Why Bakich always put Clemson on 'pedestal' of baseball coaching jobs

Why Bakich always put Clemson on 'pedestal' of baseball coaching jobs

Baseball

Why Bakich always put Clemson on 'pedestal' of baseball coaching jobs

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Erik Bakich needed less than seven seconds to utter how he really feels about the job he’s walking into.

Asked during his introductory press conference what his level of excitement was when athletic director Graham Neff first called him about the possibility of replacing Monte Lee as Clemson’s baseball coach, Bakich said, on a scale of 1-10, it was “level 10 for sure.” The next sentence out of Bakich’s mouth was even more complimentary of the Tigers’ program, one he’d worked for two decades earlier as an assistant under Hall of Famer Jack Leggett.

“I’ve always put Clemson on the pedestal,” Bakich said. “Very grateful for the opportunity I had here and feel like I wouldn’t be here today without that opportunity 20 years ago.”

Bakich spent the previous 10 season as the head coach at Michigan, where he took the Wolverines to the College World Series in 2019. Prior to that, he resurrected the program at Maryland after spending seven seasons as an assistant under Tim Corbin at Vanderbilt, an SEC powerhouse.

But coaching all started for Bakich in 2002 at Clemson, where he joined Corbin and Kevin O’Sullivan, now the coach at Florida, on Leggett’s star-studded staff. Just two years removed from his days as a player at East Carolina, Bakich helped tutor the national player of the year, Khalil Greene, as Clemson went 54-17 and advanced to the College World Series in his only season as Leggett’s assistant.

That kind of successful introduction to the profession left an indelible mark on him.

“Your first year coaching, it’s like, ‘Oh yeah, we’ll just win 54 games, be No. 1 in the country and go to Omaha.’ That’s just how you do it,” Bakich said. “For me, it was a lot of times drinking from the fire hose, being a sponge and taking it all in.

“I will forever be thankful and grateful for not only being on staff with those guys but the fact that Coach Corbin, Coach O’Sullivan and myself shared a single office every single day. You want to talk about accelerating the learning curve, that was it. So it’s all of those things fortified by our team success and still maintaining contact and relationships with those guys.”

Bakich is tasked with trying to get Clemson back to the point where it’s meeting those expectations. The Tigers, who are coming off back-to-back NCAA Tournament misses, haven’t been to the College World Series since 2010.

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