Athlete of the Week: CofC head coach Monte Lee
Photos courtesy USC Athletics Department.CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCIV) -- This week's Athlete of the Week is certainly a coach in a class by himself.
Monte Lee led the College of Charleston to the Super Regionals in Lubbock, Texas, this week, but so much of what he's earned he owed to the man who gave him a chance -- legendary Gamecocks head coach and current athletic director Ray Tanner.
"If my son was good enough to play one day, I hope he gets to play for a man like Monte Lee," said Tanner.
When the proven best baseball coach the state has ever seen has that to say about you and you're only 37 years old, that says something.
"He has passion, enthusiasm, intelligence; he's a great communicator, great recruiter. His disposition is perfect for being a coach. I'm ecstatic he's in the position he is today," Tanner said.
You are where you've been, and where Monte Lee has been is now carrying him to Lubbock, and possibly on to Omaha. It's all thanks to a chance from Tanner that almost never happened.
"He said, 'If you ever have an opening, please call me, I'd be interested,'" Tanner recalled. "One day I had an opening and called. I didn't feel like the timing was right. He was teaching, in good financial spot. Being a volunteer coach at USC wasn't exactly attractive."
But working with Tanner for his childhood favorite team was too much to pass up.
"I knew what was at stake. I had to make ends meet. I had a degree in education. I got a teaching job to get insurance and make money, taught lessons every single night, hitting lessons in the batting cages for gas money, just trying to find a way to make it work," Lee said.
Lee, a father of two, took that leap of faith and the rest is history. What he learned from Tanner is irreplaceable.
And their relationship is rock solid.
"It means a lot because of the chance Coach Tanner gave me, a chance to coach D-1 ball. Coach Tanner had a lot to do with me getting the head coaching job at CofC. He pushed Joe Hull real hard to get me here," Lee said. "I'm indebted to him the for rest of my life."
So now Tanner watches as a friend, mentor and fan. His own school is out of the running, but his protege is still there, proving to be a contender.
"They've won 40 games. It's not a big upset to me. I'm extremely happy about the position he's in, and I'm living vicariously through him this weekend playing in the Super Regional," Tanner said.
And Tanner has a pretty big compliment for Lee. He says he's never got to the College World Series as a fan, but he's already checking on airfare prices.
"If they're fortunate enough to win two games this weekend, I'll also be in Omaha," Tanner said.
The Cougars leave for Lubbock Thursday afternoon.
ABC Sports 4's Daren Stoltzfus is also heading to Lubbock. Reports from the Lone Star State start Friday.