By CODY WORSHAM | Tiger Rag Editor
After nearly a decade of professional basketball, Tasmin Mitchell’s passport is well-used and full of ink.
Tel Aviv. Moscow. Paris. All stops along Mitchell’s journey from LSU. All stops along Mitchell’s journey back to LSU.
“It’s got a lot of stamps,” Mitchell says. “It’s time for me to renew it.”
Not that he’s going anywhere anytime soon. The former Tiger star who won two SEC titles, reached a Final Four, and remains the third-leading scorer in program history is back in Baton Rouge, after he accepted a job as Director of Student-Athlete Development on Will Wade’s staff.
Before Mitchell accepted the position, he only had to ask himself one question.
Am I really finished playing ball?
It’s a question every athlete faces, sooner or later. Mitchell spent his last two seasons in Paris, France, averaging 10 points and 5 rebounds in 26 minutes per game on 44 percent shooting from the floor and 36 percent shooting from 3. But after South Louisiana’s flooding in the fall, he returned to his hometown, Denham Springs, volunteer coaching for the Yellow Jackets’ basketball team he once starred for as a McDonald’s All-American. He was in town as LSU endured its worst season in 50 years, getting a close up view of the season that would cost Johnny Jones his job.
It was when he heard Wade speak at his introductory press conference that Mitchell felt the call of coaching and decided to exchange his jersey for a suit and tie.
“When they hired Coach Wade,” Mitchell says, “and I heard him speak in his opening press conference, I’m like, ‘Man, this is something I want to be a part of. I love this guy’s energy. I see what he’s trying to do with this program.'”
The two met shortly after, and found they shared a vision of what LSU needed to right a program fresh off its worst season in 50 years. The Tigers went 10-21 in 2016-17, including a 2-16 record in the SEC and a program-record 15-game losing streak. Mitchell endured both highs and lows at LSU – two SEC titles in 2006 and 2009, but losing seasons in 2007 and 2010, and a redshirt in 2008. He, as much as anyone, understands what is required to win in the SEC.
He and Wade hit it off immediately.
“Our first conversation was, ‘We want to turn these guys into winners.’ That doesn’t automatically mean winning a national championship,” says Mitchell. “We just want to give them a different hindsight about their energy, their effort, how much passion they have to have to be a Tiger. I just wanted to bring that back, because I’m one of those Tigers that has that passion, that will to want to succeed. That’s what (Wade) has. He’s taking over a program that’s been ran in the dirt this past season, and he’s taken on the challenge. I was just so enthused about what he was talking about, and I just wanted to be a part of it.”
Mitchell’s role will be similar to Ronald Dupree’s under Johnny Jones. He’ll work in player development, running players through individual workouts with the staff, as well as serving as a soundboard for their issues as athletes. As a five-year player, Mitchell has much to teach. As a first-year coach, he has much to learn.
“I’ll just follow Coach Wade’s lead,” he says. “I’m a sponge. I want to learn. I’ll give the guys information and knowledge about the game that I see, since I played the game and I just finished playing the game. Somebody to be able to relate to these players, develop them mentally and physically.”
Of the many messages Mitchell hopes to communicate to the team, one stands out from the rest: love for the program. His school-record 4,962 minutes played, 137 games played, and 136 games started, as well as his place among just three Tigers to ever finish his career with 1,000 points, 500 rebounds, 200 assists and 100 steals, mean Mitchell undoubtedly left his mark on LSU.
His return to the program means LSU undoubtedly left its mark on Mitchell, too.
“Take this thing seriously, man,” Mitchell says of his message. “LSU wasn’t just a stepping stone. I can’t just say, ‘Hey, I went there, okay, bye.’ LSU is something, you have to live it. You have to wear it. You have to have it in your heart. You have to be about it. I carried that passion on the floor – and off the floor. Still to this day, that passion still burns inside me. I have it, and I just want to instill that in these players. If they have that kind of passion, the effort and the will to win will show up on the floor.”
Forgot to add who he played for in Paris.