Jones begins search for assistants

Johnny Jones said he is ready to hire assistants and get them out onto the recruiting trail.

Johnny Jones lit up the room at Monday's introductory press conference, his first appearance at LSU, his alma mater, after spending 11 seasons at North Texas.

Jones took the podium to a standing ovation from a slew of former LSU basketball players in attendance, a group that also included former coach Dale Brown, and then delivered a pro-LSU message that shined light onto a program that has had stumbled into second-tier status in the SEC the last few years.

But can Jones light up the recruiting trail like he can a room filled with his biggest supporters?

Before that can be answered, Jones needs more ammunition on the trail – meaning assistants need to be hired to a staff that, for the moment, includes only Jones.

"I have been a one-man wrecking crew," said Jones, who hit the road and recruited for the Tigers on Saturday and Sunday.

Jones wasn't ready to say names, but there is an assumed pool of applicants that he will begin wading through in the coming days.

"We are going to move pretty quick here in trying to assemble a staff," Jones said. "We have to get on the road and recruit, but I want to make sure I do the right thing and get the right people. This is a championship school. I want to make sure I put a championship staff together."

Two names – former LSU player Randy Livingston and current Baton Rouge-based AAU coach Quannas White – have jumped to the forefront of the conversation for jobs on the staff.

Just prior to Trent Johnson's departure for TCU, White – who coaches the Louisiana Dynasty – was poised to join the Tigers' staff.

Livingston, a former McDonald's All-American who Jones helped LSU sign in 1994, has already publically spoken about his interest in joining up with Jones once more, this time as a coaching tandem in the PMAC.

"I'd love the chance to come back and work for Johnny," Livingston told's Randy Rosetta on Friday. "I've been interested in a job at LSU for a long time and I feel like this might be the right time for me. I know a lot of people back in New Orleans and have stayed in touch with a lot of the coaches in the state."

Could Livingston team up with Jones once more?

Livingston's contract as the head coach of the Idaho Stampede, an NBA D-League team, expired at the end of the 2011-12 season, and Livingston has planned to move back to Louisiana this month.

Though Jones is mum on who will serve as his three chief assistants, the writing is on the wall that he plans to bring in some familiar faces.

Another potential name to watch: St. Amant head coach Gary Duhe, an LSU assistant under Brown from 1982-84 before trying his hand as a head coach on the Baton Rouge prep scene, where he won state championships at Redemptorist and Chapel Trafton, now the Dunham School.

"It's making sure you get the right people," Jones said. "I know the people I would like to identify to get this program to another level. I have a couple of guys in mind that can do that.

"There are some guys out there that have been looking for an opportunity like this to embrace. We could get out there and do some things together. We feel like if we get together that we are capable of doing some special things. Those guys are out there."

Jones can have three assistants that help recruit on the road, with an operations coordinator and video coordinator also on staff.

Current LSU video coordinator Zach Kendrick will remain on staff, though it is unclear whether Kendrick will retain his current position or be delegated other responsibilities in the program.

Jones also hinted at bringing multiple assistants from North Texas, though he wasn't specific as to whether they would be assistants or coordinators with the Tigers.

One name to keep an eye on is Shawn Forrest, who arrived at North Texas in 2008 with a decade of coaching experience at the Division I level, including six seasons at Arkansas State, where he finished the 2007-08 campaign as co-interim head coach.

"I will be bringing a couple of guys with me from my previous staff because of the recruiting we have done in recent years and having a top-30 recruiting class," Jones said.

"I just have to make sure we get some coaches in here who are tremendous recruiters who understand this region and can get out and sell this program. I also need great teachers; guys who can continue to develop the talent."

Jordy Hultberg, who played for LSU from 1976-80 and coached under Dale Brown from 1980-83, worked alongside Jones as both as player and coach.

Shortly after Jones addressed the media and former players in attendance, Hultberg showered the Tigers' 21st head coach with praise.

"I think it's the perfect time to get someone who knows what this place is all about," Hultberg said. "And there is no telling how successful he can be at a higher level.

"And Johnny can recruit, and that's what basketball is about. If you have talent, you can compete."

Given the talent pool Johnson compiled in recent years, it's fair to say the Tigers are in need of a big spring on the recruiting trail, which began with the signing of John Curtis guard Malik Morgan last Wednesday.

Moving forward, Jones is trying to close strong on Shavon Coleman and Shane Hammink, a pair of 6-foot-6, 200-pound swingmen who Johnson had been working to land in recent months.

Coleman delayed signing, which gives LSU and Jones the chance to bridge the gap from Johnson's efforts

Coleman, who graduated from Thibodaux High and is a sophomore at Howard College, skipped out on signing last Wednesday – the first day of the month-long spring signing period – which gave Jones the time buffer needed to pick up where Johnson left off.

This weekend after Jones' hiring was official, Coleman said he still plans on taking another recruiting visit or two before picking a school and that LSU is still squarely in the mix.

For Hammink, the deal might be closer to being done.

The son of former LSU player Geert Hammink, has been receiving positive reviews on the Tigers from his father, who played under Jones and Brown from 1988-1993.

"It's (Shane's) decision to make, but with Coach Jones there, I would fully advise him that I think LSU is a good place for him," the elder Hammink told Rosetta on Saturday.

Hammink, who was born in Baton Rouge, spent the last few seasons playing for Canarius Basketball Academy (CBA) in Europe.

With a couple of prospects now centered in the scope, how high could the number of additions rise to this offseason?

"About four or five, if it's the right guys," Jones said. "If it's not, we may have to bring in some transfers.

"But we aren't going to waste any scholarships, because you can get stuck with some guys. We will do our due diligence with which guys we recruit."

The same goes for coaches, meaning Jones is looking to be ultra-selective when it comes to who joins him on the sidelines in Baton Rouge next fall.

"You have to make sure we have guys who have been through the trenches, understand what it is and are ready to roll up their sleeves, and understand what this place is about," he said.

"I am an LSU guy, but I have to make sure that it's a good fit for what we are trying to do."

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