Chris Lemonis Introduced as Baseball Coach
July 23, 2014HOOSIER SPORTS 365
IU PRESS RELEASE
BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- Indiana University Vice President and Director of Athletics Fred Glass formally introduced Chris Lemonis as the head baseball coach at IU on Tuesday afternoon. Lemonis, who was hired July 2 as the 24th head baseball coach at IU, spoke to the media at a press conference inside Memorial Stadium. Below is the full transcript.
|Vice President and Director of Athletics Fred Glass
"I'm really excited to be here today and introduce our new head baseball coach at Indiana University, Chris Lemonis. We had an unexpected search, but a very quality search and were really pleased with the outpouring of interest we had for this job. We had a number of top quality assistants from existing programs, we had a number of head coaches at existing collegiate programs. We actually had a number of people in the professional ranks express interest in this job. But Chris quickly rose to the top of our target list for a variety of reasons.
"He's been very successful everywhere he's been - The Citadel and Louisville. Multiple Regionals, multiple Super Regionals, multiple College World Series. He's helped produce a lot of great players from our region; he has a great recruiting base, which also happens to be in our region in Indiana and Chicagoland. (He's) noted as a great recruiter and a great hitting coach and just a quality person. When you enter into one of these things you look for fit and you look for someone who will represent your university well and the relationships that Chris has developed really speak well of the way he will build this program and keep us going in the right direction.
"I want to thank everybody who was involved in this search. I especially want to thank Scott Rolen who was instrumental in helping us get behind the scenes and I think there was maybe more due diligence involved in this search than any one in which I've been involved. Chris's reputation amongst baseball people that Scott was able to discuss really kept him at the top of our list. I also really want to thank (RS-junior pitcher) Kyle Hart from the baseball team who was a member of the advisory search committee. It was ironic in a way I think that just a couple days before this search occurred we had announced our Student-Athlete Bill of Rights which committed to have student-athletes involved in these searches and so that was a quick implementation of that provision of the Student-Athlete Bill of Rights.
"In terms of business, we have finalized our contract with Chris. Chris will make an annual salary starting at $250,000, that will make him the second-highest paid head baseball coach in the Big Ten. I think that's reflective of our continuing commitment to providing the resources necessary to keep IU baseball at the top of the heap. It will be a five-year contract too so an extended contract to give Chris the time to put his imprint on the program. So, without any further ado, I will call for the right-hander and ask Chris to say a few words and have a little presentation at the end of the program."
|Head Baseball Coach Chris Lemonis
"First of all, I just want to say thank you. It's a blessing to be here and as somebody going through the process, I think it took about four or five days and that was the nice part about it. Joining campus and coming in here and meeting everybody - I had known Indiana baseball just from being in the other dugout. But, getting inside and meeting both the Scotts (Scott Dolson and Scott Joraanstad), Fred and everybody else, it had a different feel than a lot of different places I had been. I always knew it was a great baseball school the last couple years, I just didn't know inside - the student-athletes, the commitment to the student and everything else.
"I'm excited to take over. Tracy Smith did an unbelievable job here. I've told everybody and I've told recruits, I would much rather take over a place that's at the top then at the bottom. We've got a whole clubhouse full of winners is how I feel with that group. You always have to be careful what you wish for because I've sat in the dugout and wished Kyle Schwarber was gone for years and now I wish he was in our dugout. It's a great group of kids coming back, we're excited and we feel like we'll be at the top of the league. I've had the chance to hire some unbelievable assistants. They're not here today because they're recruiting and they're out trying to find the next great Hoosier. But it's a fun time and we're really excited to be here."
Q: What is the key is to sustaining IU baseball's recent success?
Lemonis: "Recruiting and having great players. One thing - because I have a history of eight years playing IU - it's pitching and defense. I think everybody looked at three big hitters but I think we were seventh in the country last year in pitching and we played unbelievable defense - or they played unbelievable defense - but us now. I've been telling recruits `You know we beat Louisville six out of seven times.' I've jumped on that side already when I'm talking to recruits because we're competing in this part of the country for kids. We're going to pitch and play defense and that's the key. And try to recruit the best kids in this part of the country."
Q: What is the perception of the Indiana baseball program by recruits?
Lemonis:"It's been great. One of the hardest parts about recruiting here is we've been to Indianapolis a couple of times. It's hard to focus because we've had so many IU people coming up. All my assistants have said it - all day long everybody's talking to you and welcoming you, but the kids themselves have been great, especially the younger ones. We kind of jumped in a little late so the rising senior class a lot of kids are signed but a lot of the young ones are excited and we already have them lined up for football games in the fall and everything else. I think the culture - I think that's one of the big things we're trying to change - we want the kid that grows up and is dying to be Hoosier. That's what we're trying to work for here."
Q: What has Lemonis' experience in these first few weeks been like?
Lemonis: "We've been swimming. It's been a fast three weeks, which we've loved. It's easy to get up every day and go. Today is the first day in nine days that we haven't had a recruit on campus so we've had kids coming in and visiting and showing off the campus. My first group was IU grads and so they were telling me `Coach, turn left, turn right' kind of working me through campus. It's been a lot of recruiting and trying to get everything lined up here with the previous team - they're such a veteran team - we've tried to build relationships there. Then, on the other side trying to get everybody coming in."
Q: What has interacting with the veteran players been like so far?
Lemonis: "Kyle Hart told me on the interview, `Coach, we want to win now." I shook my head and I said, `I understand.' It's a group of kids that want to continue the success. That's what we've talked about. It's going to be a different coaching staff, but the goal is still the same. I know Tracy was very motivated to win and win the right way, and our group is going to be the same. Being new, there are going to be some changes in there but the reality is we all want to win. I think when you have a group of guys that know how to win; it's hard to beat them. I'm sure our group thinks they're the best team in the Big Ten and they should. They're going to play that way through the end of the year."
Q: What qualities did the team tell Fred Glass they wanted in a coach?
Glass: "They emphasized they wanted to win now. They were looking for a proven winner, someone who could step right in and keep the program at an elite level. We really felt like that was check, check, check with Chris. He was the National Assistant Coach of the Year; he was with a well-regarded program and a highly-regarded head coach, a great coaching tree. (He is) someone who had passed on opportunities he could have explored but didn't think that was the right step for him. They were looking for a real quality person they could get behind and feel like he's a `been there, done that' guy and that's who we think we got."
Q: The idea of giving players a voice in the coaching search - was this the best-case scenario to have a team that has been winning and has veteran guys, to introduce that?
Glass: "It is. Normally, when you're in a coaching search it's because the last coach didn't work out so well. That's the coaching searches that I've been ivolved with to this point. Here's one where we had a wildly successful coach and as Chris said 'Winning breeds winning,' and that 'We're going to win' attitude gives you such an advantage before you even get started and they brought that to the search. They had a lot of confidence in what they were looking for. I think that was a real positive part of this."
Q: How important was it for you to make a long-term commitment to a new coach? How important was it, as a coach, to see that commitment?
Glass: "I just thought a multi-year contract made sense given our general commitment to baseball. We wanted Chris to feel like he could continue keep in going in the right way and not be looking over his shoulder. Frankly, someone who has succeeded in the way that Chris has, I think, deserves that kind of stability going in. That was something that we put on the table immediately and didn't have to have negotiated from us. That was our initiative."
Lemonis: "From the coaching side, once again, I go back to recruiting and the kids knowing you're committed there. I've already gotten 'How long are you going to be there?' - and a lifetime is what your hope is. But kids know all those different things and that's something you find in that world. It's a comfort to know we can get in here and do it the right way. Eventually, we'll lose a lot of seniors and upperclassmen this year and pretty soon there will be a new group of kids that are coming in. You want to feel like you can do it with your guys in there."
Q: Tracy Smith believed in power and recruiting guys who had power. What are some of your baseball philosophies that you are going to implement here? Is there a specific kind of player you're looking for?
Lemonis: "We're looking for an athletic powerful guy. I know that sounds a little crazy. Last year we led the country in stolen bases so we had a lot of athletes that played because it helped so much on defense. A couple years prior to that, one of our first teams, we had 80 home runs and over 100-something stolen bases. We like to have to ability to do it all. I like bigger athletes - guys who can run and move. We want to try and get some guys that can do a little bit of everything. We have to be able to win on Friday night, 3-2, and maybe on Sunday we have to win 10-7. I'd like to be able to do it a little bit of both ways and try to be blended. Our system has always kind of had that we worked out of from an offensive side. Pitching wise, one of the reasons my pitching coach came, is we like the big bodies, not that we won't have some different type of guys, but he's had a lot of success with some big-bodied Midwestern kids. He had Lance Lynn at Ole Miss and some different guys like that that he has a lot of success with."
Glass: "Chris just described my athletic package. Too bad I don't have any eligibility left."
Q: Where are you going to focus your recruiting?
Lemonis: "We feel like we can recruit anywhere, but we're really going to make a concentrated effort in Indiana, Illinois. Chicago has been a big area for me in the past and we have a lot of contacts there. I think half the school seems like they're from Chicago. There's a lot of kids down here going and we feel like that's a big basis. Number one, two, and three, we're really trying to attack the state of Indiana. This state has great players everywhere and we'd like to get a couple more guys to play here."
Q: With the team losing a lot of leadership, who are some leaders you identified right off the bat?
Lemonis: "The first guy I met was Kyle Hart. He was definitely one. When we were walking around, I met Will Nolden, which I almost cut the first day. I was coaching third in Omaha and he threw out our guy by like six feet and I had to put my head down and go back to the dugout. So I gave Will a hard time and said 'You may not have a spot here.' Scott Donley was one that we spoke a lot with in the process - talking to him and feeling him out. A lot of guys were in town for camp so we had a chance to meet a lot of the guys and sit down and talk with some of the freshmen and some of the older guys. I would say those handful of guys and Ryan Halstead. He is a guy we've multiple conversations with. I've tried to let my assistant coaches call them here and try to touch base. We're really working hard in that area of relationships - just trying to make sure we all know each other before we start."
Q: In terms of coaching, where will you focus?
Lemonis: "I hired a pitching coach. Kyle Bunn will run 95 percent of pitching and obviously we'll always talk about it, but he is a really experienced guy and I feel like I can lean on him in that way and calling pitches. From the offensive side, I will be more of the offensive coach. I brought with me another guy, Kyle Cheesebrough, who is more of a hitting guy - swing mechanics and different things like that, sitting in the cages with guys - but I'll run the offense from that side. I'll probably do it from the dugout and let my young assistants coach the bases. Defensively, I'll also do all the team defense type of stuff."
Q: Are you still working on a third coach?
Lemonis: "We're really close. We'll probably announce here in the next couple days."
Q: What's the biggest difference between the fans here and the fans at Louisville?
Lemonis: "I told Fred and I told Scott, I was amazed, because we played at Sembower Field and there weren't many fans and all the sudden... usually it takes time to build a fan base and as soon as Bart Kaufman Field went up, it was full, and it's amazing. One of the things I've been doing with the recruits is walking them around. I don't know if you've been inside the clubhouse, but there are all those great pictures of the stadium maxed-out. That's the big sell that we've been selling. You're going to play in front of a lot of people, and that's been exciting."