Former Clemson baseball coach Monte Lee didn’t have to wait long or go far to find his next job after the Tigers fired him on May 31 after seven seasons.
Lee, a former South Carolina assistant from 2003 to 2008, is returning to the Gamecocks as hitting coach and recruiting coordinator for coach Mark Kingston, according to sources close to the situation.
Come 2023, here’s a look at how Lee’s previous coaching experiences can help a South Carolina program coming off its first losing season since 1996.
Success with hitters
Lee coached nine All-Americans across seven years at Clemson, but none were more decorated than former outfielder and current Arizona Diamondback Seth Beer.
Beer exploded onto the college baseball scene in 2016 as a true freshman outfielder after enrolling a semester early at Clemson. He broke the Tigers’ freshman record with 18 home runs and batted .369 for the 2016 ACC tournament champions.
Beer was a unanimous freshman All-American and became the first freshman to win the Dick Howser Trophy, presented to college baseball’s best player. He finished his three-year Clemson career as a .321 hitter with 56 home runs and a program-high .648 slugging percentage.
The Houston Astros drafted Beer No. 28 overall in the first round of the 2018 MLB Draft, and he made his major league debut for the Diamondbacks last fall.
More recently, Lee coached infielder Max Wagner, the 2022 ACC Player of the Year and a second-round draft pick of the Baltimore Orioles. Wagner hit .369 with 76 runs batted in, 66 runs and 27 home runs during a first-team All-America season.
Lee — a standout College of Charleston outfielder who became the program’s first position player draft pick in 1999 — ultimately produced 38 total draft picks at Clemson. That was 13th in the nation and third in the ACC from 2016 to 2022.
Lee’s previous stint at USC connects him to the most productive stretch in Gamecocks baseball history under former coach and current athletic director Ray Tanner.
Lee didn’t win a national championship with South Carolina — he was well-entrenched as College of Charleston’s coach as USC won back-to-back College World Series titles in 2010 and 2011 — but got plenty of big-game experience beforehand.
He worked under Tanner for six years: five as a volunteer assistant coach working with hitters and outfielder (2003-07) and one as USC’s recruiting coordinator 2008).
In that stretch, South Carolina reached six regionals and four super regionals and made the CWS twice in 2003 and 2004. The Gamecocks also averaged 44.3 wins per year.
As fifth-year coach Kingston tries to get USC back to the CWS for the first time since Tanner’s retirement — something former coach Chad Holbrook couldn’t do — Lee’s experience makes him a valuable asset.
In between his South Carolina tenures, he also had 13 winning seasons and eight NCAA tournament appearances in 14 combined years at College of Charleston and Clemson.
Lee even has connections to a few current Gamecocks. After Lee’s firing at Clemson, a trio of Tigers transferred to USC: catcher Jonathan French, right-hander Ricky Williams and outfielder/first baseman Dylan Brewer. All three players could play significant roles for USC in the upcoming season.
In-state recruiting chops
Lee’s synonymous with the Palmetto State.
He was born in Spartanburg, prepped at Lugoff-Elgin High School and starred for four seasons as a College of Charleston outfielder
After a brief stint playing in the minors, he’s coached at Spartanburg Methodist Junior College, USC, College of Charleston, Clemson … and now USC again.
Lee has experience at the AAU baseball level, too, having coached with the South Carolina Diamond Diamond Devils in 2001 and 2002.
In other words, he’s as homegrown as they come and — with over two decades of experience and connections — could be an immediate asset for South Carolina baseball’s recruiting efforts.