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Basketball Media Days: LSU Coach Johnny Jones

LSU basketball Johnny Jones answers questions at the SEC Basketball Media Days in Hoover, Alabama.

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SEC Headlines 3/8/2013

headlines-fri SEC Football

1. SEC, Big Ten, Big 12 and ACC discussing a multisite, rotational bowl partnership.

2. Jadeveon Clowney gets a $5 million insurance policy through the NCAA.  Protects only career-ending injuries. Has gained 20 pounds since beginning of last season – “I’d go crazy if I sat out.”

3. Alabama quarterback A.J. McCarron played final six games last season with injured ribs. “I had three ribs come out of place.”

4. Game suspension unlikely for Georgia sophomore tight end Ty Flournoy-Smith – filed a false police report last month. Georgia now off for spring break.

5. With spring practice starting at Tennessee, who will emerge at quarterback for the Vols? Butch Jones announces several position changes.

6. Ole Miss coach Hugh Freeze on getting Jason Jones on his staff to be co-defensive coordinator/cornerbacks coach: “There was one guy that was No. 1 on my list from the get-go.”

7. Arkansas coach Bret Bielema is getting questions from Razorback fans: “I had a lady, she was probably 75 years old, ask me, ‘Are we going to tackle anyone this year?” Bielema’s decision to close down spring practice access the right move?

8. Arkansas strength and conditioning coach Ben Herbert on redshirt freshman defensive end Deatrich Wise  - “has a chance to be a stud.”

9. Florida’s offensive line will get a boost this fall from two transfers – one from Maryland and one from Nebraska.

10. JUCO transfer linebacker Tommy Sanders is impressing coaches at Texas A&M.  Defensive coordinator Mark Snyder: “I don’t know if he did what he was supposed to do, but he was all over the field.”

11. New Texas A&M offensive coordinator Clarence McKinney on Johnny Manziel: “The big thing about Johnny is he’s a winner,”

12. Dameyune Craig has transitioned from quarterbacks coach at Florida State to wide receivers coach at Auburn: “With the receivers, you have to be more detailed with what you ask them to do.”

13. Conference realignment: Is it worth it if “ athletic programs suffer, geographic traditional rivalries are lost and your alumni aren’t able to attend as many games?”

NFL Draft Prospects

14. Former Missouri defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson shocked his agent by doing the 3-cone and shuttle drills at Mizzou’s pro day on Thursday. “Nothing to hide. Nothing at all.”

15. Here are the stats on Ole Miss lineman Terrell Brown: 6-foot-10, weighs 388 pounds, 38-inch arms and a 92 3/8 wingspan.

16. Florida and Alabama produced the most linemen drafted in the first three rounds over the past five years.

SEC Basketball

17. Mississippi State junior Jalen Steele tore his ACL and meniscus in his right knee against South Carolina this week, done for the year.

18. Mark Bradley: “The Kentucky team that won it all last April might well have been the last truly great NCAA champion we’ll see.”

19. Kentucky coach John Calipari’s on Georgia’s Mark Fox: “I told him after the game this is like Coach of the Year stuff he’s doing. He and (LSU coach) Johnny (Jones) are doing so much good stuff with their team.”

20. SEC Tournament scenarios for Georgia.

21. LSU coach Johnny Jones on Ole Miss guard Marshall Henderson: “He just has no limitations on what he will do or where he will do it from, so you have to really guard against that.”

22. Florida has eight healthy players back in the rotation – still looking to get the chemistry back.

23. After getting back from Auburn this week, Tennessee’s Jarnell Stokes went straight to the gym. Missed 9-of-10 free throws against the Tigers.

24. Auburn’s new arena has only been open three years, but this season was the lowest for attendance.

25. Worst scoring year in college basketball since 1952.  Widely accessible video and editing software are part of the explanation.  Arkansas coach Mike Anderson: “It’s resulted in lower-scoring games because teams are a lot more prepared than previous years.”

26. Missouri coach Frank Haith on apparent tensions this week with Anderson: “We haven’t spoken yet; I’m sure we’ll visit at some point in time.”

27. Could Missouri end up playing Kansas in the NCAA Tournament? (See projected South bracket).

Extras

28. One-time LSU commitment Gunner Kiel is leaving Notre Dame.

29. A.J. McCarron and Katherine Webb - “the Romeo and Juliet of Alabama”?

30. Not official yet but looks like Big East football teams will play in the “America 12 conference.”

31. Bo Jackson may be the greatest athlete of all time, but he’s still not excused from domestic duties: “The other day, we had 9 inches of snow in Chicago. My wife looked at me and said, ‘That snow’s not gonna move itself.’ I had to get out there and shovel snow, man.”

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Johnny Jones Wants To ‘Put Up A Fence’ Around Louisiana

New LSU basketball coach Johnny Jones knows how to improve the Tigers’ recruiting.

He plans to use Les Miles’ football team as an example.

“We have to do what our football team has been to do and that’s put a fence up around the state of Louisiana,” Jones said Tuesday, according to the Baton Rouge Advocate.

A lot of Jones’ focus will likely be on in-state 2013 targets Jarrell Martin and Brian Bridgewater, two forwards who hold offers from the Tigers. Neither player has committed to a school.

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SEC Headlines – 4/17/12 Headlines

1.  Someone accidentally shattered Alabama’s crystal football BCS trophy.  (Here’s guessing they can afford to replace the $30,000 item.)

2.  Bama’s players will be heading to DC to meet the President on Thursday and they’ll have their new championship rings to show to him.

3.  At Auburn, spring progress is giving way to summer expectations.

4.  Tiger players bought into their new coordinators, Scot Loeffler and Brian VanGorder.

5.  This writer says Auburn’s clearly better off without Mike Dyer.

6.  This is behind a paywall, but Arkansas fundraisers say they’ve not lost a single donor since Bobby Petrino’s dismissal.

7.  The Razorbacks will enter Week Two of their coaching search (or interim search) tomorrow.

8.  This writer says the Petrino scandal is just the latest in a long Arkansas football soap opera.

9.  New coach Johnny Jones remembers the glory days of LSU basketball.

10.  Ole Miss would best be served by finding a true leader in its quarterback race this weekend.

11.  Mississippi State’s Malcolm Johnson is not your typical tight end.

12.  Kevin Sumlin says Texas A&M still hasn’t picked a starting quarterback.

13.  Florida’s Billy Donovan will be head coach for the 2012 FIBA Americas U18 Championships.

14.  Georgia’s coordinators break down the Bulldogs’ 2012 spring practice session.

15.  UGA has the toughest drug policy in the SEC and AD Greg McGarity says they’re not going to change it.

16.  The press conference of John Calipari and five Kentucky basketball players has been moved to 7pm ET this evening.

17.  Frank Martin has given sophomore Damontre Harris permission to seek a transfer which means South Carolina with only two returning starters and one of those — Bruce Ellington — won’t join the team until after football season.

18.  A quiet spring was a good thing for the Gamecocks.

19.  Tennessee coaches want their players focused during the final week of spring drills.

20.  Vol kicker Michael Palardy is hoping for a better season in 2012.

21.  Here’s a look back at Missouri’s spring practice.

22.  Alex Oriakhi’s impact with Mizzou could be big.

23.  This year’s Music City Bowl will kickoff at noon ET on New Year’s Eve.

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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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Big Name Or Assistant? Expect Johnson’s Tenure To Impact LSU’s Next Choice

Having covered every football and basketball coaching search in the SEC over the past 4 years — and there’s been a whooooole lot of them — we’ve got a pretty good guess as to how LSU’s search for a new basketball coach will go.

First, LSU will reach out to a big name or two, just to satisfy the fanbase.  That’s the usual first step, though some schools — notably Mississippi State with its recent search — bypass that move altogether if they don’t have big enough money to toss around at proven coaches.  LSU has cash.  So we expect a big name or two to be attached to the job in some way: Shaka Smart of VCU (like Tubby Smith and Jon Gruden, his name comes up when there’s any vacancy anywhere), Baylor’s Scott Drew (hit with some negative NCAA news about his program just yesterday), and Jamie Dixon of Pittsburgh.  Dixon was contacted by Tennessee last year, for example, before the school fell back to Cuonzo Martin.  Ironically, Dixon is a TCU alum and his decision to turn down his alma mater opened up that job for Trent Johnson.

Second, most schools usually go 100 miles per hour in the opposite direction their last coach had the program traveling.  Got an introvert (Billy Gillispie)?  Hire an extrovert (John Calipari).  Got a defensive guy (Sylvester Croom)?  Hire an offensive guy (Dan Mullen).  Got a guy who can’t connect with the fan base?  Hire someone who’s got built-in connections.

Read that last line again.  And now know that one of the knocks on Johnson during his tenure at LSU was his inability to fit in with Tiger Nation.  Announcing the opening at his school yesterday, LSU AD Joe Alleva said he would hire someone “who will energize our fanbase.”

There are plenty of people with Louisiana connections — Drew and his brother Bryce (Valparaiso’s head coach) are the sons of former Dale Brown assistant Homer Drew.  Buzz Williams (Marquette) and Tim Floyd (UTEP) both coached at the University of New Orleans.

And then there’s Johnny Jones of North Texas.  The former Tiger is already getting some support from his ex-coach — Brown — who happens to be the second-winningest SEC hoops coach all-time.  That’s not a bad reference to have on the ol’ resume.  Brown’s quote:


“This is completely Joe Alleva’s decision, but I read Joe’s description of the coach he is looking for, and he described Johnny Jones perfectly…

That’s Johnny.  Now you might say I’m just being a proud daddy, and I am.  But Johnny can do this job.  Johnny grew up in Louisiana.  He knows Louisiana.  He knows LSU.  He knows the SEC.  He can coach.  He can recruit.  This is a unique place.  He knows the culture.  He would have an immediate impact with the high school coaches.  They will love him.  He fits all the criteria.  And he has charm — real charm.  There’s nothing fake about him.”


Regarding said resume, Jones has been at North Texas for 11 seasons.  He has just one Sun Belt title but he’s reached the 20-win plateau five times and he’s led the school to two NCAA Tournaments.  The bigger plus — his ties to LSU as a player and as an assistant — make him the obvious fallback hire for the Tigers.

His resume doesn’t scream national titles, but he’d be the type of upbeat, homegrown hire a fanbase will rally around.  Even his predecessor admitted that over the weekend.  Johnson — who was introduced at TCU yesterday — told Tiger Rag Magazine:


“There’s only one person who can come in and get it done, and that’s Johnny Jones.”


As for the search itself, Alleva has not ruled out hiring a search firm — Parker Executive Search in Atlanta just perked up — to aid in the process.  But associate athletic director Herb Vincent said yesterday that Alleva is “going to lean on his basketball contacts at least for now… He’s the search committee.”

“Thursday I started making phone calls,” Alleva told The Baton Rouge Advocate.  “I’ve been on the phone the last three days, talking to people I know, getting names, checking references.  I feel pretty good about where we are in the process.”

Alleva arrived on the Bayou in 2008 after serving as Duke’s AD for a decade.  So if Alleva’s relying on his basketball contacts, expect Duke assistant coach Chris Collins to get some strong consideration.  Collins has never been a head coach, but he’s been an assistant for Mike Krzyzewski since ’08 and he’s the son of longtime NBA coach and analyst Doug Collins.  He’s also considered the Blue Devils’ top recruiter (though how hard is it to recruit to Duke?).

Jeff Capel — another Blue Devil assistant who did well as a head coach at VCU, not so well at Oklahoma — might also get the Coach K seal of approval.

There’s a lengthy list of candidates being kicked around by various media outlets today.  In addition to the many coaches already named above, Virginia’s Tony Bennett, Kermit Davis Jr. of MTSU, Morehead State’s Donnie Tyndall (a former Tiger assistant), former college and NBA coach Reggie Theus, Wichita State’s Gregg Marshall (who despite Southern roots has never landed an SEC gig for some reason), Steve Alford of New Mexico, Kentucky assistant Orlando Antigua, and even Memphis’ Josh Pastner have gotten some pub.

But we keep coming back to past SEC search patterns and to Alleva’s own words:


“Hopefully in a week or so we’ll have a new coach… I’m not going to limit myself, but one of the things I’ve learned in four years I’ve been here is that we need to get the right fit for LSU, particularly in basketball.  We need a guy who can unify all of our constituencies, and still of course have integrity and recruit well and do the things you’re supposed to do.”


Every search is different, sure, but most fall into that aforementioned pattern.  Aim high first… and we think that will mean a phone call to Scott Drew at Baylor to gauge his interest and his salary demands.  Then get someone who’s the opposite of the last guy.  Drew would excite the fanbase, something Johnson could not do.  But Jones has LSU ties, could rally fans with his personality, and could connect with Louisiana high school coaches, too — again, something Johnson could not do.

We could be way, way off base here, but we expect Drew to be the big name if Alleva’s ready to pony up the cash, if he’s okay with Drew’s recent NCAA scrape, and if Drew believes he can do as well in a 14-team SEC as he can in a 10-team Big 12.  That last one’s a big if.

If LSU doesn’t go the big name route, we think Collins from Duke — thanks to Alleva’s ties to that program — and Jones will be the most likely fallback candidates.  At that point, it could come down to who would be the best fit.  And Jones would seem to have the edge on that front.

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