Clemson Flashback: Monte Lee Becomes Head Baseball Coach

Back in June of 2015, Clemson hired Monte Lee as the new baseball coach at the school, replacing the legendary, Hall of Famer Jack Leggett.
Publish date:

June 8, 2015.....

One week after announcing longtime head coach Jack Leggett would not return for a 23rd season, Clemson University announced that College of Charleston head coach Monte Lee had been hired as his replacement, becoming the 27th coach in program history.  

"I’m ready to get to work and begin our journey towards bringing a national championship to Clemson," Lee said when hired. "We’re building on a strong foundation and our goals are attainable. We will work together, alongside our student-athletes, fans and alumni to reach our new heights."

It was a change that one side of the fan base welcomed and embraced, with the other side of the fan base lamenting the fact that a coach the caliber of Leggett had been ousted. 

Once considered a prominent program across the national landscape of college baseball, there is no denying the fact that the Tigers had taken a downward turn over the final five years of Leggett's tenure.

Clemson was just 5-10 in regional play over Leggett's final five seasons, and were swept out of the 2014 and 2015 regionals. Meanwhile, Lee had led his College of Charleston team to a Super Regional in 2014 and a regional final appearance in 2015. 

Before coming to Clemson, Lee attended College of Charleston, playing outfield for the Cougars baseball team from 1996 through 1999. He hit .333 with 22 homeruns during his career.  

Following his playing career, Lee kicked off his coaching career with a two year stint as an assistant at Spartanburg Methodist Junior College. 

Lee was then hired by Ray Tanner to serve as one of his assistants at South Carolina. The fact that Lee coached for the Tigers biggest rival was another thing that didn't sit well with some fans. 

After six years in Columbia, Lee got his first shot at being a head coach when he was hired at his alma mater. From 2009-2015, Lee guided the College of Charleston to 276 wins, averaging more than 39 wins per season. 

He had three 40-win seasons in Charleston and the Cougars made the NCAA Tournament four times with Lee at the helm, including an appearance in the Super Regionals in 2014.

Lee has been a winner, wherever he's been, something that always stood out. Upon his hiring, Clemson Athletic Director Dan Radakovich was quoted as saying Lee would "create renewed momentum and optimism for Clemson baseball."

“Monte is a gifted coach," Radakovich said. "The relationships he’s created through a lifetime of baseball in our state, along with his proven successes make him the right fit for our program, and we’re excited to welcome him to the Clemson Family."

In his first season in Clemson, Lee led the Tigers to an ACC Championship, becoming the third consecutive Clemson head coach to win the league in his first season on the job.

The Tigers won 40 or more games and hosted a regional in each of Lee's first three seasons. However, all three teams failed to win their respective regionals.

In his fourth season, the team took a step back, struggling throughout the second half, winning 35 games, and barely making a regional. They were eventually ousted by Jacksonville St, a team that had never won a regional game prior to postseason play in 2019.

Unfortunately, his fifth season was cut short after just 17 games, due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The team had gotten off to a 14-3 start, and had just swept Boston College to open ACC play.

Whether the program is headed in the right direction or not really depends on who you ask, as the fan base still seems to be partially divided over the Tigers head coach. 

While some are preaching patience, others have already run out of it. Although there is one thing that all Clemson Baseball fans will agree on, and that is the fact that they are all longing for what used to be.

Longing to get out of a regional for the first time since 2010, and longing for a thirteenth trip to the College World Series.