Pitino, who has been forced to deal with several key injuries each of the past two seasons, has the unenviable task of trying to figure out a way to play an entire college basketball season with only three true frontcourt players in 6-8 Ellis Myles, 6-9 Otis George and 6-8 freshman Tello Palacios.
With Johnson out, it would seem logical that 6-10 freshman center Terrance Farley might step in to fill the void in the Cardinals frontcourt. However, Pitino apparently has ruled out that option.
"Terrance is not ready to play at this level of basketball yet," Pitino said. "He's kind of like Otis where we expect him to play by his junior season."
Instead, Pitino has devised and will employ a new concept this season. Known as the "Red Squad," Pitino will use five guys off the bench , 6-0 Brad Gianiny at point guard, 6-3 Brandon Jenkins at shooting guard, 6-4 Larry O'Bannon at small forward, 6-4 Perrin Johnson and George at center, for short periods of time. Pitino, who used a similar tactic at Providence in the late 1980's, said this approach should provide fun and excitement for both the players and fans this season.
"The Red Squad is where five guys will be substituted at once and it will be a priviledge to be on this team," Pitino explained. "They will press every ounce of the court, they will trap at half court, they will space on offense and try to create havoc. Yesterday was the first day that we put it in and they beat the starters."
Pitino hopes that the "Red Squad" will prove effective in tiring out opponents.
"They will try and wear out the other team while our starters get a rest," Pitino said. "I think it will be effective and a lot of fun for our players and fans. The key thing is that it lets us rest our starters."
Perrin Johnson, a walk-on with explosive athleticism, will now be counted on to provide depth up front for the Cardinals.
"We're working over time with Perrin Johnson to get him ready in case Ellis Myles or Otis George get in foul trouble," Pitino said.
As for Brian Johnson, Pitino says the 6-9 freshman remains in good spirts despite his forthcoming surgery.
"Brian has a great attitude," Pitino said. "He just wants to get better physically. He won't start playing until next summer."
"He will be on crutches for six weeks and begin rehab in about six months," Pitino continued. "We do expect him to make a full recovery."
Johnson will have the same type surgery that NBA standout Kerry Kittles recently underwent.