Post and Courier
July 28, 2014

College of Charleston baseball coach Monte Lee faced with tough decisions

Posted: 06/23/2014 07:39 p.m.
Updated: 06/23/2014 09:27 p.m.


By Andrew Miller

The College of Charleston is doing everything it can to keep baseball coach Monte Lee in the Lowcountry.

On Monday, The Post and Courier learned that the College offered Lee a seven-year contract extension worth $193,000 per season.

It's a pretty hefty raise for Lee, who made $115,150 with the Cougars this past season and interviewed for the head coaching position at Arizona State last week.

The Arizona Republic reported over the weekend that the Sun Devils were expected to offer Lee the job early this week.

If Lee remains with at the College of Charleston, he would become the second-highest paid coach with the Cougars behind head basketball coach Doug Wojcik ($400,000 a season).

This certainly won't be an easy decision for Lee, who played for the Cougars from 1996-99, earned a degree from the school, and has never coached outside the state of South Carolina.

Lee, 37, said during a press conference at the Lubbock Super Regional that he was "humbled and honored" to be the head coach at his alma mater.

Arizona State coach Tim Esmay resigned earlier this month after five seasons with the Sun Devils. Esmay compiled a 201-94-1 mark and advanced to a College World Series during his first season as head coach in 2010. The Sun Devils went 33-24 in 2014 and lost of both of their regional games.

According to published reports in Arizona, Esmay made $200,000 last season.

With the new contract offer from the College of Charleston, it's going to take more than $200,000 for Lee to uproot his family and move them 2,500 miles across the country.

And what happens if Lee accepts the Sun Devils' offer and moves to Arizona?

Expectations that surround the Sun Devils program are as high as any program in the nation. Hall of fame outfielder Reggie Jackson stared for the Sun Devils during the 1960s.

The Sun Devils have an NCAA record 51 straight 30-win seasons and have captured five College World Series titles, the most recent one coming in 1981. They've also finished as runners-up five more times and made it to Omaha 22 times since 1964. They've made 14 straight NCAA Regional appearances and captured the conference title five times since 2000.

By comparison, South Carolina has been to the College World Series 11 times and won two national titles, while Clemson has been to Omaha an even dozen times.

Lee is no stranger to the pressures a coach can face from a rabid fan base. He was an assistant coach under South Carolina's Ray Tannner from 2002-08 and understands recruiting at the national level.

Lee already has established himself as an elite coach at the mid-major college level, so getting a job offer from Arizona State is the next logical step in his progression as a head coach.

Lee could opt to sign the contract extension with the Cougars and then wait and see if another job - perhaps one in the ACC or SEC - opens up in the near future. In the meantime, he could continue to pad his resume with conference titles and NCAA Regional appearances and remain in a job he obviously loves.

The fact that a big-name program has come after Lee should come as no surprise. It's a testament to the job he has done with the Cougars.

Lee led the College of Charleston to one of the best seasons in program history this past spring. The Cougars finished the year with a 44-19 mark, a Colonial Athletic Association tournament title, a Gainesville Regional crown and a spot in the Lubbock Super Regional.

In six seasons with the Cougars, Lee is 231-130 with three NCAA Regional appearances - 2010, 2012 and 2014 - and this year's super regional spot.

The Cougars have defeated ranked teams 13 times during Lee's tenure. They include victories over No. 8 Florida in this year's regional, No. 12 North Carolina during the regular season, No. 8 South Carolina in 2012 and No. 3 Coastal Carolina in 2010.

Twenty-one players have been drafted or signed pro contracts in Lee's six seasons. Lee has coached 10 All-Americans, a national Freshman Player of the Year and national Freshman Pitcher of the Year this season in Bailey Ober.

In December of 2012, Lee was named one of Baseball America's Top 10 Head Coaches under 40 and one of Perfect Game's Top 10 Rising Head Coaches.

The Cougars have led their conference in staff ERA in 2012, 2013 and 2014, ranking in the top 20 in the country in ERA this season at 2.72.

Lee played in 206 games during his career at the College of Charleston from 1996-99 before becoming the first position player drafted in school history by the St. Louis Cardinals in the 39th round of the 1999 Major League Draft. Lee hit .333 for his career with 22 home runs and 150 RBIs.