BRANCHING OUT

Jack Leggett's coaching tree in the 2014 NCAA Tournament:

Tim Corbin, Vanderbilt head coach: Clemson assistant, 1994-02

Kevin O'Sullivan, Florida head coach: Clemson assistant, 1999-07

Tim Sinicki, Binghamton head coach: Western Carolina pitcher, 1987-88

Rodney Hennon, Georgia Southern head coach: Western Carolina second baseman, 1990-91

John Pawlowski, San Diego State pitching coach: Clemson assistant, 1994-98

Kevin Erminio, Kennesaw State pitching coach: Clemson assistant, 1996-98

NASHVILLE, Tenn. - Maybe this year, loser buys dinner.

The night his team's 2013 baseball season ended with an NCAA super-regional loss to Louisville, Vanderbilt head coach Tim Corbin sought solace in a private meal in Nashville with a guy who's basically family.

Corbin, Clemson coach Jack Leggett and their wives dined at Ted's Montana Grill, a rare moment for the longtime friends and old-time dugout mates to catch up and reminisce on working together at Clemson from 1994-02. Leggett made the trip, since his Tigers had lost in the Columbia regional the week prior.

"He's like a brother," Corbin told Vanderbilt media earlier this week. "He came here last year when he could have just gone somewhere because they were out, and he chose to come here and stay with us and watch us play and be a support system."

A year later, Ted's might need to hold a table aside, since the Commodores or Tigers are paired in the 2014 NCAA Nashville Regional in Nashville, which begins Friday with Clemson's 1 p.m. opener against Oregon and Vanderbilt's 8 p.m. first pitch with Xavier.

First things first, of course. Out of Clemson and Vanderbilt, if one wins and one loses Friday, they're in different brackets and the Day 1 victim is in danger of bowing out early, not even setting up a tasty matchup between their head coaches and baseball lifers.

Corbin actually would prefer not to face the man he called a second dad, a brother and a best friend - all in the same interview with local reporters. That's why Clemson and Vanderbilt haven't faced each other since the mid-1980s, the Bill Wilhelm years.

"I don't like doing that," Corbin said. "Now if we're matched up against each other, that's someone else's choice. But no, I'd rather just play against other people I don't know as much."

Funny thing about that dinner at Ted's, which included Karen Leggett and Maggie Corbin. Jack Leggett introduced Maggie to Tim his first week on staff, two decades ago.

"She probably didn't want to date me. But she became my wife," Tim Corbin said. "My lifestyle is because of Jack Leggett. Everything that I have as a college baseball coach at this level is because of Coach Leggett."

Back in Clemson, Leggett also sounded a tad uncomfortable, but also resigned to the idea of the prospect of playing such a dear friend.

"We just kind of knew this was going to happen eventually, and it happened," Leggett said. "The more coaches you get out there."

Of Leggett's 10 former assistants or players who are currently Division I head coaches, four have led teams to the 2014 NCAA tournament, and two are No. 1 seeds in Corbin's Commodores and Kevin O'Sullivan with Florida. Two of Leggett's players at Western Carolina, Tim Sinicki and Rodney Hennon, have brought Binghamton and Georgia Southern to the main draw, respectively.

Only Corbin won't just be somewhere random in the field. He'll be in the same city, and if the cards fall right, in the opposite dugout as Leggett sometime this weekend.

"I'm excited to see him, but he's a gamer, he's a competitor as well as I am," Leggett said. "So it will be more of a business trip than it is a personal trip. But at the same time, I always enjoy seeing him. It'll be great competition."

As usual when coaches tire of the storylines centering around them, Leggett and Corbin chose to downplay their own relationship in the potential Clemson-Vandy showdown.

"Once the kids get on the field," Corbin said, "they play against each other, and that's all that matters."