Jones Will Bring Interest in Hoops Back to LSU – From the Bird’s Nest
When a coaching position becomes open, a hint of what an athletics director might do can be found by what he did the LAST time the position was open.
If what he did turned out to be the wrong hire, you can look for him to do something quite different the last time.
And, this time, that old adage held true in the case of LSU basketball.
When LSU was looking for a coach four years ago, they targeted Trent Johnson, who had great success at Nevada and who had just reached the Sweet 16 with Stanford. It was a hire not many people thought LSU could pull off, especially since most of Johnson's coaching career had been out west.
And, when Johnson was hired, most folks said "Wow!" It was considered to be a home run hire: a well respected coach from a Big Six conference with NCAA success at more than one school.
And, we know how it all turned out.
So, this time, I expected LSU would do something decidedly different and wasn't surprised at all when the Tigers tabbed North Texas coach and LSU alum Johnny Jones to take over for Johnson.
Hey...you tried the outsider. Now, bring in the insider.
Jones was part of Dale Brown's first Final Four team as a player. He was a part of Dale Brown's second Final Four team as a coach. He's a Tiger. Always has been. Always will be.
And, THAT might just be what LSU needs to get interest back in the program.
Jones took a moribund North Texas program that was averaging about five wins per year and turned it into a program that has played in the Sun Belt tournament finals the last three years. He won two tournament titles. He won twenty games in four consecutive seasons.
It took a while. Jones finished one game over .500 in his first year and didn't have another winning season until year six. From that point, he was 127-68.
Jones can recruit. He has the Louisiana recruiting ties and is respected by high school and AAU coaches. He's personable. He's well-liked by coaches he's come in contact with. He's proven he can resurrect a program.
He's going to have to resurrect LSU, who is losing Justin Hamilton to the NBA. There's not a lot of talent returning on that team. This is going to take some time. LSU won't win next year. They may not win for a few years.
But Jones will build it, brick by brick, just as Dale Brown did. It will start with bringing the fans back to the Pete Maravich Assembly Center. Jones should be able to sell that.
It seems the only LSU fans who aren't applauding this hire are the ones who wanted (and always want) to see a bigger "splash" with a coaching hire. These same naysayers thought Les Miles and Nick Saban were bad hires as well (Michigan State? We took the coach from freaking Michigan State??).
In fact, the only hire those folks were probably happy with was Trent Johnson.
No, LSU tried that. Now they're going back to their roots.
And, it could prove to be the absolute right move.