Jay Johnson talks about hiring Paul Mainieri from USC baseball

Former LSU Tigers head coach Paul Mainieri (1) watches midgame action against the Oregon State Beavers at TD Ameritrade Park Omaha.

Steven Branscombe/USA TODAY Sports

Jay Johnson thinks Paul Mainieri still has the “fire” to be a head baseball coach.

Mainieri, who led LSU to the 2009 national championship, is expected to be approved today as South Carolina’s next baseball coach.

A Board of Trustees meeting is scheduled for 4 p.m. News of Mainieri’s appointment spread on Monday afternoon.

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Johnson, the current LSU coach, said Mainieri called him Monday afternoon and told Johnson he had accepted the South Carolina job.

“He has earned the right at this point in his life to choose what he wants to do,” Johnson said at a season-ending news conference on Tuesday. “He’s a great coach, a Hall of Fame coach. I’ve been very good to me in my time here. So happy for him.”

Mainieri, 66, retired from LSU three years ago after health problems, but his name has been linked to a few job openings in the past two years. He led LSU to five College World Series appearances during his fourteen seasons (2007-21) there, winning more than 1,500 games in his 39 years as head coach.

“He’s a competitive guy, he’s got that fire,” Johnson said. ‘He will have good and smart people around him. And he will probably be very good. That’s probably what will happen. I’m happy for the coach if that’s what he wants to do.”

One of those people Mainieri is expected to bring with him is current LSU assistant coach Terry Rooney. Johnson declined to say whether Rooney was on his way to joining the Gamecocks’ staff. USC interim coach Monte Lee is also expected to remain on the staff. There is still one full-time position to be filled.

LSU and South Carolina will play each other in Columbia next season, pairing Johnson (formerly Arizona head coach) with the man he replaced in Baton Rouge three years ago.

“I’ve never thought about that,” Johnson said of the confrontation with Mainieri. “I never coached against him, period. I think those things do matter, but I don’t think they matter as much as people think.”

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Lou Bezjak is the high school sports prep coordinator for The (Columbia) State and (Hilton Head) Island Packet. He previously worked at the Florence Morning News and had covered high school sports in South Carolina since 2002. Lou is a two-time South Carolina Sports Writer of the Year by the National Sports Media Association.
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