Emotional Ending: Monte Lee says final day with his team was a tough one
|Thursday, March 19, 2020, 8:19 AM- -|
CLEMSON – It’s tough to look a group of young men in the eyes and tell them that their season is over, that for some of them their career might be over. Not because of what happened between the white lines, but because of circumstances out of their control.
There was no walk-off bomb. No strikeout to end the game. Just a workout and then the order to go home and wait. And waiting is sometimes the hardest part.
Clemson head coach Monte Lee endured the emotional high of his team’s 11-inning win over Winthrop Wednesday night a week ago, and then had to endure the crushing low of telling his players that their season – and for some their careers – might be over.
The team worked out on Thursday in preparation for the first ACC road trip of the season to Wake Forest. The plan was to work out in Clemson Thursday, take the bus to Winston-Salem and practice there Thursday afternoon in advance of the series opener Friday.
Events began to unfold at a rapid pace Thursday morning, however, starting with the cancellation fo the ACC Basketball Tournament. The dominoes began to fall after that, and Lee had to tell his team the news.
“It was very emotional. A lot of guys broke down,” Lee said on a conference call Wednesday. “I, obviously, got emotional. You start looking at some of these guys and, you think to yourself, there is a chance some of these guys may never wear a Clemson uniform again. What does the future look like for guys like a Sam Weatherly, a Carson Spiers and a number of guys that we don’t know quite yet if they will play for us again?
“It was an emotional day, that’s for sure. It has been tough to comprehend, I think, over the last few days since we had that meeting. But we can only control what we can control and right now, our primary focus is the safety of the student-athletes and their academics.”
Lee said emotions ran the gamut.
“Guys were just really down,” he said. “It was … you are looking at guys and they are just in shock. That was the biggest thing that I took away from it, just the level of shock and disappointment, frustration, sadness. It was just a really hard pill to swallow.
“As far as us, as coaches, we are moving forward. I think that is the key. We are moving forward with communications with the players. Communication with their parents. Again, the primary focus right now is the academic side of things and what the transition looks like from being in the classroom and on campus to e-learning. Doing their academic work at home, through a computer. Just making sure we provide them with all the help we can give them.”
Lee’s team was a young offensive team that was beginning to jell. The Tigers held a 14-3 overall record, a 3-0 record in the ACC, a series win over arch-rival South Carolina and were 6-0 in one-run games. The needle was pointing in the right direction.
“What a great season we had through 17 games,” Lee said. “Just how tough our guys are. I just appreciated how hard they competed. We were 6-0 in one-run games. We had six one-run games out of 17 competitions, and we won everyone of them. So, it just … when you look at it from a coaching standpoint, and as hard as it is, to have your season cut short like this, it also gives you a perspective and appreciation for the players you have and just the day in and day out journey that you get to go through with these guys.
“Those are things I went over with them. How much I loved them and how proud I was of them.”