Lemonis has kept himself busy at State

Chris Lemonis

Staff Writer

It’s summer vacation season, but Chris Lemonis hasn’t had the time for any kind of a break. Lemonis, the former Indiana head coach, was hired as Mississippi State’s lead man a little over a month ago. From that day on, it has been all systems go for Lemonis as he has begun his quest to try and bring a national championship to Starkville.

“I’ve been here every day and I haven’t been back to Indiana,” Lemonis said earlier this week. “I got the job on a Sunday, flew in on a Monday and I’ve been on the job ever since. There hasn’t been much down time.”

It’s not as though the responsibilities of being a head coach are new to Lemonis. He spent four successful years leading Indiana to the NCAA Tournament three different times. However the stakes have been raised now that Lemonis is in Starkville.

The Bulldogs are fresh off a deep run in the College World Series. The Bulldogs’ home, Dudy Noble Field, will soon be completely done following a $55 million reconstruction project. There are a solid group of returning players and exciting newcomers returning to Starkville for the 2019 season. Put it all together and perhaps expectations are as high as ever for MSU.

That’s why Lemonis can ill afford to slow down. Since his hiring, his first step was getting to know his players. That’s a process that is already well underway by now.

“A lot of our summer school kids are here and we have some guys from last year’s team working out,” Lemonis said. “I’ve gotten to build some relationships with those guys and that’s all going well.”

Lemonis has also constructed his coaching staff. He retained Jake Gautreau from last year’s Bulldog squad. Gautreau will again serve as State’s hitting coach and be a centerpiece of MSU’s recruiting efforts.

Lemonis picked longtime friend Scott Foxhall as his pitching coach last week. Foxhall comes to MSU from North Carolina State and has a stellar reputation for developing arms, plus has Southeastern Conference experience.

Lemonis turned to his former Indiana coworkers to fill out his staff. Kyle Cheesebrough and Roger Rodeheaver are both former Hoosiers that have turned into Bulldogs in recent days.

“Kyle Cheesebrough came down to be our volunteer assistant coach,” Lemonis said. “He was our recruiting coordinator at Indiana. He coached and played for me at Louisville. He’s a tremendous recruiter, but trust is also a big piece. He’s been able to recruit until we’ve made another hire, so he will be back soon.

“Roger Rodeheaver will be our operations director. He’s coached on a College World Series team and he played professional baseball with the Phillies. He’s very good and I trust him also.”

Much of Lemonis’ time since taking over at State has centered on bringing in more talent to Mississippi State on the recruiting trail. Arguably his biggest recruiting job has come in dealing with a pair of guys that already signed on to play with the Bulldogs. J.T. Ginn and Carter Stewart were both first-round Major League Baseball Draft choices last month. However neither signed with the clubs that drafted them.

Ginn has already decided to come and play for Lemonis. Stewart still hasn’t made his decision – he could instead opt to go to junior college and reenter the draft next year – but there’s a chance Lemonis could wind up with two MLB Draft first-rounders on his 2019 roster.

There’s also the following recruiting classes. It’s keeping Lemonis on his toes.

“It’s been a lot because you’re getting ready for the fall and taking care of recruiting,” Lemonis said. “Recruiting is going so many different ways. We’ve had two first-rounders, but then you’re also trying to get this roster ready. We’re also working on our 2019, 2020 and 2021 classes. Trying to build that relationship with those kids has been huge.”

The work won’t end for Lemonis anytime soon. Fall baseball will be here quickly. From there, the 2019 season will be just around the corner.

Maybe eventually Lemonis will get the chance for a quick breather. Until then though, he’s just enjoying being State’s head coach and all that comes with it.

“It’s been fun,” Lemonis said.