By JAMES MORAN | Tiger Rag Associate Editor
As reported last week, LSU is promoting from within to fill the void left by Andy Cannizaro.
Volunteer assistant Nolan Cain has been hired as a full-time assistant and LSU’s recruiting coordinator while Director of Baseball Ops Micah Gibbs will take over as a volunteer assistant and serve as the team’s hitting coach, Paul Mainieri announced Tuesday afternoon.
“They’re going to be fantastic,” Mainieri said. “There’s no question in my mind.”
Both Cain, 30, and Gibbs, 28, were members of Mainieri’s 2009 national championship team. The former was a trusted relief pitcher while the ladder served as the team’s everyday catcher and a fixture in the middle of the lineup en route to earning All-American honors.
Undergraduate assistant Sean Ochinko was also a member of that ’09 club, giving Mainieri a trio of staff members with national championship experience from their playing days.
“When you look at the profile of all three guys from a playing standpoint, they were outstanding players at LSU,” Mainieri said. “They were national champions used to winning and knowing how to handle the pressure of being at LSU with the huge expectations.”
The news comes weeks after Cannizaro, who served as hitting coach and recruiting coordinator for two seasons, left to replace John Cohen as the head coach at Mississippi State.
Cain joined the staff as Coordinator of Baseball Ops back in 2013 and transitioned to volunteer assistant when Will Davis left to become coach-in-waiting — and eventually head coach — before the start of last season. He coached third base and worked with LSU’s catchers last season in addition to aiding with recruiting efforts.
He’s handled the recruiting coordinator duties in the interim since Cannizaro left to become the head coach at Mississippi State earlier this month. Now Cain will be in charge of scouting prospects and maintaining the recruiting pipelines that have consistently produced top-5 signing classes.
“You have to remember the NCAA only allows two paid assistants,” Mainieri said. “Alan contributes in recruiting and I contribute in recruiting, but the reality is that you have to have that energetic guy that can beat the bushes, spend a lot of time on the phone and be on the road a lot.”
He continued: “Alan and I aren’t spring chickens anymore. We’re both getting older. But a young guy that has the energy and enthusiasm and he’s starting out in his career, those are the guys who are going to do those kinds of things. And you’ve got one guy to do that. That’s why you can’t spend your other full-time spot on just a hitting coach. He has to be a proven recruiter.”
Cannizaro was able to handle both roles with aplomb, a luxury for any program, but Mainieri said he’s been toying with idea of splitting the jobs up for some time now.
The issue was finding a volunteer assistant he trusted enough to make hitting coach. Mainieri believes he’s found that in Gibbs, who was a third-round draft pick and spent time in the Cubs, Royals and Dodgers organizations before joining the staff prior to the start of last season.
It’s not unusual for Mainieri to take a chance on a hitting coach with zero experience. Before Cannizaro, he hired Javi Sanchez directly from professional baseball and Cliff Godwin was Vanderbilt’s operations director before joining Mainieri’s staff in 2006.
“That one year Micah has been with us is one more year of experience than Andy Cannizaro had when we hired him,” Mainieri said. “Andy had zero experience as a coach. Zero experience on a college campus besides as a player. I hired him and that worked out pretty well.”
Mainieri said Gibbs won’t officially resign his operations position until Dec. 11, meaning the job won’t be posted until Dec. 12. Mainieri said he already has names in mind to fill the vacancy and “would like” to have a hire in place by the new year.