For one of the rare times in its sports history, LSU apparently is hiring a head coach from the Pac 12 Conference.
Kendall Rogers, managing editor of D1 baseball, reported late Thursday afternoon that Arizona’s Jay Johnson, the Pac 12’s 2021 Coach of the Year, has been selected as new Tigers’ head baseball coach.
Johnson, 44, a native of Oroville, Calif., just finished his sixth season with the Wildcats on Monday when his 45-18 2021 Pac 12 champions were swept out of the College World Series.
He was 208-114 at Arizona with three NCAA tournament appearances including College World Series trips this season and in 2016 when the Wildcats lost to Coastal Carolina in CWS championship series.
Prior to Arizona, Johnson coached two seasons at Nevada where he had a 72-42 record. His 2015 Wolf Pack were 41-15 and won the Mountain West Conference championship.
His first head coaching job was at Point Loma Nazarene in San Diego in 2005 after playing shortstop for the NAIA school in 1999 and 2000 and then becoming an assistant from 2001 to 2004.
Johnson moved on to become an assistant coach for the University of San Diego for eight seasons before Nevada hired him as head coach.
His salary at Arizona was $856,687 (after 20% COVID-19 pay reduction in effect from Aug. 10, 2020 through Dec. 27, 2020.) It included $302,300 as value of coach’s annual vesting in longevity fund units held by the University of Arizona Foundation on behalf of the university’s athletics department, as well as $65,000 paid from agreement with Nike.).
Johnson has the reputation of being an offensive-minded coach.
This year’s team is fourth in NCAA Division 1 batting average (.325), first in hits (737), first in runs (537), first in doubles (145), first in triples (30) and sixth in scoring (8.5 runs per game),
“Our goal is to get three quality at-bats in a row as many times as we can throughout the game,” Johnson said several days ago. “When we do that four times throughout a game, we’re really, really tough to beat. There’s probably going to be eight or nine runs up on the board.”
In a podcast last spring after the NCAA cancelled the 2020 season, Johnson described his recruiting philosophy:
“We want to put together the most complete team as possible to win any type of game against any type of team at any type of park (on) any type of day, and that is complicated with 11.7 scholarships, only 27 on scholarship and only 35 on your roster.
“I don’t know if it’s an addiction or what like I’m writing out our roster for the following year and the year after that literally five times a day. I don’t know if it’s craziness, but the whole goal is to put together as complete a team as we possibly can.
“Left-handed pitching, right-handed pitching, starters have to be able to throw three pitches for strikes, really good bullpen options that are different so it never allows a team to settle in with one look. Offensively, you have three really good left-handed hitters in your lineup that can be a threat at anytime.
“Obviously, everybody knows the importance of the catching, shortstop and centerfield positions. At our place, athleticism is at a premium because we play on a really big field and you can use that for speed on the bases and in the outfield.”
Arizona’s last recruiting class was ranked No. 4 nationally by both Baseball America and Collegiate Baseball, leading the Pac-12 and all teams West of the Mississippi.
Third baseman Mikey Romero, one of Arizona’s current top commitments, announced on Thursday on Twitter just after the news broke on Johnson’s move to LSU that he decommitted from Arizona and committed to LSU.
His Tweet read: “With the news of coach Jay Johnson leaving Arizona I have decided to decommit. My family and I have decided to commit to @lsubaseball. We couldn’t be happier and I couldn’t be happier. I can’t wait to play for that fan base, and for a chance to win a natty!1 #GeauxTigers!
It’s not known how many of Johnson’s Arizona assistants will join him in Baton Rouge.
But one who isn’t pitching coach Nate Yeskie, who joined the Arizona staff in 2020 after 11 seasons with Oregon State. Yeskie has decided to join the new staff of Texas A&M hire Jim Schlossnagle as associate head coach.