C of C players would like to ‘hire within’

Former College of Charleston infielder Blake Butler hopes a current assistant will replace Monte Lee as coach. File/Paul Zoeller/Staff

The College of Charleston has not indicated who it will be looking at to replace baseball coach Monte Lee, but former and current players are hoping one of the assistant coaches will get the call to take over for Lee, who was officially announced as the new Clemson coach Thursday.

“I hope they hire from within,” said infielder Blake Butler, who was drafted by the Cincinnati Reds after he Cougars’ stellar 45-15 season.

“We had some of the best assistant coaches in the country. They are one of the main reasons Coach Lee has been so successful, and he’ll be the first to tell you. Coach (Matt) Heath, Coach (Chris) Morris and Coach (Brandon) Sizemore have all influenced us and made us as good as we have been.”

Rising senior pitcher Nathan Helvey and former Cougars Brandon Murray and Marty Gantt echoed Butler’s thoughts about a Lee successor but wished their former coach well.

“First of all, I want to say ‘Congrats!’ to Coach Lee,” said Murray, an outfielder who finished in 2014. “He’s an awesome coach and deserves every bit of this. A lot of us thought he would stay, but I’m happy for him. It’s a great job and a great program he’s about to go into. I know he’s a great coach and will do well in that program.”

Murray said Lee coached winning baseball and playing the game the right way and said he hopes Lee’s successor will follow in the same path.

Helvey said that after Lee interviewed at Arizona State last season and Leggett was fired at Clemson this month that it seemed like a foregone conclusion.

“I didn’t realize Coach Lee would be interested because of his ties to South Carolina. But once he went for that interview, I knew he was going to be their guy. It’s a huge opportunity. I can’t hold this against him,” Helvey said.

Gantt, a former outfielder now playing minor league ball with the Charlotte Stone Crabs in Port Charlotte, Fla., also said it was an opportunity Lee couldn’t turn down.

“I’m very proud of what he’s done, everything he’s achieved,” Gantt said. “To go to Clemson, it’s kind of bittersweet. I’d like him to be at the College of Charleston, but (Clemson) is a great opportunity for him. I actually couldn’t be more proud of him, doing the things he’s done at the College of Charleston. I think he’ll have a great legacy as a baseball coach (at Clemson).”

Butler said the opportunity was expected.

“I don’t think there’s any doubt that Coach Lee is one of the best coaches in the country,” Butler said. “We as players expected opportunities for him and definitely think he deserves the opportunities. I think we all knew this day would come with him being as good as he is. We’re happy for him and his family.”

“I am ecstatic to be the Head Baseball Coach at Clemson! Thanks for all the outpour of support!” Lee tweeted (@MonteLeeCU) Thursday afternoon. “@CofCBaseball will always love The College, all the players and people there.”

In a statement released by the College of Charleston, athletics director Joe Hull said the school is working “to find another high-caliber leader that will continue our program’s incredible momentum.”

Lee was Hull’s first hire as athletic director at the school, and he called Lee one of the finest baseball minds in the country.

“He took over an outstanding baseball program and made it even better. More importantly, he did it the right way,” Hull said.

“He also did a fantastic job of continuing our program’s proud tradition on the national stage … Clemson has hired a terrific coach and person. We wish Monte and his family the very best and thank him for his outstanding leadership of our program and young men on and off the field.”