LSU hires Stanford's Johnson as coach
BATON ROUGE, La. -- Among the first things Trent Johnson did when he arrived at LSU on Thursday was meet football coach Les Miles and take a look at the Tigers' national championship trophy from last season.
LSU may be a football school, but then, incoming athletic director Joe Alleva arrived here from basketball power Duke only days earlier. And LSU's basketball program is celebrating 100 years of history that includes all-time greats like Bob Pettit, Pete Maravich and Shaquille O'Neal.
Johnson mentioned these things as he said why he pounced on an offer to rebuild LSU's basketball program rather than remain at Stanford, where he led the Cardinal to the round of 16 in the NCAA tournament this season.
"The opportunity to recruit the best student-athletes across the country and have the opportunity to compete for a championship year in and year out ... that is the goal," Johnson said shortly after being formally introduced as the Tigers' new coach. "We have an excellent chance to get this thing turned around soon."
There was also, of course, the fact that Johnson will get a sizable raise. Alleva said Johnson received a five-year contract, but he said he could not release financial terms until the deal had been approved by the LSU Board of Supervisors.
Stanford athletic director Bob Bowlsby said LSU was offering about double what Stanford was paying, and Johnson, while not disclosing his new salary, smiled and said it was obvious he was getting a raise if only because the cost of living in Louisiana is much lower than in the San Francisco Bay area.
Johnson was 80-48 in four seasons at Stanford after taking over for Mike Montgomery, who left for the NBA's Golden State Warriors for two seasons and was hired last week by Stanford's Bay Area rival, California.
Johnson was also an assistant at Stanford before going to Nevada and then returning to the Cardinal.
Johnson, however, said the losses of top players at Stanford had nothing to do with his decision to take over an LSU squad that was 13-18 last season and will likely lose one of its best players, 6-10 freshman forward Anthony Randolph, to the NBA draft.
Johnson said he planned to speak with Randolph in case he decides to pull out of the draft and come back to school.
Johnson said he has made no decisions about his coaching staff but is interested in retaining Butch Pierre, the assistant who took over as interim coach after John Brady was fired in early February.
"I know he's from the state ... this is his institution," Johnson said. "So I know as far as loyalty he can be helpful to me."
Johnson said he is also interested in hiring former Louisiana Tech coach Keith Richard, who Johnson coached against when both were in the Western Athletic Conference.
Pierre led LSU to victories in five of its last nine regular-season games, but the Tigers lost in the opening round of the Southeastern Conference tournament.
Alleva, who began working last weekend but has not officially taken over for outgoing athletic director Skip Bertman, said he interviewed seven candidates in 1 1/2 days, adding that Johnson, 51, stood out for reasons that go beyond basketball.
"He represents all the values I was looking for -- a man who has an outstanding reputation, a family man, a guy that can go into the home and recruit, a man who will be a great role model for these kids and make sure they do things the right way both on the court, off the court and in the classroom," said Alleva, who worked with coach Mike Krzyzewski during all of his 10 years as athletic director at Duke. "He has a great background, great experience. He's mature."
When Johnson first learned LSU was interested in him, he said he did not need much persuasion to pursue the job but consulted Southern California coach Tim Floyd, who grew up in southern Mississippi and coached in New Orleans on both the college and pro levels.
"He said, 'You should try everything you can do to get it so you can get out of our league,'" Johnson said. "He just thought I'd be successful, and I said, 'Yeah, I think I could be successful, too, if I can get the right players.'"
Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press
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