One-on-one with WSU baseball coach Marty Lees

SOME PEOPLE know exactly what they want to do in life from an early age. New Washington State baseball coach Marty Lees is one of them. CF.C had a wide ranging Q&A with new Cougar skipper after he was introduced as the 15th head coach in program history.

Cougfan.com: When did you realize you wanted to devote your life to coaching, how old were you?

Marty Lees: I was probably five or six years old. And then when I was nine or 10 playing little league baseball I had PE teachers and coaches who treated me so well. I’ve coached everything from baseball, basketball, volleyball, wrestling – you name it I’ve coached it and in small schools when I first started out.

Cougfan.com: Everyone from Moos to the media says you’re a recruiting wizard. What'ss the secret – evaluation, selling your vision, a little of both?

Lees: I think it’s more than a little of both, I think it’s a little bit of everything. You have to get parents, and kids to trust what you’re going to do with their kids. There has to be trust that there’s going to be development, trust that you’re going to treat them good, trust that you’re going to watch out and make sure they’re going to class and those things. Evaluation is huge, obviously, because there needs to be a baseline to play at this level.

As we recruit, I think more and more it’s about the relationships with the kids and relationships with the summer coaches. Those coaches are around them more than we are and so you need to know exactly what you’re getting into. I’ve always believed you never force kids to make a decision because when you do that it becomes a bad situation. I want people to believe they’re really going to develop, they’re going to get the coaching, we’re going to treat them right, they’re going to get an education, and we’re going to have a lot of fun.

Cougfan.com: You have a highly regarded incoming recruiting class but a coaching change can cause some upsets in that regard. What’s your plan to make sure all those guys stay in the fold?

Lees: The biggest thing is to reach out them and let them know you’re here. Once I do that I believe the conversations will go in the right direction. I do know of a couple kids I’d seen when I was at Oklahoma State that I feel are really good players. Obviously, we want them so I’ll be reaching out to those kids and every kid that’s incoming as soon as possible.

Cougfan.com: In terms of philosophy/demeanor, with Vince Lombardi on one end of the scale and John Wooden on the other, where would you say you fall?

Lees: I’d like to think I’m taking stuff from both of them, as an inspiring person who can motivate and do it in a way that kids know that you love ‘em. I think that’s one of the toughest things to do as a coach. I feel like I’m an intense personality, but I’ll hug you too. And I hope my players say the same thing about me.

Cougfan.com: At Oregon State, the media made a lot about your three young kids at practice. Are they too old now or can WSU fans expect to see them out there?

Lees: We’ve still got a young one (Jacob) who is a bat boy all the time. The other two have kind of grown out of it with Brandon going into his sophomore year in high school and Brady going into the eighth grade so we’ve just got one bat boy left for sure, but he’ll be there every game.

Cougfan.com: When did Bill Moos and you first start talking about the job?

Lees: We basically really started talking after our regionals were done (Sunday). We met Monday and it went good, obviously. It was exactly what we wanted.

Cougfan.com: Your in-laws are big Duck fans that have been close to Moos so you’ve known Bill for a long time, yes?

Lees: They’ve known him for a lot longer than I have because of church and being out at each other’s houses and things like that. But I’ve been able to get to know Bill since I was living in Eugene and coaching the Eugene Challengers, coaching at Oakridge and Harrisburg which are just outside of Eugene. I got to see that built from scratch in Eugene and I’ve always admired Bill for that. He’s a personable guy, I knew family was important to him and I knew he was aggressive. I knew he wanted to win. He started it there at Oregon and I believe he’s getting it going here.

Cougfan.com: How important were facilities to Oregon State’s success, and can WSU follow the same path?

Lees: Coach (Pat) Casey worked very hard to make that happen, but it started with winning. Once they started winning more people started to volunteer more. Do I think it can be built here? Yes, I do. We’ve got some work to do but it’s not that much. We’ve got a nice facility and we can recruit to it. But I think we can also make it better, just like anything else we’re doing on our campus.

Cougfan.com: Any players on the Cougars' roster that you tried to recruit while at Oregon State?

Lees: Ian Hamilton was one that I knew really well out of Vancouver… I recruited Ben Roberts out of high school. Layne Bruner was a young man we made contact with. Maybe not a majority, but I know quite a few of the kids from seeing them at some point or another.

Cougfan.com: When do you hope to have your coaching staff in place?

Lees: I hope to have at least one coach in place early next week. I have to be patient a little bit because some coaches are still playing right now, and to let them play in their super regionals. I want to be sensitive to that… For right now I have one person that I have offered the job too and hopefully he takes it.

Cougfan.com: What do you think about the trend towards more defensive shifts?

Lees: There are some charts out there that are pretty handy. Now, we’re not into what the big league teams are doing, as far as that drastic of a shift. I think they can be useful but sometimes you put your trust in that rather than the pitchers – that one time you have everyone shifted to the left and they hit it right. I’m cautious of it, still going to try and teach kids to understand how you go with the hitter, the pitch, that type of thing. If there is a distinct way we should play a guy (we will).

Cougfan.com: Final thoughts?

Lees: The biggest thing is the excitement we have as a family to be in a place that I really believe can win a championship. The first thing is we have to win a Pac-12 championship before we can even think of winning anything else. This league is a good league and by no means promises, but if we’re thinking anything less than a championship as we’re building a roster, as build the team, then we’re not thinking in the big picture.

I want to bring on coaches who have won championships, who understand what the baseline is to do that. We’ll come up with a recruiting plan depending on what we have in-house right now and we’ll work on developing what we think can win the Pac-12 championship.
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