By CODY WORSHAM | Tiger Rag Editor
Johnny Jones heard about news of his reportedly imminent firing like most everyone else – from reporters.
As of noon Thursday, Jones and athletic director Joe Alleva had not spoken about the reports or his future with the program, multiple sources familiar with the situation told Tiger Rag.
LSU flew back from Nashville Thursday morning and arrived in Baton Rouge around 10:30 a.m. Jones told the Advocate he’d not yet heard from Alleva. Sources familiar with the situation told Tiger Rag the same thing.
“I’m like you, heard about it and read it, seen it on TV,” Jones said after last night’s season-ending defeat to Mississippi State in the SEC Tournament. “But that’s about the gist of it, and I’m sure I’ll look forward to hopefully visiting with someone in the near future so I’ll — as I know, I’m sure you guys will know.”
Jones learned the news of his reported firing-to-come from media in Nashville after Tuesday’s practice, a source said. ESPN’s Jeff Goodman has reported the same, writing Jones “said the first he heard about his pending dismissal was when ESPN contacted him after practice Tuesday in Nashville, Tennessee, site of this year’s SEC tournament, by phone.”
Alleva did not respond to a call and a voice mail from Tiger Rag seeking comment. He would not confirm Jones had been or would be fired to The Advocate on Tuesday, saying via text message, “We have a game tomorrow and our goal is to win the SEC tournament.”
LSU basketball spokesman Kent Lowe said he did not know if there had been communication between the athletic department and Jones. However, two sources confirmed Wednesday morning no conversations between LSU’s administration and Jones had yet occurred.
It’s a stark contrast to how SEC rival Missouri has handled its separation from head coach, Kim Anderson. Missouri athletic director Jeff Sterk told Anderson after Mizzou’s Feb. 28 loss to Ole Miss he’d be fired at season’s end, Anderson told reporters on the SEC Coaches Teleconference yesterday. Anderson – like Jones, coaching his alma mater – announced in a release Sunday he would step down when the Tigers finish their 2016-17 campaign.
Jones is 90-72 through five seasons at LSU. If he is fired, LSU will owe him $800,000 in base salary for the two years remaining on his contract, plus a prorated sum for the rest of this year’s deal, which runs through June.
Jones’ 42-48 SEC record is the best, by winning percentage, of any coach in school history through his first five seasons, but this year’s team lost a school-record 15-straight games, and last year’s team, led by No. 1 overall NBA draft pick Ben Simmons, did not reach postseason play. Jones led LSU to the NCAA Tournament in 2015, falling in the first round to North Carolina State.
To reach postseason play this year, LSU would’ve needed to win five games in five days in Nashville. They lost in the first round, but the Tigers’ preparation for Mississippi State was unaffected, Jones said.
“Told these guys that it wasn’t about me, it’s actually about them, and we’ll prepare and do the things we’ve been doing and so they could have a great experience, and, unfortunately, came up short tonight,” he said.