CLEMSON - The message was pretty clear from Dan Radakovich to Jack Leggett exiting their postseason pow-wow last week.
Leggett is still Clemson's head coach, and will be so on Opening Day 2015. Future opening days, though, must be proven with recent, not historic, success.
"There's a lot of work to get done," Radakovich told a small group of baseball reporters in a sitdown interview Wednesday afternoon.
Newly minted to the American Baseball Coaches Hall of Fame, Leggett is under contract through the conclusion of the 2016 season, set to earn $400,000 per year for the next two years.
His buyout, should Clemson choose to move another direction before June 2016, is actually quite school-friendly by relative standards: he'd be owed half the remaining money on his deal to leave his post after more than two decades.
Leggett was not fired in the aftermath of Clemson's fourth straight dismissal in the NCAA Regional round, though his athletic director admitted he thought about it before agreeing to institute some changes to the program's day-to-day operations.
"Well, I would probably be less than honest if I didn't say that it was (considered,)" Radakovich said. "Had Jack walked in here and been totally obstinate and not receptive, maybe there would have been a difference."
Extending Leggett's contract would have, in turn, extended an olive branch to potential Clemson recruits who want to know they'll finish their careers with the same coach who fielded them. It's not in the cards this spring on Radakovich's watch - not when the Tigers have slid backwards further away from the College World Series in each ensuing season since their last visit to Omaha in 2010.
"We talked about (an extension) briefly, and I was very quick to say, at this point in time, what we're going to focus on is making the program better," Radakovich said. "That other stuff will take care of itself later on."
In the eight-month wait before next season, Leggett has been tasked with four primary changes which Radakovich outlined in detail to The Post and Courier and two websites covering Clemson.
"We wanted to see what we were doing as a program that might be inhibiting our success," Radakovich said. "Because as you look at the last few years of the program, we've ended the season exactly the same way: We've got to figure out what we need to do to get off that merry-go-round."
The plan calls for sports psychologists to work with the Tigers; a coaching staff visit to another coaching staff on its campus, not at Clemson; a player counsel including at least one Tiger from each class, meeting formally with the coaches at a minimum of once per week during the season; and shoring up Leggett's public relations and image with the fans, which includes everything from Prowl & Growl appearances to a more politically correct stance in postgame interviews.
Asked if fan complaints sent his way stemming from Leggett's controversial comments toward unsupportive fans affected the last bullet point, Radakovich said flatly, "That didn't help."
In the future, Radakovich will send assistant athletic director for communications Joe Galbraith to the clubhouse following high-profile games or series to, in essence, cool Leggett off before meeting with the media.
"We all need that, at certain points in time. Because you get so invested and so wrapped up in the game that you're going to probably say some things that while you might mean them a little differently, they don't sound like you mean them," Radakovich said. "We're all human. But we've got to help him make better choices in those areas, because it's going to help the entire program as it relates to retention of fans and continued interest in the program."
According to Radakovich, who admitted he's still only getting to know Leggett personally in 17 months on the job, his suggestions were not rebuked.
"As I talked to Jack, learned a little more about him, he is not totally stuck in everything that he does," Radakovich said. "He does have the ability to learn, and wants to adapt, and do things that are important for the program. Hearing that was really important for me. It kind of helped progress the four things we want to do to programmatically get better."
Did Leggett indicate how much longer he'd like to coach?
"No, we didn't get into that. Jack's 60 going on 30," Radakovich said. "That competitor in him, he's had such a great run of success here. It's all been really good - better than good. But he understands that plateau right now, and the focus is really about moving away from that plateau."
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