SJSU Hoops Coach Denies Rumors of Flight to USC

Accoring to Mark Gomez over at the "Merc", Phil Johnson dismissed rumors that he is leaving his job as the San Jose State men's basketball coach to become an assistant at USC.

SJSU coach says he's staying

REPORT SUGGESTED HE MAY GO TO USC

By Mark Gomez

Mercury News

Phil Johnson dismissed rumors that he is leaving his job as the San Jose State men's basketball coach to become an assistant at USC under longtime friend Tim Floyd.

``I came back here with the best intentions, honest intentions to turn this program around,'' Johnson said Wednesday. ``That's what I intend to do.''

But there is cause to wonder whether Johnson will finish his four-year contract next year. The Los Angeles Daily News, citing unnamed sources, reported last week that he is a ``prime candidate'' to join Floyd at USC next season.

And then there is his record at SJSU: Since he arrived for the 2002-03 season, the Spartans are 17-56, and they have not won a conference road game in nearly two years. Johnson's second stint at the school also includes a run-in with a fan at a game in El Paso last year, which resulted in reprimands by San Jose State and the Western Athletic Conference, and three arrests for drunken driving in an eight-month span beginning in June 2002.

Johnson has a long history with Floyd, who will take over at USC on April 1. In 1999, Johnson left San Jose State after one season to become one of Floyd's assistants with the NBA's Chicago Bulls. The two also worked together at the University of New Orleans in 1991-93.

Johnson, however, insisted that the Spartans (4-12, 1-6) are improving and are much better than a year ago, when they went 1-17 in the WAC. ``We've got a lot left,'' Johnson said. ``The spirit of our team is good.''

Johnson also is under administrative pressure. The school's interim president, Don Kassing, has expressed the importance of having strong basketball and football programs as the school attempts to maintain its Division I-A status.

Contact Mark Gomez at mgomez@mercurynews.com or (408) 920-5869.


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