri era saw the 2006 team reach 45 wins (45-17-1) for the sixth time in the past seven seasons (all but '05). The 2006 squad ranked among the national top-30 in all three major categories (batting avg., ERA and fielding pct.) for most of the season, with just a handful of teams being ranked among the top-30 in all three categories during the second half of the season.

 

Notre Dame finished among the national top-40 in '06 in team batting (40th; .313), staff ERA (21st; 3.52) and team fielding pct. (22nd; school-record .972). Notre Dame completed 2006 as one of just four teams in the top-40 for all three of the above stat categories. The others included: Rice (.321/23rd; 3.16/4th; .972/21st), Oral Roberts (.327/9th; 3.63/27th; .973/19th) and Virginia -- led by former Notre Dame associate head coach Brian O'Connor -- (.322/20th; 3.04/3rd; .970/39th).

 

Notre Dame's 45 wins in 2006 tied for the 10th-most in the nation while the team's .722 winning percentage ranked 12th. The Irish also won the Big East Tournament for the fifth straight season, representing the nation's second-longest streak of consecutive conference tournament titles (Oral Roberts has won nine straight Mid-Continent Conference titles).

 

In addition to establishing the team record for season fielding percentage, (.972; with just 69 errors in 63 games), Mainieri's 2006 team set or tied four other Notre Dame records: strikeouts thrown (504), saves (18), staff strikeout-to-walk ratio (2.95; 504/171) and fewest wild pitches (0.38/gm). The 2006 team also totaled the second-most sacrifice bunts in Notre Dame history (65, one shy of the team record) while finishing with the program's third-best totals in three other categories: 10.81 hits per game, 100 times hit-by-pitch and low staff walk average (2.69 BB per 9 IP).

 

 

 

Paul Mainieri as he appeared as a player at LSU.

 

The 2006 season saw Notre Dame set the Eck Stadium record for average attendance (2,514), totaling 60,334 fans during the season's 24 home dates. The top-seven attendance numbers in the 13-year history of Eck Stadium all came during the 2006 season, led by 3,507 for the series opener versus Rutgers on April 21. Based on 2005 numbers and a 2006 sampling of 69 top teams (as of May 7), Notre Dame likely will finish among the national top-25 leaders for 2006 average attendance.

 

The wide-reaching excellence of the Notre Dame baseball program was reinforced at the athletic department's 2006 awards recognition showcase, as the baseball team was the first recipient of the Notre Dame athletics "Trophy Award" - honoring one varsity team for community service dedication during the academic year. The 32 members of the Notre Dame squad combined to total nearly 200 hours of community service in 2005-06.

 

One of the team's annual events is the Buddy Walk to benefit children with Downs Syndrome and their parents, in a day-long series of activities that concludes with a walk that always brings plenty of smiles to the children's faces. The team also "adopted" a local South Bend-area family through a Salvation Army program during the Christmas holidays. The senior class coordinated the effort while the entire team participated in providing food, supplies and presents to help cheer up the holidays for a local family.

 

"One thing I can guarantee is that LSU fans will always be proud of the way their Tigers play under Coach Mainieri," Bertman said. "He brings out the best in his players in more ways than one. He makes them sound players and he produces winning teams and good citizens."

 

Mainieri was honored in 2005 with a 25-year coaching certificate at the American Baseball Coaches Association convention and was voted to the position of the ABCA's chair of the Division I Baseball Coaches. He is also a member of the ABCA executive committee.

 

Mainieri established in 2002 the Opening Night Dinner at Notre Dame, and the event has featured an impressive lineup of keynote speakers: Hall of Fame manager Tommy Lasorda, Chicago Cubs GM Jim Hendry, award-winning author and lifelong baseball fan John Grisham, legendary baseball pitcher Roger Clemens and Notre Dame football coach Charlie Weis. The 2005 and '06 preseason dinners each were advanced sellouts, with nearly 1,800 fans packing the Joyce Center Fieldhouse .

 

A former Chicago White Sox farmhand, Mainieri was the first civilian baseball coach at Air Force and averaged 26 wins in six seasons ('89-'94) for a program that averaged just 15 wins in the six previous years. He is the only Air Force baseball coach to post six straight 20-win seasons and his 1994 squad led the nation in hitting (.360), slugging (.623) and triples (0.76 per game).

 

Mainieri guided the 1993 Air Force team to its first winning season in nearly a decade (28-22), with a school-record 21 wins at home. He coached three All-Americans, two Freshman All-Americans and two Academic All-Americans with the Falcons.

 

Mainieri coached six seasons at St. Thomas (Fla.) University where - in 1983 at the age of 24 - he took over a program that had yet to post a winning season. Mainieri led St. Thomas to four seasons that ended with the team ranked in the final NCAA Division II poll. The 1984 Sunshine State Conference coach of the year saw his St. Thomas teams average 30 wins per season (after an average of just 18 wins in the six previous years).

 

Fifteen of Mainieri's St. Thomas players entered pro baseball, with Joe Klink, Dane Johnson (Chicago White Sox, '94) and Dan Rohrmeier (Seattle Mariners, '97) each going on to appear on Major League rosters. Klink played with the 1987 Minnesota Twins and '89 Oakland A's World Series championship teams while also pitching with the Florida Marlins in '94.

 

Mainieri's coaching career began at his alma mater, Columbus High School in Miami, where he served as assistant baseball and football coach for three years before taking over at St. Thomas in the fall of 1982. He also spent the final three years at St. Thomas as director of athletics.

 

A four-year letterwinner in college, Mainieri played one season at LSU, one for his father at Miami-Dade and two at the University of New Orleans. The second baseman helped the Privateers win two Sun Belt Conference titles and advance to the 1979 NCAA tournament during his senior season.

 

After completing his undergraduate degree requirements at Florida International ('80), Mainieri played two minor-league seasons before earning a master's in sports administration from St. Thomas in 1982.

 

Born Aug. 29, 1957, in Morgantown, W.Va., Mainieri and wife Karen have four children: Nicholas (22) - a senior student assistant coach on the 2006 Irish squad - Alexandra (21, who will be a senior at Ball State in 2006-07), Samantha (19, who has been accepted at Notre Dame for her sophomore year in '06-'07) and Notre Dame's spirited batboy Thomas (11, born two days before Mainieri accepted the position at Notre Dame).

 

"We will play our final season in historic Alex Box Stadium next year," Bertman said, "and we will move into a new Alex Box Stadium in 2008. It will take a special person to bridge the great past and the promising future of Tiger Baseball. I am proud to introduce Paul Mainieri as that person to you today."

 

The Paul Mainieri File

Pronunciation: Muh-NAIR-ee

 

Career Record:      864-492-4 (.637, 24 seasons)

  • At Notre Dame:            533-213-3 (.714, 12 seasons)
  • At Air Force:                152-158 (.490, six seasons)
  • At St. Thomas:             179-121-1 (.598, six seasons)

 

Personal

  • Birthdate: Aug. 29, 1957
  • Hometown: Miami, Florida
  • Education

      1980 - B.S. in physical education from Florida International University

      1982 - M.S. in sports administration from St. Thomas (Fla.) Univ.

  • Family

      Married to the former Karen Fejes of New Orleans, La.

      Children: Nicholas (22), Alexandra (21), Samantha (19) and Thomas (11)

 

Coaching Awards

  • ABCA Mideast Region Coach of the Year - 2001, 2002
  • Big East Coach of the Year - 2001
  • College Baseball Insider National Coach of the Year - 2000

 

 

The Mainieri Era at Notre Dame (1995-2006)
By The Numbers

3,507 - Record-setting attendance at Eck Stadium for April 21, 2006, game vs. Rutgers
2,514 - Record-setting Eck Stadium season avg. attendance in 2006
.740 - Win pct. in BIG EAST games (192-67-2)

533 - Total victories
231 - ND-record scoring streak ('99-'02)
215 - Recent scoring streak ('02-'06)
100% - Team graduation rate (among four-year players; 71-of-71)

73 - Record-setting 1997 home run total
51 - Record-setting 2004 victory total
47 - Players who have moved on to pro ball (as of June 25, 2006)
44 - Average victories per season
36 - Players selected in the MLB draft
36 - Different home states of ND players in his 12 seasons
25-1 - NCAA win over South Alabama ('02)
24 - Players with 3.0+ GPA (spring '06)
24 - Players drafted who were not drafted out of high school
22-4 - Record-setting BIG EAST mark in '01
21 - Players with 3.0+ GPA (fall '05)

18 - Consecutive BIG EAST wins ('01)
18 - Players drafted in first 10 rounds
14 - All-America seasons
10 - Academic All-America seasons
10 - Consecutive 40-win seasons (16 straight for program; '89-'04, plus '06)

9 - NCAA Tournament appearances ('96; '99-'05)
8 - Consecutive NCAA trips (one of 10 teams in NCAAs every year since '99)
6 - Consecutive trips to the NCAA regional finals ('00-'05)
5 - Annual Opening Night Dinners (since '02), featuring pre-sellout crowds of nearly 1,800 and keynote speakers such as Tommy Lasorda, John Grisham and Roger Clemens
5 - Consecutive Big East Tournament titles ('02-'06)
5 - Consecutive preseason top-20 rankings ('01-'05)

4 - Seasons with 20-plus Big Easrt wins (no other school has won more than 18)
4 - NCAA Regionals at Eck Stadium
3.28 - Team in-season GPA during the 2006 spring semester
3 - Former Notre Dame assistants who now are D-I head coaches
2 - First-round draft picks
1 - #1 Recruit class ranking ('02 season)
1 - College World Series team ('02)
1 - #1 National ranking in 2001 season
1 - First team to receive the Notre Dame athletic department's award for community service excellence (in 2006)

 


Mainieri's Mentors
Paul Mainieri grew up around the game of baseball on a daily basis and, as the son of a Hall of Fame coach, had the good fortune to be exposed to several outstanding coaches.

 

Mainieri cites three primary influences in his development as a coach, headed by his father Demie Mainieri, who coached Miami-Dade North Community College to 1,018 wins and a national title in his 30-year career.

 

"My father laid the foundation for identifying the correct reasons to enter into the coaching profession," says Mainieri.

 

"Despite his success that he may have encountered, my father emphasized to me that a coach was a teacher first and foremost. Watching how he made such a positive impact on young people's lives was the greatest factor for me wanting to follow in his footsteps."

 

Mainieri spent his final two seasons as an infielder at the University of New Orleans, where he had the good fortune of playing for current UNO athletic director Ron Maestri. "Coach Maestri showed me how a high intensity level and work ethic can translate into success," recalls Mainieri, whose 2002 squad opened at the Ron Maestri/UNO Classic.

 

"He used to do the little things-like drag the field and go into the community to raise support - and his charisma resulted in the construction of a beautiful ballpark for our team," says Mainieri.

"He pushed his team hard but would do anything for his players, and his players were very loyal to him. Coach Maestri also relayed to me the importance of recruiting the best athletes - meaning shortstops - and we had six or seven high school shortstops in our everyday lineup."

 

During his early days in coaching, Mainieri had the chance to meet former Los Angeles Dodgers manager Tommy Lasorda and has maintained a friendship with one of the game's greatest ambassadors.

 

"Tommy has advised me in so many areas, it's hard to specify any areas of emphasis," says Mainieri of Lasorda, who spoke at the Notre Dame pep rally prior to the 2001 Tennessee football game and served as the keynote speaker at the Notre Dame baseball team's "Opening Night Dinner" on Feb. 18, 2002. "I think from him I really realized how important it is to bring joy to the ballpark every day. The players definitely follow your lead as the coach and the enthusiasm you show for your job will rub off on them."

 

Mainieri readily credits his success to the guidance of those three Hall of Famers. "To this day, I still regularly call each of these men to ask for their advice," he says. "I think it's safe to say I've learned from the best!"

 


What They've Said About Paul Mainieri

 

"Notre Dame has become one of the top five programs in the country and it's almost hard to believe what the Irish have accomplished over the past 10 years. The players who go there get better, on the field and off the field, and there's not a finer molder of young men than Paul Mainieri. He's one of the ultimate winners in college baseball."

- Jim Hendry (Chicago Cubs General Manager)

 

"Coach Mainieri knows the game but he knows his players even better. He knows how to manage players extremely well - knowing who he has to push harder and who he needs to give space, always getting the best out of his players. His door was always open and he was willing to listen to whatever was on your mind - all while treating everyone with the respect they deserved and caring about the person and his life, not just the player."

- Aaron Heilman (member of New York Mets; Notre Dame pitcher, `98-'01)

 

"Coach Mainieri is the most influential coach I've played for and the compassion he has for players helps instill a desire to play the game. He truly motivates you to want to go out there and play your best every day. I also can say that everything he told me when he was recruiting me as a high school player was 100-percent true. He was honest and genuine in every way. As much as he is kind and compassionate off the field, on the field he's an intense competitor who hates to lose. And he has the deep respect of his players because they know how much he cares."

 - Steve Stanley (former member of Oakland A's organization; Notre Dame centerfielder, `99-'02)

 


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