Everyone knows how Dabo Swinney built Clemson into a national power on the football field.
He started the process slowly. He tweaked a few things here and there to start with. He first got the assistant coaches he wanted. He then added a few more analysis coaches to staff. He brought in someone to help with facilities and to identify potential recruits. He added more to his support staff.
It took Swinney more than half of his first 10 years at Clemson to get these things accomplished, but as he was going along, the Tigers became one of the two best and consistent programs in the country, winning at least 10 games for seven straight seasons.
By adding to his coaching staff and support staff, it took more and more extra work off his assistant coaches and allowed them to focus on the most important thing … coaching the players.
In his two-plus years as Clemson’s head baseball coach, Monte Lee is slowly doing the same thing. Now it may never get to the level of what the football program is doing because baseball does not have as many players to coach. However, Lee has slowly added to his staff.
Normally a four-man operation, Lee added three more bodies to his staff this past year. He brought in former Tigers Ben Paulsen and Mark Davidson to serve as student assistant coaches, while also bringing in Russ Steinhorn as the program’s director of player development.
Lee feels the three new additions to the coaching staff has played a big role in the Tigers’ 16-1 start to the season, the programs best start in 16 years.
“I don’t think there is any coincidence,” Lee said to The Clemson Insider.
What Lee likes about the expanded staff is how it allows the Tigers to grow from all three of their experiences. Paulsen and Davidson both played in the Majors, while Steinhorn worked for the Astros organization the previous five years and has also coached at the college level as well.
“We have always tried to target what is really important to us and let’s focus on that,” Lee said. “I think the hardest thing for us is there are a lot of things that we want to do, but we are limited with manpower on a daily basis when it comes to practice.
“Having guys like Mark, Ben and Russ have allowed us to hit different parts of the game and the different things that we talked about wanting to do we are able to do that on a more day in and day out basis,” Lee said.
Davidson is coaching the outfield and the short game, which has allowed hitting coach Greg Starbuck to focus on the hitting game more without having to worry about the outfield. Because Starbuck is working on hitting, Bradley LeCroy can focus more on the infield defense, which has shown great improvement so far early in the season.
Paulsen his helping the corner infielders as well with hitting and is coaching first base which has allowed LeCroy to come into the dugout and help Lee with in-game decisions.
“It has allowed us to focus on our strength and what we want to do,” Lee said. “I felt like Bradley needed to be in the dugout to assist me with moves. He is really good at that and it is a strength of his. But, I cannot communicate that with him when he is coaching first base when we have a potential pinch hitter or pinch runner coming up in the order.
“I have always been in the dugout by myself trying to do all of that, but now I have Bradley beside me as more of a bench coach role. That allows Bradley to gain that type of experience to help him one day when he is a head coach.”
Steinhorn kind of ties a lot of different things together for the baseball program. He helps Lee when it comes to the day in and day out organization of the program.
“So Russ has helped me when it comes to practice planning,” Lee said. “He helps Andrew when we are looking at all the track-man data. He is processing information in helping us when it comes to communicating that to our players.
“He helps us in scouting the opponents in terms of video analysis. It has helped us tremendously with our scouting. We are scouting opponents now at a much higher level than we have in the past because of some of the stuff Russ has brought to the program.”
It is also helping the coaches self-scout themselves better.
“These are things we can work on a daily basis because we have the man power to do it now,” Lee said. “Having different coaches on the staff is good because the players get different perspectives. You get, with Mark and Ben, more of an old school view of the game and more of a new school view. That mix has been good.
“I have a lot of different folks in our program at my disposal to help our players develop and get better. It has been awesome. It has been a lot of fun as a head coach. You don’t feel like you have to do everything. There are things that I can give to Mark or that I can give to Ben, along with the rest of the staff. Now the staff can just focus on their strengths. I think it has made it better for the players. We are able to give them more attention.”