What Gamecock fans are saying about former Clemson Baseball coach Monte Lee

There are indications that Ray Tanner might put a man who failed as the head coach of their archrival in charge of Gamecock Baseball, and their fanbase has already begun to melt down.
Clemson Head Coach Monte Lee during the bottom of the first inning at Doug Kingsmore Stadium in Clemson Friday, April 23,2021.

Clemson Vs Wake Forest Baseball
Clemson Head Coach Monte Lee during the bottom of the first inning at Doug Kingsmore Stadium in Clemson Friday, April 23,2021. Clemson Vs Wake Forest Baseball / Ken Ruinard / USA TODAY Network via

Clemson Baseball is preparing for the Super Regionals this weekend against the Florida Gators. Down the road in Columbia, their archrival is looking for a new head coach, and there might be high drama ensuing.

Mark Kingston was let go as the head coach of the South Carolina Gamecocks following their exit from the Raleigh Regional at the hands of James Madison. Speculation about his successor began immediately, and one name was included on everyone’s list.

Brad Crawford, an objective 247Sports reporter by day, known Gamecocks homer by night, put Monte Lee’s name at the top of his list of candidates to replace Kingston in Columbia.

The very idea that a school like South Carolina could entertain hiring a coach who used to be in charge of their archrival, and then was fired from their archrival, is shocking. Crawford explains it this way:

"He likely lands an interview given his deep ties to the Palmetto State as a Lugoff, S.C., native who played college baseball at College of Charleston and later served several years as Clemson's head coach. Lee serves as the recruiting coordinator and hitting coach for the Gamecocks, so he already has relationships with area and regional prep powerhouse programs."

Brad Crawford

That’s fair and completely accurate. Lee was with the program in the years that Ray Tanner was building up into a national contender. He left before they won the College World Series under Tanner in 2010 & 2011. Also, regardless of wins & losses, almost everyone from Clemson who interacted with Lee thought he was a class act. The guy is liked on a personal level and does have deep roots in the state.

These are fair reasons to give the man an interview out of respect. He was also named the interim head coach until the program found a new leader. Again, that is a reasonable move.

Lee appears to be taking that responsibility very seriously.

We don’t know if Lee's tweet refers to a current player he convinced to stay with the program, or a high school prospect he convinced to commit to the program. Either way, such things don’t normally happen unless the athlete knows who will lead the program long-term.

As bizarre as it sounds, the indications are that Lee isn’t just a bona fide candidate to be the next head coach at South Carolina, but he could be the favorite to land the gig.

Lou Bezjack from The State noted that several current players have voiced their support for Lee on social media.

PJ Morlando, a highly-ranked in-state recruit who has verbally committed to SC, stumped for Lee to be the Gamecocks' next head coach.

One way this could be interpreted is that if Morlando’s wishes aren’t met, he could decide to reopen his recruitment or just go pro if he is drafted in a good position.

The way the wind is blowing would indicate Lee isn’t just getting a courtesy look from Tanner (now the school’s athletic director). He might end up being the man in charge in Columbia just two years removed from being fired by the Tigers.

While some in Gamecock Nation like the idea, it seems most are not excited.

While Lee has a decent career win percentage due to overall success at College of Charleston and Clemson, the Tiger program was on a consistent decline during his tenure in charge.

While some speculate the 2020 program that featured Spencer Strider could have changed the overall perspective on Lee if the 2020 season and NCAA Tournament had not been cancelled, what we know is that Lee’s first attempt to build a program at the highest levels of college baseball was a failure.

Lee was hired to return Clemson to Super Regionals and instead led them to two consecutive seasons of missing the playoffs entirely.

Additionally, his replacement, Erik Bakich, has Clemson back in a Super Regional in only his second season in charge and did it with a mixture of both new players and players who joined the program under Lee’s leadership.

In other words, the pieces were there for Lee to get the job done, he just didn’t do it.

Maybe Tanner thinks South Carolina has resources that Clemson didn’t. Maybe he thinks Lee has learned from his mistakes and things will be different for him in Columbia.

Regardless of why, this would be one of the craziest hiring decisions ever made by a university who claims they take baseball seriously.

One thing is for sure: Tanner won’t survive this decision if Lee fails. He has been on thin ice with a lot of fans for bad hiring decisions in the past. If the baseball program flounders because he hired a coach who had already failed at his school’s biggest rival, CWS rings won’t save him this time.