A new beginning

The last time LSU fans saw a new coach take to the sidelines at the Pete Maravich Assembly Center was 1997, where fans witnessed the birth of the John Brady era.

In 10 seasons at LSU, Brady compiled a 184-126 record, including two SEC Western division titles and four NCAA tournament appearances.

 

There were good times and there were bad, but the latter of the two came more frequently.

 

When the Tigers struggles continued last season, Brady was released.

 

His Feb. 8 termination forced assistant coach Butch Pierre to lead LSU down the stretch, with a coaching search to come at season's end.

 

When the search headed west, the Tigers found their man.

 

Stanford Cardinal head coach Trent Johnson, who was fresh off of a Sweet 16 appearance, was hired to lead LSU into a new era.

 

Compiling an 80-48 record at Stanford, including a 45-27 Pac 10 mark, Johnson seemed the perfect fit to take the struggling Tigers back into the thick of Southeastern Conference play.

 

Though the transition from Brady to Johnson saw freshman J'Mison Morgan switch his pledge from the Tigers to UCLA, the remaining commitments stayed firm.

 

Johnson now had the 14 players that would begin his tenure at LSU.

 

Saturday against Jackson State, fans will witness those players usher in the dawn of a new coaching era.

 

"I've learned that he's a guy that loves defense and rebounding and taking care of the ball," said senior guard Garrett Temple. "He feels that if we do what we're taught to do on offense, it will take care of itself, but the thing we need to focus on is defense."

 

The hard-nosed defense showed in their opening scrimmages against Tulane and University of New Orleans, which Johnson substituted in place of the team's normal exhibition games.

 

Redshirt junior forward Tasmin Mitchell said that he could feel the Tigers come together in the scrimmages and improve on the defensive end.

 

"It's a team thing and a chemistry where everything falls into place," Mitchell said. "I don't really want to talk about the scrimmage because they're scrimmages, but you can see a lot from the scrimmages … We have a lot of team chemistry and when you have each other's back on offense and defense you can make it happen and that makes everyone a good defensive player."

 

As for his demeanor with the team during games, Mitchell feels that the pressure will be on.

 

"Coach Johnson is a real intense guy and if you don't do what he wants then he's going to get on you," Mitchell said. "If you go out there and do what you're supposed to do he is more laid back. But he still wants everything done the right way."

 

Temple feels that the same attitude Johnson has with his players will carry over to others.

 

"He's going to have our backs with the referees," Temple said. "If they don't give us a call, he's going to get on them. He always tells us that he's going to be the person talking to the referees, so we just need to play our game. He's going to have our backs. We'll see come the first game how he reacts, but I think we have a pretty good take on what he's going to be doing during the game."

 

"He's very intense and just an intense person," Mitchell added. "Basically, you can see it in his eyes. You can see that he is serious when he says you need to do this and do that. It's all about his intensity and the look in his eyes."

 

Temple said that the look from Johnson has been a focal point in the learning process between the headman and his players.

 

"When he gives you that look you know you did something wrong," Temple said. "But also, guys are starting to correct themselves. They know they did something wrong so they don't even have to listen to coach. All they have to do is see him give them that look."

 

Though the Tigers have only been on the practice court for 27 days, Temple feels that the bond between coach and players has already been forged.

 

"You can tell the passion of coach when you see it in his eyes," Temple said. "He wants to win and you can see his intensity about how much he cares about his guys. It's people first and not just basketball players. It's character off the court and that plays over to character on the court."


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