Special Report: How To Be A Great Coach

Paul Mainieri By CageBy LOU PAVLOVICH, JR.
Editor/Collegiate Baseball

What does it take to be a great baseball coach? LSU Head Coach Paul Mainieri might be the perfect person to answer this challenging question.

With a 1,225-641-8 record in 32 years as a collegiate coach entering this season, he has had incredible success coaching at St. Thomas University (1984-88), Air Force (1989-94), Notre Dame (1995-2006) and now LSU (2007-present).

The 57-year-old Mainieri, who was inducted into the American Baseball Coaches Association Hall of Fame in 2014, joined his father Demie as the first father and son Hall of Famers in the history of this organization.

They also are the first father and son duo to each win 1,000 games during their college baseball coaching careers.

Demie won 1,012 games over 30 years at Miami-Dade North Junior College in Miami, Fla. and over 100 of his former players were drafted or signed by professional teams, 30 of whom made it to the Major leagues.

Imagine being Paul, who at the tender age of three, being allowed to watch a game from the dugout during one of Miami-Dade North’s baseball games.

His mother Rosetta, concerned Paul might get hurt, insisted that he follow his dad everywhere he went for safety reasons.

When Demie was forced to make a pitching change in the game, Paul followed his dad out to the mound without Demie’s knowledge. Everyone in stadium started laughing.

Little did anyone realize that a Hall of Fame coaching career was just starting as Paul soaked in everything about the game of baseball even at that young age.

Paul is not simply a coach. He is a master teacher who cares deeply about his players. But he is brutally honest as well. Beyond baseball, he expects his athletes to be academically sound and also devote time to community service to help those in need or less fortunate.

The core of his baseball knowledge comes from four tremendous baseball minds, including his dad Demie, New Orleans’ Head Coach Ron Maestri and former Los Angeles Dodgers’ manager Tommy Lasorda — all Hall of Famers.

He also learned quite a bit from Jim Hendry, former coach at Columbus H.S. (Miami, Fla.).  Hendry later became the Head Coach at Creighton University and led the Bluejays to a third place finish at the 1991 College World Series.

Hendry was hired to be General Manager of the Chicago Cubs and then became a special assistant for the New York Yankees. 

“I had a very unusual upbringing being the son of a great coach and teacher,” said Paul.

“But it wasn’t just my dad. My mother Rosetta was also a teacher. So I was the son of two teachers. In that day, teaching and coaching were considered prestigious professions that impacted young people’s lives. You felt like you were making contributions to society because you were helping develop young people to be successful.

“As a coach, it would be on the athletic field. But in the long term, you were helping kids prepare for the challenges they would face in life and teach them how to prepare to be successful. As I grew up with my four siblings, we would eat dinner every night together with my parents. And they would talk about the virtues of teaching, serving others and having an impact on other’s lives.

“That was the thing that captivated and intrigued me. Most other young boys grew up wanting to be Major League baseball players. Quite frankly, I grew up wanting to be a college or high school baseball coach.

“I heard my father numerous times talk about the great college coaches who were in the game at that time, including Danny Litwhiler (Michigan St./Florida St.), Rod Dedeaux (Southern California), Bobby Winkles (Arizona St.), Dick Siebert (Minnesota), plus many others. These were the people he spoke about over the dinner table, and these were my idols as I grew up.

“For me as a youngster, I loved playing the game of baseball. But I wanted to be a coach. As an athlete playing baseball in high school and college and besides wanting to do well and help our team win, I was constantly learning from coaches. Sometimes it was learning how not to do things.

“Sometimes I would see how certain things were done, and I thought to myself that when I was a coach I wouldn’t do it that way. I also picked up a lot of great ideas to become a better coach.

“As a boy growing up, it was a remarkable learning environment from two extraordinary teachers. As an athlete, I was fortunate to be exposed to a lot of different coaches and their styles, what they taught and how they taught it. I was a sponge and wanted to learn from all of them, some good and some bad stuff. All of them influenced me in some way.”

To read more about what it takes to be a great baseball coach, purchase the April 17, 2015 edition of Collegiate Baseball or subscribe by CLICKING HERE. The rest of the article includes Mainieri’s offensive philosophy, the influence of Tommy Lasorda, what it takes to be the very best, handling cancers on a team, why honesty is crucial in coaching, being a caring coach, what he learned from each coaching stop, his four pillars of success and why his kids don’t give up.