Johnson introduced as new coach

Updated: May 28, 2004, 5:24 PM ET
Associated Press

STANFORD, Calif. -- Trent Johnson was as shocked as anybody to hear about Mike Montgomery's stunning departure from Stanford to coach the Golden State Warriors.

Athletic director Ted Leland did a lot to calm the fears of the Cardinal faithful and the players Tuesday: He selected Johnson, the Nevada coach who served three seasons as an assistant under Montgomery, as successor.

Stanford was without a head coach for less than a week.

"Wow! Obviously I'm overwhelmed," said Johnson, who led the Wolf Pack to a breakthrough season this year. "One of my goals is to every day, every second try to put ourselves in position to be the last team standing at the end. ... The only thing I'm going to guarantee everybody is that the wheels are going to stay on."

Johnson, 47, was formally introduced Tuesday afternoon, with his new players looking on, along with numerous other Stanford coaches. Johnson's wife, Jackie, was presented with a bundle of red roses that perfectly matched her Cardinal-colored suit.

"We're really thrilled," Leland said. "He had an incredible amount of support internally at Stanford. If anybody questions whether we made the right decision, spend five minutes with him."

Leland contacted Johnson on Friday as soon as Montgomery's hiring with Golden State became official. Johnson met with Stanford officials for about six hours on campus Sunday.

The story was first reported Monday morning by ESPN.com's Andy Katz.

Leland has been impressed with Johnson for years and had him in mind if Montgomery ever decided to leave. Leland called Johnson "a wonderful educator and a great basketball coach."

"We made a decision very quickly," Leland said. "Trent was clearly the public front-runner because of his pedigree. ... Once the shock wore off and we got our legs underneath us, I thought Trent might be the answer."

Montgomery publicly campaigned for one of his assistant coaches to be promoted, but once Leland made it known he was going after Johnson, the athletic director said Montgomery offered his support.

Montgomery was at Stanford for 18 years and led the Cardinal to the Final Four in 1998. They earned their third No. 1 NCAA tournament seed in five years this season, but Stanford was upset in the second round by Alabama.

Stanford has been to the second round of the NCAA tournament for 10 straight years. The Cardinal won their first 26 games this season and finished the regular season ranked No. 1 with a 29-1 mark.

"Am I honored to be replacing him? Yes I am," Johnson said. "But Coach Montgomery won't be replaced."

Johnson plans to keep all of Montgomery's assistants.

Johnson agreed to a new five-year contract worth $450,000 a season with Nevada in March after leading the Wolf Pack to the NCAA tournament's round of 16 for the first time.

Johnson was courted by Utah days after the season ended, but said he would stay at Nevada and told reporters at the time he was upset by talk that he might capitalize on the team's performance to springboard into another job at a larger school.

"When Trent was looking at the University of Utah and made the decision to stay at the University of Nevada he indicated ... there was one job he wanted and that was the Stanford job," Nevada athletic director Cary Groth said at a news conference in Reno.

Johnson will have some rebuilding to do.

"Everything we do is going to be at fever pitch," Johnson said. "I talked about me being an aggressive person. Regardless of what the score is, you have to be aggressive."

All-America forward Josh Childress, the Pac-10 player of the year, has declared himself eligible for the NBA draft, but didn't sign with an agent so he can leave open the possibility of returning to school.

The Cardinal lose senior starting forward Justin Davis, starting guard Matt Lottich and reserve forward Joe Kirchofer.

Returning for the Cardinal are starting point guard Chris Hernandez and center Rob Little, forward Matt Haryasz, guard-forward Nick Robinson, swingman Dan Grunfeld, backup point guard Jason Haas and several other reserves.

"I'm just excited it's done," Hernandez said. "We have a new head coach now and we can go about our business."

Little admitted the team was quite concerned about the program's future when Montgomery left. He said he's pleased with Leland's choice.

"He's been here and been in this program before," Little said. "He knows how we do things. One sign of successful teams is when you have a situation that's seemingly negative you can turn it into a positive. He knew Coach, which makes us a lot more comfortable. It will make the transition that much smoother."

Bobby Frasor, a recruit from suburban Chicago's Brother Rice High who made an official visit to Stanford last weekend, said he would wait to make a verbal commitment until the new coach was hired. Frasor, a 6-foot-3 point guard, said he's impressed by Johnson's credentials.

"He definitely proved he can win," Frasor said in a phone interview with the AP.

He is deciding between Stanford, Marquette, North Carolina, Michigan State, Kansas and Georgia Tech.


Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press

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