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Johnny Jones Returns To Baton Rouge

Johnny Jones once played at LSU. He wants assisted Dale Brown too.  He spent 17 years at LSU in one basketball capacity or another. Now, he goes back to the PMAC as the head coach of a talented Mean Green basketball team. What does it mean to Johnny?’s Gary Parrish has the story.

“I’m sure there will be a lot of emotions,” Jones acknowledged by phone Monday night. “I played there for four years and coached there 13. That’s 17 years on campus. But it’s not about me. It’s a team thing.”In the grand scheme of things, yes, if only because everything in basketball is a team thing. A team wins, the other loses. It counts, one way or another, for the team. But Brown, the iconic former LSU coach who took the Tigers to two Final Fours, didn’t delay a holiday trip to California to stay in town and watch North Texas. Or even LSU. He stayed to see a man who played on his first Final Four team (1981) and assisted on his second Final Four team (1986), and the Maravich Center will be filled with countless others ready to similarly welcome Jones back to the campus.

“There will be lots of friends and family, former teammates and players who played for us,” said Jones, whose wife also happens to be from Baton Rouge. “I’m sure it’ll be a special feeling.”

So that’s the backdrop for Wednesday’s game between North Texas and LSU, but it’s really just a hook to tell a larger story about Jones, whose career is a nice example of just how wacky college coaching can be. He was an assistant at LSU under Brown for 13 seasons and an assistant at Memphis under Tic Price for one when he was abruptly pushed into the role of interim head coach after athletic director R.C. Johnson forced Price to resign amid scandal.

Jones performed admirably given the circumstances.

Memphis won six of its final seven games that season, and there was a push among a segment of the fan base to make Jones the program’s permanent coach. Johnson instead struck a deal with John Calipari — obviously the right move because when a school like Memphis can get Calipari it has to take him regardless of the circumstances. So Calipari entered and Jones exited. He spent the next year working for Mark Gottfried at Alabama, then landed the job at North Texas before the 2001-2002 season, and he’s been there ever since.

Read all of Parrish’s story here:

Regardless of what Coach Jones may say, this game mean a lot more to him than a normal non-conference game. While he spent 17 years at LSU, his heart is now with the Mean Green. 

“I’m excited about where I am and what I’m doing, and I never look past this job,” Jones said. “They say the best job that’s out there is the one you have, and you have to work it to death. So that’s just what I try to do every day.”

Not a bad coaching philsophy to have Johnny.

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