It was just 24 hours after Butch Pierre said goodbye to his long-time friend and colleague John Brady that the interim head coach was faced with the task of getting the struggling Tigers prepared for No. 7 Tennessee.
Despite a heartbreaking 47-45 loss, it was obvious that the longtime assistant got every ounce of effort out of his players in a contest that came down to the last millisecond.
Pierre – regarded as one of the top recruiters in the country – knew that he had to do whatever it took to keep the team motivated for a battle against one of the top teams in the country so quickly after the departure of the head coach.
"Well, obviously they wanted to play against a top-ten team; anybody would want to do that," Pierre said. "Their attitude was different. They were involved. I did a couple of things to motivate them. My wife (Clemmie) gave me some ideas. I did a couple of things and used a few quotes. It was just motivational stuff. Coach (Skip) Bertman did that with our team during the Final Four year. I think that got their minds right and the coaches did a good job preparing them. It was a team effort by the coaches and the players."
Pierre chose to put up all the coaches and players in a hotel the night before the big game, even though it was played at home, in an attempt to get away from the whirlwind that had surrounded the team on Friday. It was only the second time in Pierre's ten years at LSU that it has been done.
"It was just something to help us come together and heal as a team," Pierre said. "I felt like due to the circumstances around the team that it was possibly the best way to approach the game. A change from the ordinary."
Pierre was brought in by Brady in 1997 to help "rebuild" the LSU program and over the course of his tenure in Baton Rouge has developed his reputation as one of the best recruiters in college basketball.
Pierre is known for his work ethic and attention to detail along with his relentless recruiting. At LSU, Pierre has been able to bring in standout players such as Stromile Swift, Jabari Smith, Ronald Dupree, Brandon Bass, Glen Davis and many others who have been instrumental in leading the Tigers to five postseason appearances in the last six years, including the 2000 SEC title and the 2005 SEC Western Division crown and a Final Four appearance in 2006.
His recruiting has landed LSU four McDonald's all-Americans, nine Parade prep all-Americans, six juco all-Americans and two who earned national juco player of the year honors.
Brady and Pierre's relationship stems back from Brady's coaching days at Crowley High School. Pierre was an all-American at St. Amant High School and eventually went on to play at Mississippi State where Brady was then an assistant.
Pierre later became a graduate assistant at Mississippi State and went on to become an assistant coach at Kentucky State, Louisiana-Lafayette and Charlotte before coming to Baton Rouge.
Tasmin Mitchell – who was nationally recruited by several hoops powerhouses before deciding to come to LSU – suited up for Saturday's game against Tennessee despite the fact the injured forward was never going to see the floor. Mitchell said he did it as a sign of respect for Pierre.
"We were talking the night before at the hotel and he said that he wanted to dress out for me even though he would never get a chance to actually play for me," Pierre said. "I was kind of touched by that and it meant a lot to me that he did that."
After the Tennessee game, Mitchell told the media he could tell that the longtime assistant had some butterflies, but was impressed with how he approached everything.
"Every coach is nervous before a game," Mitchell said. "He was nervous just like the players were. Even when he was associate head coach that is the way he felt. Today he approached things from a positive standpoint and did a lot of positive things pregame."
When LSU athletic director Skip Bertman was asked about the consideration of Pierre for the vacant Tiger head coaching position on Friday he was quick to answer "without a doubt Butch Pierre will be a candidate."
The 43-year-old coach will skipper the Tigers through their remaining seven conference games, and then the process of interviewing for the head coaching vacancy will begin once the season is over.
"I am just excited about those guys and the effort that they gave me and LSU," Pierre said after the Tigers loss to Tennessee. "I think we are only going to get better starting with Florida and Kentucky."