Thursday was a sad day for Tom Riginos.
Winthrop’s baseball coach started getting messages about 10:30 in the morning that his friend and one-time boss, Jack Leggett, had been fired as the head baseball coach at Clemson. Prior to being named the head coach at Winthrop in 2010, Riginos was an assistant with the Tigers for eight seasons, the last three as the associate head coach/recruiting coordinator.
“It was definitely a sad and disappointing day,” Riginos said. “Coach Leggett, other than my father, probably means more to me than anybody in the world. He did so much for me. What people don’t realize is how big of a heart that man has. He’s a mentor and a former boss, but more than anything he’s a good friend, one of my best friends. And I think that hurts the most. It was a tough day but he means the world to me.”
Leggett was the head coach at Clemson for 22 years and for 21 of those, including this year, his Tigers made the NCAA tournament.
He compiled 955 wins since 1994 as the Tigers’ head man and has 1,332 wins over 36 years including his work at Vermont and Western Carolina, which Riginos said people tend to forget.
Leggett led Clemson to the College World Series six times, but they have not been there since 2010 and the Tigers went 0-2 in the College Word Series tournament each of the last two seasons. They did regain bragging rights this year from South Carolina by taking two of three from the Gamecocks and ended the season by sweeping three games from Florida State in Tallahassee. Clemson finished the 2015 campaign 32-29.
Riginos said he is not sure of the reasoning for the decision and did not want to speculate.
“I haven’t been there in six years so I don’t know the dynamics anymore,” he said. “The new athletic director wasn’t there when I was there so I don’t know how that worked. The only thing I know is when you’re a Hall of Fame coach and you’ve done what he’s done, you should be able to go out on your own terms. That’s my opinion.”
Riginos, who led Winthrop to a 40-19 season, is sure of one thing – Leggett’s impact on his assistants’ lives and careers.
“When you see the guys on what they call his tree with ‘Sully’ (Kevin O’Sullivan) at Florida, ‘Corbs’ (Tim Corbin) at Vanderbilt, J.P. who was at Auburn now at Western Carolina, Rodney (Hennon) at Georgia Southern and the list just goes on and on,” he said. “Anybody that has been touched by him, he just gives you the process to be successful and he teaches you how to run a program. He gives you what you need to know. He teaches what the blueprint is and he does it the right way.”