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Radakovich Deserves Seldom Bestowed Kudos After Monte Lee Hiring

Anytime you're the man at the top, you're going to get a lot of blame, but for once maybe we can give a kudos.

Peter Aiken/Getty Images

I may or may not know the person who posted these signs around campus during Clemson's brutal 6-7 2010 season. Either way, I didn't necessarily think it was a bad idea at the time (admittedly the Dabo hire worked out, but it seemed curious at the time when I wanted Tommy Tuberville).

Unless their programs are winning the national championships consistently, athletic directors can probably expect to take a lot deserved and undeserved heat from passionate fans.

Dan Radakovich has been at Clemson since December of 2012. Upon his arrival, the baseball program was well into a steep and steady decline. In his tenure, Clemson never even advanced to a Regional final.

Objectively, the decision to move on from Leggett and begin a new era was easy, but decisions aren't made in a emotionless vacuum. Some in the media as well as many of those who remember the good ol' days under Leggett, were livid when the move was finally made. Many were quick call for Radakovich's job. Some even said "he'll always be remembered as the AD who fired a Hall of Famer" (as if that's the thought FSU's AD evokes).

As we shared earlier this week, someone took out this ad in the Seneca Journal, which is an attack of the Athletic Director's decision thinly veiled as a thank you to Coach Leggett.

Despite all the pressure to delay making a move or hide behind buy-outs, Clemson's AD made the tough decision and didn't settle for mediocrity. He removed himself from the fog of bias that emotion and nostalgic memories can create and made an objectively strong decision.

That's only half the job though. He had to do it in a way that was respectful toward Coach Leggett for all he did for the program and then he had to find an absolute home run hire to unite a grumpy fan base.

With the handling of the press conference, which was focused on thanking Coach Leggett for all that he has accomplished at Clemson, he achieved the former. Then to select the best possible hire, he embarked on rather thorough coaching search. According to reports, Radakovich interviewed Monte Lee, Bradley LeCroy, Matthew LeCroy, Maryland's John Szefc, Virginia assistant Kevin McMullan, and current Boston Red Sox organization manager Billy McMillon. This week, all his leg work paid off as it was announced Monte Lee, formerly of College of Charleston, would be the next Clemson baseball coach.

Monte Lee, was named the #6 coach on Aaron Fitt's Top 10 College Head Coaches Under 40 list in early 2013, and it sure sounds like South Carolina's head coach thinks it is a "great" hire.

"I think the world of Monte. He's a great coach, a great guy, a great recruiter, he works hard and he's really well connected. Players love playing for him; he's got a great temperament, and he's a darn good hitting guy too. He was the hitting coach for some of those really good South Carolina teams. He's very happy at the College of Charleston, it being his alma mater, but it would be smart of an AD in the ACC or SEC to hire him, because he's a great one."
—South Carolina coach Chad Holbrook

Clemson is win-less in the last two postseasons while Monte Lee, at College of Charleston no less, has won five NCAA tournament games in that span. Overall, his Cougar teams have gone a combined 276-145 during his tenure.

Another benefit to hiring Monte Lee over some of the other very strong candidates like John Szfec of Maryland or Matthew LeCroy of the Washington Nationals is his local recruiting ties. As a baseball coach in the state South Carolina for the past 15 years, he isn't starting from scratch building a recruiting network. In a sport where in-state recruiting takes a special premium due to the splitting of scholarships, there's a real advantage there.

Now, it is also important to be realistic. Earlier in June, the MLB's First-Year Players Draft took a huge chunk out of the Tigers' pitching staff. Zack Erwin was taken in the fourth round by the White Sox. Two rounds later, Matthew Crownover went to the Washington Nationals. Brody Koerner, despite struggling this season, was drafted based on potential (i.e., K/9) by the New York Yankees in the 17th round, and Clate Schmidt went to the rival Red Sox in the 32nd. They lost two of their best hitters - Krieger and Duggar - as well. Getting back to the NCAA tournament would be a small miracle, and while the hiring of Monte Lee may feel like a miracle, it's not. It's the work of an athletic director that had the gumption to make tough, objective decisions to progress the program in the right direction. For that, a rare kudos to an athletic director is deserved. Thank you D-Rad!

To learn more about Monte Lee, check out our Coach's Profile on him.