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Back To The Future: Jones Era Begins At LSU

Four for seasons, there was talk that Trent Johnson just wasn’t a “fit” at LSU.  On the recruiting trail, dealing with Louisiana high school coaches, bonding with Tiger fans… whatever a “fit” is, Johnson wasn’t.

For that reason LSU has gone back to its roots and brought in former Dale Brown player and assistant Johnny Jones to lead the program into the future.  Introduced yesterday in Baton Rouge, Jones’ hiring has already brought the Tiger family back together.


Former Tiger Shaquille O’Neal:  “LSU has hired a man in Coach Johnny Jones that any player in this nation would want to play for, because he’s a player’s coach and a man of his word.  My three years at LSU were the best three years of my life, and he was part of my development that I will never forget.  In May, I will receive my Doctorate Degree, and this doctor prescribes LSU and Coach Jones to make their dreams come true.”


Former Tiger Ethan Martin:  “It’s great news.  It couldn’t happen to a better guy than Johnny Jones.  He’s waited his time.  He did a great job at North Texas and I think he’ll do a great job at LSU.  The past with Johnny Jones was great.  Hopefully he can take the past, into the future.”


Former Tiger Rudy Macklin:  “How well do I think Johnny Jones will do as LSU’s head basketball coach?  Well, for starters, he can recruit with the best of them, knowing the state of Louisiana like the back of his hand from all the high school coaches, upcoming players, community leaders and every back-woods small town to big metropolitan cities.  JJ has an extensive reach in states like Texas, Arkansas, Tennessee and Alabama.  His style of play will be fast-pace, up and down the court excitement — something fans have been hoping to return… With all the attributes that Johnny possesses, I believe LSU’s basketball future will be a bright one.”


And it’s not just ex-LSU players who are gushing.  From media guys like Tim Brando and Dick Vitale to coaches like Bill Self and Mike Krzyzewski, the reviews have all been glowing.

And the Tiger community was — for one day at least — reunited according to Jeff Duncan of The New Orleans Times-Picayune:


“The synergy on the fifth floor of the LSU athletics department building was tangible Monday.  A standing-room-only crowd packed the media room for the press conference to introduce Johnny Jones as the Tigers new men’s basketball coach.  Afterward, a receiving line snaked twenty deep around tables and chairs as fans, colleagues and friends exchanged back slaps, handshakes and hugs with the ebullient Jones.  Among the well-wishers were LSU basketball luminaries Dale Brown, Joe Dean and Collis Temple.

For the first time in a long time, LSU basketball was a united state again.”


Jones did his part at yesterday’s introduction, too, explaining that he was so nervous when AD Joe Alleva called to offer him the job last Friday that he had to walk into a bedroom closet to focus on the call.

His response was an obvious one, saying that post-call he “looked like Muhammad Ali having just knocked someone out.”  Once he exited the closet that is.

“This is a dream come true,” the 51-year-old said.  “Many nights I went to sleep with this on my mind.”

In Alleva’s mind, there’s nary a doubt as to whether he inked the right man to a new five-year contract:


“We contacted a lot of people, and talked to a lot of people, and reached out to a lot of people and interviewed people.  I thought it was kind of comical some of the names that were reported — 99% of those names were wrong.  We talked to a lot of people, and there is no doubt in my mind that we have got the right man for this job at this point in time.  There is no doubt in my mind…

This group right now needs a guy who can recruit, put his arms around the state — the AAU coaches and high school coaches.  We cannot Louisiana talent.  We need to get kids from Louisiana to come to school here.”


So Jones has come home again and on Day One he won the press conference.  Now comes the tough part — winning games.  And that’s the danger in hiring someone who is part of a school’s “family.”

First, if Jones loses, there will be those who quickly turn on him saying that he was nothing more than a political appointment put in place by the fat cats and ex-jocks who run the Tiger Athletic Department.  And if things end badly — and let’s face it, most coaches are hired to eventually be fired — then the split will be that much more difficult because Jones is one of LSU’s own.

Mike Shula and Mark Gottfried went through it at Alabama.  Phillip Fulmer and Johnny Majors went from legends to outcasts at Tennessee.  Joker Phillps is feeling the pinch at Kentucky now.  The list goes on and on and on.  Most every SEC school has an ex-coach who went from beloved son to bad guy.

From the time Johnson left LSU we expected Jones to be the man to land the job.  He was a “fit” in all the ways that Johnson wasn’t.  And now he can say — as he did yesterday — “I am home… I can tell you that there is no place like home.”

But if things don’t go as well as planned, LSU will have an even tougher time parting with an ex-Tiger than it would with an outsider hired purely for his resume rather than his roots.

In general, this writer isn’t a fan of bringing in alums as coaches.  And, yes, that goes against the most common rule of fandom where most school-backers want an ex-grad running the show, someone whose blood runs (insert school color here).

Unfortunately, if/when things go badly with Jones, LSU will have to divorce itself from an alum and from many of those teammates and ex-players and ex-coaches who were bragging about the coach yesterday.  In some cases, schools err on the side of the coach, giving him one or two too many years because of his background… which can also hurt a program.

We hope things work out for Jones and for all the reasons stated above, he clearly makes the most sense for an LSU program that wanted a Louisiana man at the helm.  But we worry that Tiger Nation has set itself up for more heartache should things go bad.

Divorcing from a guy like Johnson?  No one’s going to lose much sleep over that.  But splitting up with a legacy?  That’s much more difficult.  And most coaching marriages do end in breakups.

For Jones sake, here’s a toast to him actually proving that a man can go home again. 

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Cal bashes fashions of familiar faces

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Content provided by Kentucky Wildcat sports beat.

Dillard coach Dale Brown, a former Kentucky player, brought his team to Rupp Arena Friday night for…

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Cal bashes fashions of familiar faces

Kentucky
Content provided by Kentucky Wildcat sports beat.

Dillard coach Dale Brown, a former Kentucky player, brought his team to Rupp Arena Friday night for…

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When talking Dale Brown, Cal references a white suit

Kentucky
Content provided by John Clay’s Sidelines.

The quote of the night from John Calipari had to do with Dale Brown’s electric blue suit — and a reference to a certain white suit (Ricky P) and the reaction of “ooooooooo” from the media when Cal referenced Pitino’s Colonel Sanders’ look.

Without mentioning Pitino, of course.

Q. That blue suit Dale had on, you got plans for one of those maybe in the future?

COACH CALIPARI: There are three suit that’s I’ve seen that I say I don’t know if I want to say gag me, but there’s a white suit I saw. There was a gold suit that I saw. I don’t know if it was yellow or gold where the pants were too long. The guy at West Virginia wore it. Then that suit right there. Those three right there.

But, hey, look, he’s a great guy. A former player here, and it was so great that they walk in this building and get that kind of ovation. And it’s great for his team to see that the Big Blue Nation appreciates former players and still loves them.

Now they wanted to beat him, but prior to the game they gave him a great ovation, which was really neat.

Now here’s the full transcript of John Calipari’s post-game press conference, as provided by UK:

November 5, 2010

An interview with:

COACH CALIPARI

Q. How close did they come to giving you the fight and the effort and all of that teamwork that you wanted?

COACH CALIPARI: DeAndre (Liggind) and Darius (Miller) were way better. Terrence Jones was off the charts compared to the last one. Brandon (Knight) is Brandon; he gives you about the same every time out. Eloy (Vargas) and Doron (Lamb) were fine. You know, they’ve been there.

Like I looked at Terrence, obviously, it’s in there because he did it. So if you can do it once, it means you can do it. But we’re not deep enough to have a couple guys not give us some.

But we shot the ball. I mean, it’s kind of like you make open shots, it changes what everything looks like, and we did that today.

Happy for Jon Hood, you know. Happy how he played. Josh (Harrellson) in the first half, you know, played, which is why I started him in the second. Wasn’t as good in the second as he was in the first.

But the first half, again, those guys how many minutes are they going to have to give you? I don’t know.

But whatever it is, it’s got to be quality. It’s got to be tough. It’s got to be, you know so 28 assists. We had talked about it the last exhibition; pass the ball to each other. We even went a couple possessions when we passed it but we should have shot it, should have driven the ball.

But I’m okay. It’s kind of in between where we want to be, but, there are signs. Look, folks, we shot well, so we scored a whole lot of points. We defended fairly well, rebounded fairly well, but we’ve got a long way to go.

We’ve got two really important days this weekend. It’s been almost football practice. Short of us putting them in helmets and pads, that’s what it’s been. So we’ve got to do mornings of football practice, and then we’ll come back in the afternoon to play basketball. That’s what we’ll do this weekend. Then we’ll give them Monday off.

But we’ve got no choice. We’ve got to be a rougher team, a tougher team without fouling. We’ve got to have more pride to go after balls. Every ball has to be like, I have to get this ball. There is not an option. I’ve got to get it. We still don’t have a team full of guys, but they’re trying.

Q. What did you like best about Jones tonight?

COACH CALIPARI: He had a passion about playing. There was no coolness high school kid when it doesn’t go right, they try to be cool like I don’t really care. You know, this isn’t really me, but you can’t be that way. He even started the game a little bit that way.

But what you saw was when he got near that goal, the thing that he does, that not many in the country do at his size, his second, third and fourth jump. So go in there and do it. Just go in there and go rebound every offensive rebound. Go after it once, twice, three times. Don’t accept being blocked out. Then run that court.

You saw him run and say is he that fast? Well, if he’s that fast, run that fast, and these guys found him. Compared to the last game where he was crying in his soup after, this was a good one for him.

Q. When he reached back to get that ball, was that athleticism you saw right there?

COACH CALIPARI: You know, he had blocks too, ends up with six blocks, and again, understanding that we’re Pikeville and Dillard, we aren’t playing high school, so there are things that we’re doing in this game that we’re not going to do in a regular game.

Let me tell you a play that I love. I get so upset, one of our players comes down. He gets a guy ahead and instead of trying to shoot it to him, he gets a charge and it’s his third foul. I went ballistic.

Well, Jon Hood comes down, Terrence (Jones) makes a steal at half court and he could have driven in and shot it himself. He give it’s to Jon Hood who dunks it. Now all of a sudden Jon Hood’s shoulders are back, chin is up and he’s ready. So the very next play Jon Hood has the lay up, and throws the lob to Terrence who dunks it. That’s the kind of play.

The other thing I really loved was Brandon Knight going on a breakout. He could have shot it, he throw it back to Terrence, let’s Terrence dunk it and gets everybody going. We’re learning, we’re getting better.

Again, folks, I’m dealing with all freshmen again. So we’ve got to do it in a hurry, but we’re getting there. You saw there were some sloppy plays. We’ve got to play defense different than we did last year.

I talked to Jay Wright on the phone for a half hour, and got some ideas from his ‘96 or ‘97 team when he had Foy and all those guards. Remember that team he had? They went to the Elite Eight.

He and I talked about defense, and how to play with that kind of team. So there are some things I’m going to do different than I did last year. But the first thing is you’ve got to be tough. If you’re not tough enough, doesn’t matter what kind of defense you’re playing. And two, you’ve got to rebound the ball. If you don’t have a big beast, then you all have to rebound. Everything we do starts there.

Then when we’re talking, we rebound, we can scramble it, switch it, we can trap a little bit. We can do some things that will scramble up the game which is in our favor. A grind-it-out game with this team, we’re too young. If they grind it out with us, we’re going to have problems.

So if we’re to scramble though, we’ve got to be tough, we’ve got to rebound and really, really talk to each other.

Q. Talk about the differences from last year and on defense that you expect this year?

COACH CALIPARI: Well, I think we can switch a whole lot more than we did a year ago. And I think that we can also do some scrambling that I didn’t want to do last year because I didn’t think we needed to.

See, last year when you drove in on us, it was getting blocked. We led the nation in shot blocks or blocked shots that were right there. It was not just one guy, it was like three or four. This team’s going to be different.

So now it’s like, OK, in a grind it out game, it’s going to be a little harder for us. So I think a lot more switching we should be able to do. We’re all alike.

At one point we had Terrence (Jones) at 6′9″, and everybody else between 6′5″, and 6′7″. I mean, Denny Crum used to do it. Denny Crum did the greatest job of taking you out of your offense by playing a bunch of guys.

He never liked the small guard. He liked 6′5″ guards. I kind of like 6′5″ guards. So now everybody could switch every position, and that’s what he did. He took you out of what you wanted to do. The guy won national titles playing that way, national titles at Louisville.

Q. That blue suit Dale had on, you got plans for one of those maybe in the future?

COACH CALIPARI: There are three suit that’s I’ve seen that I say I don’t know if I want to say gag me, but there’s a white suit I saw. There was a gold suit that I saw. I don’t know if it was yellow or gold where the pants were too long. The guy at West Virginia wore it. Then that suit right there. Those three right there.

But, hey, look, he’s a great guy. A former player here, and it was so great that they walk in this building and get that kind of ovation. And it’s great for his team to see that the Big Blue Nation appreciates former players and still loves them.

Now they wanted to beat him, but prior to the game they gave him a great ovation, which was really neat.

Q. What do you maybe hope that team will do for (Jon) Hood’s confidence?

COACH CALIPARI: Well, what I hope it does well, let me tell you what Doron did which was the greatest thing. Remember the dive at half court because I was killing this kid. Come on, you’ve got to pick it up and play. You’re not doing what the other guys are doing. You’re not playing at the level, you don’t have the passion. Come on, baby, get into it. Come on, let’s go.

He dives on the floor for that ball, throws it ahead, we score. The very next play he’s in the corner and makes the three. When you play that aggressive, you’re aggressive offensively. When you play tentative on defense and you’re getting thrown into the cheerleaders and getting sparkles on your face, OK, when that stuff happens, offensively you’re playing timid, too.

You can’t just be timid on defense and aggressive on offense. No, be Aggressive. You’re aggressive (defensively) and it makes you aggressive on offense. And, again, that is a lesson. It’s just, you know, we’ll go to practice, and we’ve got some time next week and we’ll see.

I don’t know if I’m going to play the small lineup or the big lineup. Probably won’t know until game time what I want to do.

Got to still watch some tape on East Tennessee State. I’ve really watched nothing. Got to get in my mind what we’ll have to do to prepare for an NCAA Tournament team, our first game with this young team. Kind of scary.

Q. On trying to get Josh Harrellson easy shots at the rim ...

COACH CALIPARI: Yeah, and he was struggling. I’ve seen him do it, but you’ve got to have an effort and say I’m going to dunk the ball. I’m going to go out and get this. Not that I’m going to wait, so. But he’ll be fine.

I’m just telling you, Josh (Harrellson) is in the best condition he’s been in his whole life. He’s playing better than he’s ever played in his life, and I’m asking for a little bit more. That’s what it is. I’m asking for a little bit more. He gives us a little bit more, I’m telling you.

But we need him. And Eloy (Vargas) got to make strides now. He’s got to make strides. So, thanks.

FastScripts by ASAP Sports

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Big Blue Bric-a-Brac: Dillard Edition

Kentucky
Content provided by A Sea Of Blue.

Toughness?  Well, we may see some tonight ...

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James Crisp – AP

Toughness? Well, we may see some tonight …

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If the word “toughness” were suddenly removed from the dictionary today, half of Kentucky would surely perish.

Over the last couple of days, we find article after article after article talking about toughness for the Wildcats, and how tough Calipari has become on them.  It’s getting tough to find a word that will replace tough when it comes to toughness.

Man.  Tough day.

Anyway, the bottom line is that Kentucky got pushed around the other day by an NAIA team, and that’s something that you have to learn from.  One of the great things about last year’s team is that it had so many players with a hard edge, and this year’s team has none that are obvious.  But Calipari understands that, and I’m sure that hard, aggressive, physical practices will soon translate into improved play on the court, particularly in the area of getting to loose balls, and getting contested rebounds.

Every team has to grow up.

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Dillard brings former UK player Dale Brown back to Rupp Arena, this time as a coach.  I know most of you will remember Brown if you think back a bit, and with all this talk about toughness, it is surely appropriate to Dale Brown.  Brown was a JUCO transfer from Gulf Coast Community College who played about 25 minutes per game during the Final Four season of 1992-93.  He scored 16 points in Kentucky’s overtime loss to Michigan.

Dale was always a hustler, and he always got after loose balls.  It’s a sure bet his team will, too, and this will be a good test to see if Calipari’s new focus during practice has had any discernible effect.

This is a little weird.  John Calipari meets Warren Buffett at KFC for lunch.  Nobody knows what they talked about, but apparently, it is the #7 item on Calipari’s “Bucket list”.  I don’t have a bucket list, myself, but if I did, I don’t think meeting Warren Buffett would make it, even if I went to 100.

Different strokes, I guess.

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Derrick Locke will dress out against Charleston Southern, but whether he plays or not is a game-time decision.  Donald Russell will be the starting tailback, and after the Russell family burned up Joker Phillips’ ears about his playing time, I wondered aloud if maybe that were the reason.

But apparently not, as freshman tailback Raymond Sanders has a strained abdominal muscle and is questionable for Saturday.

One thing I think few people have noted about Locke’s absence is his pass blocking, particularly on the blitz.  Locke has become very proficient at picking up the blitz and holding his block long enough for Mike Hartline to throw the football, or get out of trouble.  Sanders and Russell have struggled with that, and Sanders has not been able to hold a block for any appreciable length of time.  Something else to work on in the off season.

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I’m not surprised by this:

Of course, this is the same guy who once lobbied coaches to let him play on defense, but for now, Cobb is too busy carrying the Wildcats on offense and special teams. He leads the team in receiving (682 yards), ranks third in rushing (228) and is the Wildcats’ leading kick and punt returner. He’s also accounted for 51 yards with his arm, completing 4-of-7 passes out of the “WildCobb” formation. Of the Wildcats’ 37 touchdowns, Cobb has passed (3), rushed (3), caught (6) or returned (1) a total of 13.

I just talked about Cobb yesterday, but I had no idea he actually tried to get playing time on the defense.  I’m not surprised, but … well, just wow.  The legend continues to grow.  In ten years, he’ll be 6’9″/250 with world class speed and a laser, rocket arm.

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John Wall‘s was a hit with almost everybody except Colin Cowheard, So now the Wizard’s owner is talking Dougie:

We need your help. We play this Saturday night. We need and want you to be in attendance. The team plays better in front of a sold out building. Come support the team. … Off of soap box now. When we have a total paid sellout this season, I will do the “Dougie” – I promise.

“Dougie With The NBA Stars,” anyone?

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From Michal Eaves, a contributor to Wildcat Tip-Off 2009-2010, comes this:

But it wasn’t just the numbers [fomer Kentucky Wildcat Eric] Bledsoe put up, it was the way the team played with him running the show that impressed the most.  The offense was fluid and the tempo was quick.  Not only did the Clippers score 100 points for the first time this season, they also shot 50% from the field for the first time.

Speaking of Wildcat Tip-Off, this year’s edition is now available everywhere — Wal Mart, Walgreens, Kroger, Sam’s Club, and many others.  Pick up your copy today, or order online at Maplestreetpress.com.


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