CLEMSON - Dan Radakovich's statement Tuesday announcing Jack Leggett would return for his 22nd season leading Clemson baseball answered most burning questions about the program.
Was Jack back? (Yes.) How about his assistants? (Yes, for now.) Was Leggett's contract getting extended past 2016? (No.) Why was he retained? (Radakovich, Clemson's second-year AD, found the culture of the program to be on sound footing.) Was Radakovich accepting mediocrity, illustrated by four straight one-and-done NCAA showings? (Absolutely not.)
However, there was one line in Radakovich's 280-word statement leaving a vague impression: "Coach and I are working together to improve many areas of the program, some which will be visible and others behind the scenes."
Exactly which changes?
In a semi-exclusive sitdown interview Wednesday afternoon with The Post and Courier and two web sites covering the Tigers, Radakovich sought to clarify. He divulged four objectives he and Leggett agreed to proceed with into the 2015 season.
"When you hear all four of these things, you're going to say, holy mackerel, these are pretty easy," Radakovich said. "The issue is, yeah, you're right, they are. But when you do something for so long the same way, sometimes you miss the little things, and that was a big part of our conversation."
1) Hiring sports psychologists
Radakovich's feedback indicated the baseball players are quite pleased with their physical preparation. Daniel Gossett and Matthew Crownover, the dueling aces of the staff, in particular were reverent of strength and conditioning coach Dennis Love's work in the weight room.
However, Radakovich is less sure about the Tigers' mental strength. He suggested sports psychologists will be ushered in to help players with focus and relaxation.
"We want to make sure we're providing a good mental base," Radakovich said, "to have their best game available whenever they're called on. This isn't new; there's been a lot of programs that have done this over time."
Radakovich said Leggett has dabbled with improving mind games, "but we want to re-energize and re-focus that as we move forward."
2) Meeting of the minds
It won't be with former Leggett assistants at Vanderbilt (Tim Corbin) or Florida (Kevin O'Sullivan), but the Clemson coaches have been urged to match minds with another staff away from Doug Kingsmore Stadium and kick around philosophies.
"We want Jack and his staff to go out and visit another successful baseball program's staff, to share ideas," Radakovich said. "Jack and his staff have been successful. There's been some things that have worked really well in our program for a number of years. That's why I say there's a sharing of ideas; he's not just going to go somewhere, and bring everything back and change it."
Dabo Swinney and the Clemson football coaches visited with Mike Gundy and his Oklahoma State program last offseason.
"While it's kind of commonplace for football and basketball staffs to do this," Radakovich said, "I'm not sure it's in the wheelhouse for baseball coaches. We want him to do that."
3) Four-man player council
"What I found in my (evaluation)," Radakovich said, "Jack has a lot of conversation with individual players, as every good coach does. They're all informal conversations, and things that should continue to take place.
"But what I want to be able to do, the suggestion I made to Jack, and thought it was a good one, is to more formalize some conversations with the players."
There will be one freshman representative, one sophomore representative, one junior representative and one senior representative combining for a player council who meet with formally with Leggett once per week, minimum.
Discussions would include the previous week, the upcoming week, practice issues, or even the quality of hotel the team resides.
"A myriad of different ideas that come forward," Radakovich said, "we need to have that communicated in a formal manner."
4) Jack's image
This one's going to be an interesting one to watch.
Radakovich mentioned during Wednesday's interview Leggett's inner circle sees a different Jack Leggett than the outside world - or, more specifically, fans and media.
For example: after losing to South Carolina for the 22nd time in 30 tries March 1, Leggett chided reporters, "You guys are the ones who get all excited about all that . I'm proud of our program. Our fans should be proud of our program."
Leggett also told The Post and Courier May 17, when asked about fans angling for change, "The only fans we have are the ones that believe in our program and believe in our team. Those are the only ones I'm ever concerned about."
Calling out the fans is one of those total no-nos for college coaches; those weren't messages the athletic department wanted conveyed.
Leggett's a fiery fella, passionate about winning and not interested in being politically correct. That might be in the past, as Radakovich insisted there be more of a 10-minute cooling-off period following big games or tough losses. (In the past, Leggett has spoken with media on the field fairly quickly after a postgame team meeting.)
In fairness, football and basketball coaches routinely get to retreat to their locker room before press conferences; not baseball coaches.
At any rate, Radakovich wants fans to see the gentler, kinder Leggett.
"We have to help Jack in some of his P.R. communication," Radakovich said. "He's incredibly competitive. Let's make sure we're using it the right way, to get across the message better."
While Radakovich praised longtime baseball sports information director Brian Hennessy for his workings with Leggett, he said associate athletic director for communications Joe Galbraith would be more involved after higher-profile events with making sure Leggett expresses postgame thoughts in a certain manner.
"As you guys know, there's 56 baseball games. Not all 56 are critical; some are bigger than others from a P.R. perspective," Radakovich said. "let's make sure we're prepared to do the right type of communication, whether in victory or defeat, after some of those really important games or series and help Jack with that."
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