Johnny Jones (Photo by Terrill Weil)

COLUMN | Tigers' unraveling season, and where the ending is headed, has become painful to watch

Parting ways with a good man like Johnny Jones has a strong emotional element.

Painful. Ugly. Hard to watch.

Pick a negative description, any negative description, and it fits with the LSU basketball team right now.

And there’s no positive end in sight, which accentuates all of the words in the first paragraph even more.

Two weeks ago I wrote that the inevitability of the Tigers parting ways with affable coach Johnny Jones necessitates that the move happen sooner rather than later.

For those of you that know me or have read my writing long enough, you know that column wasn’t constructed just to cause ripples. I’m not a click-baiter. I tend to write what I feel.

Nothing has changed my mind the last three weeks. And it’s painful, ugly and hard to watch a good man like Jones having to endure this.

Don’t read that wrong. It’s time for a change with the program. The rotting flesh I noted a few weeks ago is still there and it’s spreading.

And because things have continued to spiral downward – with some notably better performances slowing the demise down – the sooner-rather-than-later thing is starting to blink relentlessly like the light on an old answering machine (showing my age here) when you had a message you didn’t want to listen to.

What has become painfully clear is that Jones and his splintered team aren’t getting better and there is no reason to believe there will be a sudden spike upward. The same mistakes are being committed, the same story lines are being written, the same dazed looks during and after games are prominent.

There is talent on the LSU roster. There is promise of the young players getting better. But it’s glaringly obvious that the way this coaching staff has meshed with the players on the roster simply isn’t working.

If it’s that obvious to me and so many others, then it’s clear to Joe Alleva. He’s a smart man. He’s a basketball man. The distressed look on Alleva’s face during the SEC Network broadcast of Florida flogging the Tigers by 35 points on Wednesday shows that he knows.

Just because the decision seems to have been made, though, doesn’t mean it’s an easy move to execute. Quite the contrary.

What so many keyboard cowboys and cowgirls conveniently forget or perhaps ignore through their blind passion is that human beings are involved in these moves. It’s real easy and in most cases lazy to screech “Fire the coach!”

Thing is, this isn’t fantasy football. These are real men and real women affected. Husbands and wives. Families. Children who don’t have any grasp on why their fathers are being told they aren’t good enough.

What exacerbates all of the above in this case is that it’s a man like Jones.

You remember all that emotion swirling around Ed Orgeron landing his dream job and being so emotionally eager to roll up his sleeves and get that dream headed toward reality? Jones beat him to the punch 5 years ago.

In fact, Jones has a much deeper and stronger attachment to LSU than Orgeron and always will. Jones played for the Tigers. Graduated with an LSU sheepskin. Stayed for 14 more years as an assistant coach. There are only two people who were part of two of the program’s two Final 4 appearances – Jones and Dale Brown.

When Brown retired in 1997, his right-hand man and a guy who has been like a son to him embarked on a coaching career elsewhere because the old adage states that most guys have to go away before they can come back and get a crack at their dream job.

Finally, that dream chance arrived for Jones in 2012 when Trent Johnson suddenly left for TCU. After paying so many dues and being considered and passed over in 2008, Jones didn’t bother to camouflage his feelings. That smile during his introductory press conference was real, heartwarming and endearing.

Regardless of what you think of Jones’ tenure and how badly south it has gone the last 15 months, if have blood coursing through your veins and a heart in your chest, then knowing that a man as loyal to LSU as Jones has been is about to have his dream job yanked out of his grasp has to give you pause.

Try this: Put yourself in his shoes. If you think it’s an easy conversation once Alleva reaches that crossroads and calls Jones into his office, well, you’re 100% wrong.

That may be why the plug hasn’t been pulled yet. That and the lingering fact that mid-season coaching changes are always risky.

But Alleva set a precedent with Les Miles and in that case, it certainly seems to have worked out. Basketball is trickier because there are two games a week, so the rawness and emotions don’t have time to completely subside before a team takes the floor again.

However, this isn’t a team that seems to be heavily vested emotionally as things stand right now. In fact, much like the Tigers’ football team, there is always the possibility that tearing off the scab now could be the kind of emotional jolt that LSU needs to salvage something out of this season, even if it’s as simple as some respect. Right now, there isn’t a whole heck of a lot more left for the Tigers to latch onto.

Players are savvy enough to know a change is coming, and with the exception of a few of them, they are playing like they know.

They know that a man they care about, whose biggest shortcoming is that he cares so much about his players and treats them like their his own flesh-and-blood, is about to lose his job. What makes a lot of this so tough to accept is that Jones’ “too-nice” quality is something that is so admirable and desired in just about every other profession.

Things are bad on the court for LSU and getting worse.  No reason to state anything contrary to that. But the ending is going to be agonizing for a man who has given a lot of blood, sweat and tears to his alma mater.

That makes knowing that this process has to play out the way it’s going to painful, ugly and hard to watch.

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