LSU introduces Johnny Jones
Coach looks to up tempo, ante in Baton Rouge
By BEN LOVE
Tiger Rag Editor
From organizing a round of applause for LSU baseball coach Paul Mainieri to getting laughs for detailing his post-job offer celebration, new Tiger basketball coach Johnny Jones was the toast of the LSU sports world on Monday.
And in a fitting way, with former mentor/coach/boss Dale Brown sitting in the crowd, Jones was at his entertaining best as he was officially introduced as the 21st men’s basketball coach in LSU history Monday.
The DeRidder native had a packed house on the fifth floor of the LSU Athletic Administration building in stitches when he recreated the “Muhammad Ali pose” he struck, both hands fully stretched in the air, after Director of Athletics Joe Alleva offered him the position Friday afternoon.
That was a great day, according to Jones.
Monday, in front of a host of LSU basketball legends of lore, was probably even better. At the very least, Jones, a former Tiger player and assistant coach, conceded it was a day that had been a long time coming.
“I can tell you this is a dream come true for me. This is a great day to say the least,” Jones told reporters. “When I say a dream come true, I mean many a night I’ve gone to sleep with this on my mind, having an opportunity to be back and part of this program at LSU.”
Alleva, making his second men’s basketball hire in four years, introduced Jones Monday as the successor to Trent Johnson in TigerTown.
The LSU A.D. was quick to note he’s been tracking Jones since the North Texas coach first interviewed for the same job four years ago.
“At the end of the interview I said to myself, ‘Wow, that guy’s really impressive,’” Alleva recalled. “And for the last four years, I’ve followed him. I actually have. I’ve watched some of his press conferences. I’ve watched a lot of his games. Whenever I was in his company, I tried to get to know him.”
“Four more years experienced. Four more years more mature,” Alleva continued, when asked the difference in Jones now. “At this point in time, there’s no question that he’s the best fit for LSU.”
Jones spent much of the press conference explaining how he expects things to fit.
“Just showing up’s not going to be good enough. It’s about winning,” Jones said of his message to the players. “That’s the mission that I will be on at LSU.”
As for the brand of basketball, Jones made no secret the Tigers will play a more up-beat style, mimicking some of the high-scoring tendencies his Mean Green teams had.
“It’s going to be exciting,” explained Jones. “We’re going to push it. It’s going to be organized and not just chaos … But we will play fast and play with a passion.
“It will be a style that my players enjoy playing and the fans will enjoy watching … And I tell you, you can win with it because we have.”
Jones, who Alleva confirmed will receive a five-year deal, also acknowledged the importance of recruiting locally in Louisiana.
“We’ve got to make sure we blanket this state,” Jones continued, stressing the importance forming and building relationships with high school and AAU coaches.
The new LSU skipper said he’d ideally like to add “four or five” signees during this late signing period, adding to a roster of seven scholarship players.
Almost all of those seven returning players were in attendance Monday, and both Johnny O’Bryant III and Anthony Hickey told members of the media they were going to return to LSU next season.
“I’m definitely going to be here playing next year,” O’Bryant, a rising sophomore forward, declared. “For me from (meeting with) Coach Jones last night and the new style of play, I think it’s going to fit us well because we definitely have some athletic players and some quick players. I think it’s going to be a good year for us, so we’ve just got to keep fighting and getting over the hump.”
Guard Andre Stringer spoke highly of Jones, as well, mentioning a productive hour-long meeting between the new coach and the LSU players last night.
“It was good. He introduced us to his family, told us the type of coach he is and the type of person he is,” Stringer said. “We had a good time.
“The way he explained it we are going to be a lot of fun (to watch). He explained it’s going to be a lot of hard work for us to get there, but he said there’d be a lot of fast-breaking and a lot of fun.”
Stringer also reaffirmed that Hickey and O’Bryant have told him they’re coming back, and that he expects everyone to return from last year’s team.
“The coach, he’s great, but I think our guys made a commitment to LSU,” said Stringer. “We didn’t make a commitment to just a coach when we came to this school. It’s a great school, academically and otherwise for us. We have a great coach coming in, but we’ve also made more of a commitment to the school.”
For his part, Jones said he wants his players to understand the “family atmosphere” he instills and more than anything to know he cares about them as people, something Jones said he inherited from Brown.
Given his love for LSU, Jones also plans to share his passion for the university and program.
“I was never really disengaged (from LSU) because of the fact that I’m a former player and a student who coached here for all those years,” Jones said. “You just can’t get that out of your blood.”
MORE PRESS CONFERENCE QUOTES AND NOTES
“It was a national search. We [he and Eddie Nunez] have a lot of contacts between the two of us, and we contacted a lot of people, and talked to a lot of people and reached out to a lot of people and interviewed people.”
- On the scope of the search
“To get a guy that was born in Louisiana, went to school here, coached here. That’s just a bonus, but it really adds to the fit. Let me assure you that he’s earned the right to have this opportunity. He’s paid his dues and he’s earned this opportunity.”
- On Jones’ credentials for the job
“The reason we haven’t been drawing is because we haven’t been winning enough. If you win they will come … It’s all about winning. Our fans are great, and if we win they’ll come back. It’s that simple. Trent (Johnson)’s first year here, he was winning, and the last eight games were all sold-out. It’s all about winning.”
- On getting fans/excitement back in the PMAC
- Alleva said he considered “about five” people for this job, with four getting formal interviews.
- Alleva confirmed Jones’ will be a five-year deal and said his currently undisclosed salary is subject to review by the LSU Board of Supervisors.
“The big thing is those guys have got to understand how important they are to what we’re doing, program-wise, and how I will embrace them. That’s serious to me, that they understand the family atmosphere and the environment that I want them to be in. And to have those guys coming back, I think that helps your basketball team because I think they can be the focal point of this team next year.”
- On Hickey and O’Bryant announcing they will return
“Two things. One, we’ve got to make sure we get some coaches in here who are tremendous recruiters, who understand this region, who can get out and make sure we do an excellent job of selling this program. I think that’s really important. At the same time, I’ve got to make sure the guys are great teachers and individual skill coaches, guys that can get out there on the floor and continue to developing the talent level that we have here.”
- On what types of assistants he’s seeking
“About four or five if it’s the right guys. I would like to do that, but if it’s not (we won’t). We may have to bring in some transfers as well, but we’re not going to waste any scholarships because you can get stuck. We’ll make sure we do our due diligence in recruiting.”
- On how many players he’d ideally like to sign in this late signing period
“We’ve got some things that we’ve got to address. It’s going to be a challenge going forward, and I look forward to addressing those challenges in the next couple of weeks.”
- On how he feels about LSU’s APR situation entering the job
Editor Ben Love is Tiger Rag’s lead reporter on LSU men’s basketball. Reach him at email@example.com.