There are certain parallels Paul Mainieri can relate with Jay Johnson. When each was hired, they had led their respective teams to the postseason after successful seasons. Both were outsiders to the SEC and certainly at a program like LSU where the expectations are always so high.
Those are just a few of the many similarities Mainieri can relate to as Johnson takes over this storied program. And much like Skip Bertman was there for Mainieri early in his career with the Tigers, Mainieri was front and center to welcome Johnson to Alex Box over the weekend.
"I made a strong commitment that I want to make this a seamless transition and try to help him in any way that I can," Mainieri said on Off the Bench. "I love the LSU baseball program and I want nothing more than for him to be very successful and to keep a great tradition alive."
Mainieri talked about how difficult the last few weeks have been since LSU's season ended as he's packed up his personal belongings in his office, watched his assistant staff move on to other coaching opportunities and sent players on the roster to various summer ball leagues. But at the end of the day, Mainieri loves the university and program which is why he wants to help Johnson in anyway that he can over the next several weeks as he settles in.
Of course with the LSU job comes the immense expectations the fanbase has for this program over the years and Mainieri made it clear through their conversations over the weekend about how to appreciate the passion that exists with LSU baseball.
"He knows what he's getting into. I can't tell you how many times over the years people coming up to me and asking 'Man how do you handle it?'" Mainieri said. "People from the outside understand the immense pressure the baseball coach at LSU is under. All of the other coaches I've coached against understand. It takes an attitude and minset to be able to handle the expectations and be yourself."
The success that each coach has had leading up to their tenure as baseball coach for the Tigers is eerily similar. Johnson of course is coming off a successful five-year run at Arizona where he led the Wildcats to two World Series appearances. Even Mainieri had just one appearance before leading the Tigers to five trips to Omaha over his 15-year tenure.
Johnson sat down with Mainieri for six hours over the weekend to discuss the future of the program and the many decisions he must now make as the the guy in charge of the most recognized program in college baseball.
"Those are decisions I had to make and I used to relish those tough decisions and now I realize how encompassing the job really was," Mainieri said. "I'm kind of glad he has to make those decisions now and it kind of relieved a lot of stress on me. Jay is a bright guy and is going to make the right decisions. He's got a great plan and I think LSU fans should feel really good about the hands the LSU program is being put in."