HOOVER, AL (WAFB) - As the Tigers begin SEC Tournament play Wednesday afternoon chasing a second three-peat under head coach Paul Mainieri, they don't need to look any further than their leader for what it takes to win conference tournament titles.
"Ultimately, the goal is to win the big one," Mainieri says. "But along the way, what's wrong with winning several? Our 2009 team won six championships that year."
The 2015 SEC Coach of the Year refers to the SEC West crown, overall SEC championship, SEC Tournament title, regional and super regional championships, and of course, the national championship in Omaha. It's that motivation of constantly playing for a championship that keeps his Tigers from ever letting up on their opponents.
"I think as a team we're clicking right now," says first-team All-SEC shortstop Alex Bregman. "I think we need to just keep getting better everyday, keep practicing hard, keep playing the game the right way, keep approaching every game the same, and I think if we do that, we'll be very successful and be able to accomplish all of our goals."
Coach Mainieri's tournament title winning days span back to his career at Notre Dame where he won five straight Big East Tournament Championships before departing for LSU. Once a Tiger, he won the first three that LSU played in during his tenure in 2008, 2009 and 2010. But as he'll tell you, winning these events doesn't just happen overnight. Sometimes the struggle of overcoming the conference competition can take years.
"I learned to really dislike losing, losing those first seven conference tournaments I coached at Notre Dame," says Mainieri. "I can tell you it was very frustrating. I remember my wife bought a big bottle of champagne for the first tournament and said, 'OK we're going to crack this open after we win.' And that damn thing sat there for seven years in that refrigerator. When I came home in the eighth year, she didn't greet me at the front door, but there was a bottle of champagne with a balloon attached to it, and I knew exactly what she meant."
Armed with one of his best teams to date, leading the SEC with five first-team selections, coach Mainieri may have more champagne prepared for him after Sunday, with several more to come as we move closer to the month of June.