There's a new sheriff in town for LSU basketball.
If certain events and decisions during the 2012-13 season didn't prove that to you, what's transpired this offseason has made it clear. And Johnny Jones, the new badge in Baton Rouge, operates by a distinctly different credo than his predecessor.
Win now and worry about the rest later.
See, Jones, who waited a lifetime for this job and was shocked to be passed over five years ago when Governor Alleva hired a gun from out West, has no intentions on relinquishing the reins at LSU. In Jones' mind his impact must be swift for the post to remain his for years to come.
There's no other way to explain the culling of the herd that's taken place within the Tiger locker room in the last three weeks.
Veteran Jalen Courtney, who had only one year left on his scholarship, and new blood Corban Collins, who was only one year in, are both casualties to a regime that's ready to win today, no questions asked and seemingly no loyalties considered. Collins' departure from the program hasn't been made official, but the writing is on the wall, while Courtney's transfer to Morehead State was announced on April 23.
From a purely basketball standpoint, the eliminations make sense. Collins and Courtney were two of the lowest heads on the totem pole of returning players, right alongside Shane Hammink. Courtney was slated as a reserve four who's slightly undersized and battling chronic knee problems. Collins was set to reprise his role as Anthony Hickey's backup point guard and looking to bounce back from an underwhelming freshman season.
Discarding them could be considered getting rid of dead weight, in much the same way a fantasy owner wouldn't think twice of dropping his lesser assets in lieu of talented up-and-comers on the waiver wire. That's basically what LSU is doing, dropping Courtney for recent signee Brian Bridgewater and apparently ready to add Turkish wing Ilker Er in Collins' spot.
The thing is, college basketball isn't fantasy sports. The names associated aren't just letters combined on a computer screen; they're real-life people who've been involved in the LSU community and, in Collins' case, was recruited by members of the current staff, namely assistant Robert Kirby.
From a more personal and non Xs and Os standpoint, their eliminations are disappointing. They also signal to future Tigers that if the level of performance isn't there, you may not be either.
In fairness to Jones and his staff, there's been no public expression by either player that his departure was a result of him being "forced out." Courtney quickly landed on his feet at a lesser (but still Division I) program. The same fate may well be awaiting Collins for all we know.
But the timing just doesn't add up well to make the staff look good.
Courtney's release will forever be linked to Bridgewater's signing, which took place on April 17, less than a week before Courtney's exit was announced. And now, on the same week that Er has been confirmed on campus and a pending commitment is said to be lingering, word drops that Collins will soon be out.
Hard to see those as anything but talent swaps, upgrades on height, length and athleticism that stand to make the Tigers a deeper team in 2013-14 and beyond.
They are precisely the types of decisions that could keep Jones in place as the law at LSU for many a season. They also symbolize that Tiger basketball is becoming a good deal more like the Old West, more ruthless and cutthroat in nature and eyeing only results. Scholarships will become a one-year renewable entity, solely at the discretion of the coaches, much like things seem to be under Nick Saban at Alabama football.
None of the above is necessarily a bad or evil thing, more indicative of a changing of the guard. But LSU fans should know that en route to things changing in the win-loss column, a number of practices behind the scenes are undergoing a transformation as well.
COLUMN: The guard has changed
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