Here is part of what new baseball coach Nick Mingione, a former UK assistant coach, had to say Tuesday night after being officially introduced by Kentucky athletics director Mitch Barnhart.
Q. Nick, what do you know about your roster now? Do you believe you’ll be able to jump right in and be a contender this coming season?
COACH MINGIONE: Sure, so the biggest elephant in the room is the pitching staff, right? We have to replace over 300 innings. That will definitely be a challenge. I’m really excited about this opportunity because I’ve gotten a chance to obviously speak to some of the players, especially some of the ones that are here.
Anytime there’s change, it can be hard for 18‑ to 22‑year‑olds. It can. I’ll definitely create an environment where the guys can just show up every day and prove with their actions. I think there’s no better time to be a Kentucky Wildcat because there’s a whole new opportunity for everybody.
The biggest elephant in the room right now is the starting pitching, yeah.
Q. Nick, as far as a coaching staff is concerned, do you have a timeframe when you would like to have them in place? Do you have people in mind for those positions?
COACH MINGIONE: Sure, great question. Obviously, not being a sitting head coach, I don’t have a staff. I actually believe in my heart that is going to be a positive. There’s a bunch of different facets that goes into what makes a great coach.
Number one, I’m looking for people that are iron sharpeners and want to develop men. As I’m trying to build my staff, yes, I’ve talked to some people. I’ve had the unique opportunity of watching coaches coach, but also watching guys on the road. Sometimes you learn more about somebody, maybe the way they recruit, how they handle themselves away from the field. Sometimes head coaches don’t go out and recruit as much. I do want to make it known I will spend a lot of time recruiting as the head baseball coach.
But to use Mitch’s terms, I will be efficient. Obviously there’s some things that have to be in place that we’re dealing with with the Major League draft. I want to make sure we get the right people. However long that takes it takes, but I’m looking for developers of men.
Q. Coach, it’s a very tough league. This job is considered one of the tougher jobs in the league, if not the toughest job in the league. What do you feel the key is to overcoming that?
COACH MINGIONE: Well, for me, number one, I mentioned it earlier, you got to win with people. I’ve been a part of a championship here. We’ve done it before. The goal is to do it again.
People may say the job’s tough. I’m going to say any job in the Southeastern Conference is tough. Every job has its challenges, right? But this is a place I wanted to be at because I believe in my heart we can win here and we’re going to win here. If I didn’t believe that, I wouldn’t have come.
As much as I respect Mitch, and everything we have going on here, if I didn’t feel like we could win, I wouldn’t take that job. Sure, every job has its challenges, but this is a place we can win at and have won at.
Q. Coach, how important to you was a potential facility upgrade? What were your discussions like with Coach Cohen at Mississippi State about taking this job?
COACH MINGIONE: The first part of your question. I learned a long time ago growing up at a young age, I mentioned we maybe didn’t have as much as somebody else, right? I learned a long time ago not to focus on what you don’t have. You will drive yourself crazy if you do that, right?
So the fact that we don’t have a stadium right now, I know there’s plans, but I never want our players to focus on what they don’t have. I want them to count each blessing every single day. The fact that we don’t have a stadium, I think everybody knows that. I’m not going to be the guy or the coach to focus on what we don’t have. I’m going to ask our players every single day to be appreciative of everything we have. There’s a lot of resources here to win. We’ve done that before.
The second part. John Cohen loves this place. He has been like a father figure to me in so many ways. It was funny, Coach Henderson resigned, and coach called me in right away. We spoke about it. But he thinks the world of Mitch. He thinks the world of the people here. He still has a lot of relationships, he and Nelle and Jordan and Avery have a ton of relationships with people in this community, which is an amazing community.
There was no doubt in my mind that, number one, he thought I was ready for this and, number two, this was a position I needed to take.
Q. What are one or two things that he has passed along to you that you can apply to this job?
COACH MINGIONE: That’s a really good question. Mitch actually asked me that same question in the interview.
There are so many. John Cohen’s brain never stops. He doesn’t stop. His brain is focused on making every part of the program better in every single way. I could pay him so many compliments. I could literally stand up here and talk to you for hours about the type of human being that man is.
But his brain doesn’t stop. He wants to be great in every facet of the program. I’ll take that from him.
Q. Coach Cohen told the story this morning that you briefly lived at the UK baseball facility. Can you explain that a little more, how long that happened.
COACH MINGIONE: Well, coach did mention there might have been (indiscernible).
I moved up here with my car. As a matter of fact, when I lived in Daytona Beach, I lived on my coach’s couch. But I loved coaching. I knew that I was supposed to be there. I left a job where I had full salaried benefits. I want to say for the first six or seven years of my life, maybe the first six years, I made $36,000 total with no health benefits or insurance, because I have a passion for developing men.
Yeah, when I first got up here, I came straight from the College World Series. We played for a national championship. John Cohen works really fast. His deal was, How fast can you get here?
When I lived in Daytona, the apartment, I ended up living in an apartment, and I was doing lessons for a guy by the name of Doug, I won’t mention his last name to protect him. But I was working his team out. What I did was eventually I learned that he owned apartment complexes. I worked out a deal with him in Daytona that, Maybe instead of you paying me to work with your team, how about you give me an apartment. I worked my rent off.
That year I lost my apartment to a hurricane. Obviously everything in it was given to me. FEMA came along. I had a 17‑inch TV. I didn’t know this. When they come in, doesn’t matter if you have a big screen or little one, so I actually made money by losing this apartment. I worked another deal out with one of our player’s parents to trade in my car because I needed a vehicle.
I said, Coach, I got to get a vehicle. My car is not going to make it.
So I loaded up the car. I got the car switched out. I drove to Lexington. Told the story about the first time I rode up on this campus. I didn’t have a place to stay. Coach said, Stay with me.
Coach, I’m good. I was a little embarrassed to tell him I didn’t have a place. I eventually got a place.
I spent a lot of long nights in the office. We didn’t have a couch. He didn’t have a couch in his office, or I would have slept on that.
I would go over to the locker room. I spent a lot of nights there. I eventually did get a place.
When you talk about this place, coaches, you pour your heart and soul into a place, you spend a ton of time, it means a lot to you. That’s one of the reasons why this place means a lot to me. I spent a lot of long nights here and hours here with a lot of good people.
Q. As far as the recruiting class that’s already signed, have you spoken to those guys? With the MLB draft, they have a choice to make. What is your best pitch to them as to why they should come to Kentucky?
COACH MINGIONE: Good question. We want every one of our commitments to have a passion to play in the big leagues as I mentioned earlier.
This is a special place. What I need to explain to them is, There’s a time and place for the draft. Unfortunately, every kid at some point has to put a dollar figure on what they’re willing to sign for and what they’re not. I need to get in their homes and in front of their parents to start to build a relationship. They need to know how much me and my coaching staff will pour into them as players and as people.
Sometimes guys have numbers set. You can talk them off the numbers, sometimes you can’t. I think only time will tell with that piece.
Can I just make one more comment before we go?
I wanted to make sure before I left that everybody knew how highly I think of Gary Henderson. I think extremely highly of him, his wife Vicki, their sons Alex and Ty. They are special people. I still have a relationship.
As a matter of fact, when our son Reeves was born, they sent a generous gift to help get his academic career started. They’re good people. I saved him for last because he means a lot to me. He’s a great human being. What he has done for this program should not be unnoticed because not only is he a great coach but he’s a special human being.
Again, appreciate you all being here. For those of you that I don’t know, I look forward to getting to know you and continue relationships, which is something that’s really important to me.