College of Charleston baseball coach Monte Lee may be the new man in town, but there's one thing he vows won't change and that's the Cougars' winning ways.
"Our goal is going to be to win the Southern Conference Championship on an annual basis, to reach the NCAA Tournament and ultimately play in the College World Series," Lee said Thursday at a press conference at Randolph Hall to announce his hiring.
Lee, 31, will receive a five-year contract worth $95,000 per year to replace John Pawlowski, who left June 20 to take the head coaching job at Auburn.
In nine seasons, Pawlowski compiled a record of 338-192-1. During his tenure, the Cougars won three Southern Conference regular season titles and one SoCon Tournament title and made three NCAA Regional appearances, including an NCAA Super Regional appearance in 2006.
"I'm excited about the opportunity to come back to my alma matter and be the head baseball coach," said Lee, a Charleston alum who played for the Cougars from 1996 to 1999. "It's an honor to follow in the footsteps of John Pawlowski and his staff and the tradition they built over the past few years. We're going to try to continue that tradition by bringing in blue-collar kids who work hard in the classroom and on the baseball field."
Lee said he hopes to move swiftly to assemble his coaching staff — two full-time assistants and one volunteer assistant — so that the Cougars can take advantage of the recruiting period that began July 1.
"We're going to recruit the state of South Carolina very hard," he said. "We're going to try to recruit the best kids we can find. If they have South Carolina ties, I think that's important, and then we're going to work our way outward. I'm in the process of putting together a great staff and we're going to look for kids who play Cougar-style baseball.
"We're going to look for kids who are hard-nosed individuals who play the game the right way. We're going to recruit kids who care about the academics, work hard in the classroom and represent us in the right way."
Lee said he also has already started contacting returning players and incoming recruits.
"That was my first concern when I got the job was to contact the returning players and introduce myself and let them know that I was excited to be their head coach and to also call the signees, the kids who were coming in," Lee said "That was my first priority. Obviously we lost some guys to the draft, lost some offense and some pitching. But there are some really good players in this program who are coming back and some really good players coming in. Being a recruiter, I'm very familiar with the players coming in. I saw those guys play, and the College of Charleston has done a tremendous job recruiting. Yes, we have some work to do. You've got to reload on an annual basis, but we're going to go with what we got. I think it's a good group of guys. There's good talent on this ball club."
Lee spent the last six seasons as an assistant coach at South Carolina, and served as recruiting coordinator in his final season with the Gamecocks.
"The College of Charleston has hired a terrific young baseball coach and one of their own," South Carolina coach Ray Tanner said in a statement released Thursday. "Six years ago when coach Lee started working with me, I soon recognized that he possessed the characteristics to become a successful head coach. I'm ecstatic that he was able to realize his dream of becoming a head coach at his alma matter."
Lee's hiring ends a search that saw the school narrow its list of candidates to four finalists that included North Carolina assistant Chad Holbrook, who now plans on meeting with Tanner to fill ths spot left by Lee; Clemson assistant Tom Riginos and Charleston associate head coach Scott Foxhall.
"I'm so excited that Monte Lee is our head baseball coach," said Charleston athletic director Joe Hull, who headed a seven-person search committee. "Monte is a passionate, driven leader of men. The Cougar baseball players for him in an aggressive, unselfish, fast-paced style."
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