When it comes to the world of college baseball, few fanbases come close to rivaling the purple and gold faithful. LSU baseball is one of the few programs within the university that turns a profit outside of football.
The expectations for the lead man in charge are always lofty, sometimes almost too towering to live up to because of the insane run the program went on under Skip Bertman in the 1990's. For the last 15 years, those Omaha or bust expectations have fallen on Paul Mainieri's shoulders.
Mainieri led LSU to a national championship, six SEC tournament wins, five College World Series and 13 postseason appearances in total. Yet throughout his career, Mainieri faced his fair share of harsh criticism from those who follow the program closely, fans and media included.
So as the search for LSU's third coach since the Bertman era starts to heat up, Mainieri was asked about any advice he could give to the next coach about the expectations that come with this position.
"There's a lot expected of you," Mainieri said. "It's an awesome fanbase and a lot of people that love LSU baseball. Have a lot of resources, a great administration but you have to be confident in yourself and you can't listen to the criticism too much. You have to stick by what you believe and do it your way."
For 15 years, Mainieri treated fans and the media alike with the utmost respect and gratitude. He knows better than most after spending 39 years in college baseball, that there is historically no fanbase or administration that matches the dedication LSU has to its baseball program over the years.
Alex Box Stadium can pack nearly 15,000 fans on a Friday night SEC matchup, and the fans will usually show up whether the team is good or great. Was Mainieri a perfect coach? No, but few ever are. The shoes that the next coach has to fill are great. Mainieri had a level of success at LSU that very few other coaches have had over the last 15 years.
It does appear that the program has settled in on two candidates who know very well what the expectations are in Mike Bianco and Cliff Godwin.
That's not easily replacable and while fans should expect the Tigers to reel in the best possible candidate, it would be naive to expect a similar career arc to the accomplishments under Mainieri.
"I tried to do that without being arrogant with people. I've tried to show people how important they are to me, our team and our program and people are passionate about LSU baseball," Mainieri said. "Don't confuse their passion with criticism because people are passionate about the program and you can't take it personal. Just be confident and go do your thing."