SEC Basketball: Trent Johnson Takes Over at LSU

Tim PollockSenior Writer IApril 9, 2008

In a move that has hoops fans across the nation scratching their heads, LSU has hired Trent Johnson as its next head coach. 

Johnson just completed his most successful season at Stanford, where he led his team to the Sweet 16.    

Check that.

It’s hard to lead your team anywhere when you are watching over 28 minutes of the game from the locker room. 

Surely you remember the scene: With his team down by one to Marquette, in the second round of the tournament, Johnson was hit with his second technical and sent to the showers with over three minutes left in the first half.

His team was clearly rocked a bit, as the one-point deficit quickly grew to 11.   

Johnson wound up missing one of the best games of March Madness, as Brook Lopez hit a short jumper with 1.3 seconds left to complete an exciting one-point overtime win over Tom Crean's former team.

Trent Johnson is stiffing his team for the second time in two weeks, bolting for the SEC conveniently on the heels of the Lopez brothers’ intentions to declare for the NBA draft.

But the bigger question seems to be: Why in the world is LSU hiring this man? 

Johnson is West Coast through and through.    

Born in California, Johnson played his college ball at Boise State from 1974-1978. After coaching in Boise’s high school ranks for five years, Johnson then served as an assistant at Utah, Washington, and Stanford.    

The closest he has gotten to the East Coast was a brief stint as assistant coach at Rice. 

Most recently, Johnson served as head coach at Nevada for five years and four years at Stanford. 

He is 51-years old. 

While there seems to be several red flags around this hiring, two pop out immediately.

The first is Johnson’s age. I have no problem with a team hiring a 51-year old as its head coach. But that 51-year old better be a slam dunk, and Johnson simply isn’t. 

In his nine seasons as head coach, he has been to the tournament only four times. He has one conference championship (at Nevada). Johnson's overall record is 159-122.    

Secondly, the geography factor. A West Coast guy since birth, Johnson simply has no experience with SEC basketball, or the region itself, for that matter.    

Recruiting is recruiting, but clearly other coaches will use Johnson’s unfamiliarity with Southern basketball against him. 

It seems that LSU jumped the gun on this one, as there are still several qualified coaches out there. While Travis Ford and Oliver Purnell both turned down LSU’s overtures, the big mystery remains to be Anthony Grant, who has plenty of SEC experience. It is still not certain at this time whether Grant was not interested in the LSU job or vice versa.    

Trent Johnson is a great guy and all of that nonsense, but he is not the answer for LSU. 

The talent in the state of Louisiana will be enough for Johnson’s teams to be competitive, but don’t expect any conference or national championships from LSU anytime soon.