Clemson’s Lee gets new contract following first season

Clemson baseball coach Monte Lee has his team playing loose and having fun as it closes in on another postseason berth. File/Provided

CLEMSON — It took Monte Lee one season to convince athletic director Dan Radakovich and the Clemson board of trustees he’s the right guy to lead Clemson baseball.

Lee became the official face of the future for the Tigers’ baseball program Thursday upon board approval of his new six-year, $2.75 million contract that extends Lee through the 2022 season.

Lee, 39, was rewarded handsomely for leading Clemson, picked to finish in the bottom half of the ACC standings, to a 44-20 record and its first ACC Tournament championship in a decade.

“I have the same goal every single year, and that is to try to get the very most out of each player and the very most out of our team. I think in Year 1, we did that,” Lee said Thursday. “We’re excited about moving forward over the next six years and putting our program in a position to play at a national level.”

Last summer, Lee departed his alma mater, the College of Charleston, after a seven-year stint. He signed a six-year deal with Clemson, worth $350,000 annually.

That contract was upgraded significantly Thursday. Lee will earn $400,000 for the 2017 season — the same amount his predecessor, Jack Leggett, earned in each of his final four years — before a hefty increase to $450,000 in 2018.

Lee then is set to earn $460,000 in 2019 and 2020. His 2021 salary is set at $480,000 and his 2022 salary would be $500,000.

“Whenever you hire a new coach, you hope you’ve made the right decision,” Radakovich said. “We were really confident, and then as we worked through the year, you saw the results. It’s not only the results on the field — that’s really important — but just how Monte and his staff integrated the players, the culture, the excitement of the fans.”

Radakovich said Lee’s salary ranks in the top third among ACC head baseball coaches. Clemson opened its new $10 million baseball operations facility conjoined with Doug Kingsmore Stadium in October 2015.

“Whether it’s the coach’s contract, whether it’s the facilities, all of those things point towards baseball being a very, very important program for Clemson,” Radakovich said. “It has been in the past, and it will continue to be in the future.”

Lee also picked up a $50,000 signing bonus Thursday.

Among the bonuses in Lee’s new deal: $10,000 for winning the ACC Tournament title, $10,000 for hosting an NCAA Regional, $10,000 for each College World Series victory and $80,000 for winning the College World Series championship.

If Lee were to leave the university of his own accord for another job, he would owe Clemson $112,500 for each remaining year on the contract.

If Lee were to be fired by the university without cause, Clemson would owe Lee $225,000 for each remaining year on the contract.

Lee’s two full-time assistants, pitching coach Andrew See and hitting coach/recruiting coordinator Bradley LeCroy, picked up one-year extensions. They will each make $151,000 next season.

As for the roster, Clemson will have to replace four drafted underclassmen who signed with MLB clubs: catcher Chris Okey, left-handed pitcher Alex Bostic, shortstop Eli White and second baseman Weston Wilson. Pitcher Clate Schmidt is also in the minor leagues, after his eligibility expired.

The Tigers’ pitching rotation will build around left-handers Charlie Barnes and Pat Krall, who chose to return to school after being drafted in the 28th round.

Key returning hitters include ACC Player of the Year and right fielder Seth Beer, center fielder Chase Pinder and left fielder Reed Rohlman.