Jay Johnson comments on Paul Mainieri heading to South Carolina, gives update on Chase Shores

LSU head coach Jay Johnson said he spoke on the phone with former LSU coach Paul Mainieri after he accepted the South Carolina job.

After a three-year break from coaching, former LSU head coach Paul Mainieri is back in the SEC.

He’s reportedly taking the South Carolina head coaching job after spending 15 years coaching at LSU. He called his successor in Baton Rouge, Jay Johnson, shortly after the news broke.

“He called me yesterday and I just congratulated him,” Johnson said. “He’s earned the right in this time in his life to choose what he wants to do. He’s a great coach, Hall of Fame coach. And (he’s) been very good to me in my time here. So happy for him.”

Mainieri helped lead LSU to a national championship during his time as head coach as well as guided the team to five College World Series appearances. During his first few seasons at LSU, his pitching coach was Terry Rooney.

Rooney left LSU after the 2008 season, but Johnson brought him back ahead of the 2023 season to serve as Tigers’ Associate Director of Program Development and Recruiting. Rooney is reportedly leaving Baton Rouge though to reunite Mainieri and serve as South Carolina’s pitching coach. Johnson had less to say about Rooney’s potential move.

“I’m not going to comment for other programs,” Johnson said. “Terry’s a good coach. And it wouldn’t surprise me if he had an opportunity for any job. But you know, that’s South Carolina’s deal. That’s not my deal.”

LSU will face South Carolina in Columbia next season. It will be the first time Johnson has coached against Mainieri.

“I never even thought about [facing Mainieri],” Johnson said. “I never coached against him, period. I guess those things matter, but I think they don’t matter as much as people think they do.”

Johnson also responded to rumors that Texas might try to pry him away from LSU this offseason. He said he has not been contacted by anyone from the Longhorns.

“I’m very thankful to be here and excited about where we’re headed,” Johnson said. “It’s going to look a little different than maybe I thought 18 months ago, but that’s ok.”

Johnson also provided an update on injured pitcher Chase Shores. Shores started four games for LSU during his freshman season and made three SEC appearances before being sidelined by an elbow injury on March 31 and redshirting. He underwent Tommy John surgery afterwards and didn’t make an appearance during the 2024 season.

“To win 43 games and lose a talent like that and not have him available, again major hat tip to our team,” Johnson said. “He’s rolling pretty good. Was throwing a live bullpen the other day.”

Johnson said Shores fastball was up to 97.7 miles per hour and his sliders have improved. Getting Shores back would be a major boost to LSU’s pitching rotation. The 6-foot-8 right hander posted a 1.96 ERA in 18.1 innings pitched in 2023.

Johnson also said that reliever Griffin Herring will be a weekend starter next season if he elects to come back for another year. He said he expects to have anywhere from five to 11 players be drafted next month and the roster will look different.

“It will look different by design and I’m excited,” Johnson said.

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Will Nickel

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