Image credit: LSU coach Paul Mainieri (Justin Tafoya/NCAA Photos Via Getty)
Multiple sources on Friday told Baseball America that Paul Mainieri emerged as the initial target to replace Link Jarrett as coach at Notre Dame. Mainieri, however, rebuffed the overtures.
Mainieri confirmed to The Baton Rouge Advocate that Notre Dame had contacted him about the job, but he is not ready to return to coaching after retiring last year.
“I don’t feel ready to get back in it yet and those reasons are still valid,” he told The Advocate.
The move would have been a homecoming for Mainieri, 64. He coached Notre Dame from 1995-2006 before leaving for Louisiana State, where he won the 2009 national championship. He retired at the end of last season after 15 years at LSU, in part citing neck pains and headaches that had affected him for a couple years.
Mainieri is the seventh-winningest coach in Division I history. He has won 1,505 games in his career, including 533 at Notre Dame. He led the Fighting Irish to the 2002 College World Series and made eight straight regional appearances at the end of his tenure in South Bend. He coached premium talent at Notre Dame, including two of the five first-round picks in program history (Aaron Heilman and Brad Lidge).
Mainieri, the 2009 Coach of the Year, retired as the winningest active coach in college baseball. He took LSU to Omaha five times, twice played for the national championship and won at least 40 games 10 times. He previously coached at Air Force and St. Thomas (Fla.) and spent 39 years as a head coach.
However, the time is not right for a reunion. Jarrett on Friday left Notre Dame after three seasons to take over at Florida State, his alma mater. In three seasons in South Bend, Jarrett led the Fighting Irish to their greatest heights since Mainieri left for Baton Rouge. Notre Dame is coming off a CWS appearance – its first in 20 years – and in 2021 won the ACC for the first time since joining the conference.
Mainieri was the most high-profile coach Notre Dame could target and feeling out whether he is interested in a return to coaching makes sense for the program. Now, however, the search will likely turn to seeking out the next Jarrett.