Chris Lemonis is Mississippi State’s newest head baseball coach

Published 8:00 pm Monday, June 25, 2018

Mississippi State has found their new head man for the baseball team in current Indiana University coach Chris Lemonis. Mississippi State confirmed the hire in a press release sent out on Monday.

The news will come as a shock to some, as interim head coach Gary Henderson took the Bulldogs on a memorable run that finished just two wins away from a berth into the College World Series finals, but ultimately Athletic Director John Cohen decided to move in another direction.

Email newsletter signup

Sign up for The Vicksburg Post's free newsletters

Check which newsletters you would like to receive
  • Vicksburg News: Sent daily at 5 am
  • Vicksburg Sports: Sent daily at 10 am
  • Vicksburg Living: Sent on 15th of each month

“Chris is a winner and has elevated programs everywhere he has coached,” Cohen said in the press release. “He understands what it takes to get to Omaha, and he’s done it as a coach and a player. He is the most dynamic recruiter I have been around in my 25 years in college baseball, and his track record of identifying and developing Major League talent in his 24 years of coaching illustrates that.

“Chris is also one of the elite baseball tacticians in the country. We are excited that Chris will successfully lead us into a new chapter of Mississippi State baseball.”

Lemonis had a 141-91 record in four seasons as the head coach for Indiana, and led the Hoosiers to three regional appearances.

Most recently, Lemonis took Indiana to a 40-19 record in their 2018 campaign and an at-large berth as the No. 2 seed at the 2018 NCAA Austin Regional. The Hoosiers made it to the regional title game after defeating Texas Southern and eliminating No. 25 Texas A&M, but eventually fell to Texas.

The 2018 squad had eight players earn all conference honors, including three players on the All-Big 10 first team, which was the program’s most since 2004.

“It’s an incredible honor to be the head coach at Mississippi State,” Lemonis said in the release. “The tradition, fan base and facility in Starkville are second to none in college baseball.

“My goal is to keep the program moving forward, strive for championships and ultimately win in Omaha. We will be aggressive in attracting the best players in the country to Mississippi State, and when they get here, we will develop them to their fullest potential on and off the field.”

Lemonis’ three regional appearances were huge, as Indiana had made it to a regional just four times prior in program history, but Lemonis never quite reached the heights that their previous coach Tracy Smith had. Smith led the Hoosiers to the programs first College World Series berth ever before leaving to become the head coach at Arizona State.

What Lemonis does bring, however, is an impressive resume on the recruiting trail. He had 16 of his players drafted while at Indiana, and before his stint there, he served as assistant coach and recruiting coordinator at powerhouse Louisville. During his tenure there, Louisville had 47 players sign professional contracts, and 12 of those players have reached the majors so far.

Lemonis was named the 2013 American Baseball Coaches Association/Baseball America Assistant Coach of the Year for his efforts there.

Meanwhile, Henderson took over as the interim coach early in the season after then-head coach Andy Cannizaro resigned for personal reasons.

After a rough start, Henderson led Mississippi State to a series of walk-off victories that put them deep into the College World Series for the first time since 2013.

Henderson was named the 2018 National College Baseball Writers Association Coach Of The Year and the 2018 Perfect Game/Rawlings Coach Of The Year after State’s remarkable run.

After their final game, Henderson was quoted by the Clarion Ledger saying he wanted to stay on as the head coach of the Bulldogs for the forseeable future.

“I love this assistant coaching staff that we have,” Henderson said. “We have started something special. The fans are in, and we’d like to stay and make a run of it.”

It’s unclear as to where and in what capacity Henderson will continue his coaching career next season.