In the 3-plus weeks since he was officially introduced as the new LSU basketball coach, Johnny Jones hasn’t slowed down much.
There were coaches to hire, recruits to try and lure in, a team to manage, TAF functions to attend to get the fan base used to him, a home to find – most of that all alone until he got some help.
But you won’t hear the upbeat and personable Jones complain one bit about the pace and work load he’s encountered. After all, he’s been preparing for this exact challenge for most of his professional career.
Jones sat down with TigerSportsDigest.com last week for a question-and-answer session, the topics ranging from what he’s done since hitting the ground running to his now complete coaching staff to recruiting and more.
On the pace since he took over
“It’s been non-stop from Day 1. Obviously adrenaline has kicked in, but we’re excited every day. We have an opportunity to come here and try to get our basketball team and the program better. That’s something we look forward to every evening we leave and in the morning when we come back in here.
“It’s been a whirlwind. Non-stop. There haven’t been any surprises. This is something we’ve been looking forward to for a long time. We welcome the busy time that we’ve had.”
On hitting the recruiting trail
“It was tough being out there alone, trying to play catch-up.
“It’s still tough because you want to try and attract the top prospects that are still out there. A lot of people are ahead of us. We’ve drawn the attention of a lot of the top guys, and we’ve just to go make sure they’re the right ones and that we can, at some point, get their names on the scholarship papers.”
On whether he plans on filling out the roster to 13 players. LSU got another commitment this week and will have 2-3 scholarships left to give, depending on whether sophomore Ralston Turner opts to transfer.
“We have to make sure it’s done with quality and not just quantity. If you take that approach, you’re signing guys to a four-year scholarship or even for two years and that can set you back. We have to make sure we’re calculated in terms of what kind of guys we bring in so they can help us transition this program from where we’re at into a championship caliber program.”
On the three coaches he had hired at the time of the interview: Charlie Leonard, Shawn Forrest and Robert Kirby
Leonard: “He has been with me for 12 years, first in my one year as the interim head coach at Memphis and then the University of North Texas. He has a tremendous basketball mind.”
Forrest: “He’s a great young coach and he helped us made big strides (at UNT) in terms of recruiting.”
Kirby: “When I interviewed (for the LSU job) four years ago, he was a guy I looked forward to having a conversation with. When the time came four years later, I still made that phone call. He’s a tremendous basketball mind, a great coach in helping develop the talent on the floor and also very knowledgeable about the SEC from years he’s spent here. He’s a name a lot of people will be associated with because of how aggressive and successful he has been in recruiting.”
On how the staff will fit together
“There is always time for discussion and a chance to agree to disagree. You want people with different ideas because that’s an important way to find things that work.
“Any time you have guys who have been around basketball for a few years, they have their own ideas about a philosophy of other programs they’ve been a part of.”
On whether he expects all the current players to remain part of the program
“I’m not sure about that right now. We have to wait to see where the finish up academically. After (this) week, I’ll have a better idea of who will be here with us.”
On how that affects recruiting, with the spring national signing period set to end next week
“We’ve got plenty of time. We’ve got guys out there who we’re recruiting and are attracted to the program who would be beneficial to us if they were part of the program. At the end of the day we want to make sure that we have guys in here that are in 100% and looking forward to the challenges that we’ll face and are excited to be part of LSU basketball.”
On how recruits have reacted to him and his assistants since they took over
“They’ve been very receptive. We’ve had a chance to reach out to them and they’ve showed an interest.”
On how important in-state recruits will be moving forward
“The big thing is, growing up here and getting an opportunity to play at LSU, you want what’s best for LSU. You want to make sure we’re at a championship caliber level and are doing everything in our power to make that happen.”
On his comment during his introduction when he said not getting the LSU job in 1997 was the best thing that could’ve happened to him
“The time away has allowed me to build my own my vision and for my thought pattern to change. It wasn’t like I took a few steps from my office and moved in here. I’m not sure that would’ve prepared me enough for this job.”
“It benefitted me and helped me – showed me a lot of things I didn’t know until you changes seats. That one seat over is pretty hectic. You go from one spot where you’re making suggestions to where you’re making decisions.
“I learned from different coaches and broadened my recruiting base.”
On what his 11-year tenure at North Texas taught him
“We took it from the bottom and had to build it up. It gave me more of appreciation for this place and what Coach Brown had done. He had taken over a similar situation in 1972.”
On being invigorated by coming to work every day
“It’s cool just driving into campus every day know that you’ve got an opportunity to go make LSU better.
“I get up in the morning and, heading this direction, I get excited.”
On how he plans to schedule in the future:
“We’ve got a couple of spots we need to fill (next season). We’re at Marquette, at Boise State, we have the SEC/Big East Challenge. I’m hopeful there are home games we can get here.
“We have to have a balanced schedule that’s appealing to your fans and make sure your players are challenged. When you have an 18-game schedule in one of the toughest conferences in the country, you have to make sure you’re mindful of how you schedule.
“We want to build and put the kind of product on the floor that our fans are not waiting for that name team to come in here. The name team is LSU and that’s who they’re coming to support night in and night out – it’s what we have on our chest that’s most important. It’s their basketball program and it’s important that they have some ownership.”