New head coach:
My source inside Johnson's camp says that the optimistic scenario – Bowlsby just slowplayed Johnson away to bring in a new coach he had secretly lined up all along – is false. As of this morning, Bowlsby had no one lined up and was "scrambling to save face," my source said. Annual salary will likely be about $500,000 per year, potentially topping out at $600,000 or $700,000.
Coaching upheavals often throw recruits' status into question, and, alas for Stanford fans, this one appears no different early. Signed recruits have inquired as to the status of their LOIs, according to rumblings from within the AD. Given the high rankings accorded to shooting guard Jeremy Green, small forward Jarrett Mann and power forward Miles Plumlee, and the significant minutes they all could very well play on next year's thinner roster, the development is a serious concern for the Cardinal faithful. This news comes on top of top-100 junior power forward Ryan Kelley's cancelled visit to Stanford yesterday.
The word on the street (word on the corridor?) inside Arrillaga is that two-year assistant coach Donny Guerinoni, Johnson's first recruit at Nevada, is almost certain to follow Johnson's footsteps to the Bayou. Guerinoni is a guy Johnson sees as a future head coach, and is trying to mentor him.
Assistant coach (and Marquette hero) Doug Oliver would fly to the moon for Johnson, but local ties complicate the matter. Oliver is a San Jose native, went to San Jose State, coached at Bay Area high schools and has served two coaching stints at Stanford. His wife reportedly doesn't want to leave the Bay Area, so whether Johnson would even offer a position to Oliver, forcing him into a most unpleasant decision, is unclear.
Johnson hopes Nick Robinson can stay at Stanford and provide the new coaching staff with much-needed continuity. Having some familiar faces on next year's sideline could make or break recruiting, and a current player is expected to lobby AD higher-ups on behalf of the current staff.
Johnson's LSU Press Conference:
Meanwhile, Johnson repeatedly painted his departure to LSU, which he referred to as one of the top-15 or 20 programs in the country, as a move he made in large part so he could recruit from a wider academic pool than at Stanford.
In fact, it was literally the next sentence out of his mouth after "Go Tigers!"
"You know, it's been a whirlwind the last week for me, an absolute whirlwind, but when this opportunity arose, the first question I was asked was why and there's a real simple answer for me: the opportunity to recruit the best student-athletes across the country and the opportunity to compete for championships year-in and year-out," he said. "… For me, the athletes are what make good coaches. The players are what make good coaches."
(Johnson obviously still carries Stanford in his heart, taking the opportunity to weigh in on a debate Booties have waged for years.)
"The idea of having no academic restrictions in terms of being able to recruit kids and being able to go into homes and sell that, that really excites me to the point where I think we have an excellent chance to get this turned around soon," he added at the end of his opening statement.
But it was his response to the first question (inaudible) that will rankle some Stanford feathers longest.
"Well, what changed it was, and I'll articulate it to you like this," Johnson said. "It was 52-51, we're playing Texas in the Regionals. And, you know, I got a – Stanford's been great to me, exceptional kids – and there's DJ Augustin, who I know we're all familiar with here, and he's 15 feet from the basketball, and there's Mitch Johnson, who'll probably be one of my all-time favorite players, who's ten feet from the basketball, and he can't get it and DJ catches it in stride. At that point in time, I said to myself, you know, to get to the next level – you know, I've been at Nevada, went to the Sweet 16 for four years, got to Stanford, continued to get to the Sweet 16 – that's what changed my approach in terms of dream job."
That last phrase "that's what changed my approach in terms of dream job," will certainly provide ammo to those who suggest that Stanford and Johnson's lukewarm relationship in recent weeks was bidirectional.
Later, reporters questioned Johnson about his ability to keep big-time recruiting targets in the state, and Johnson pointed to the challenges he overcame at Stanford as evidence of his recruiting prowess. He described being able to recruit five players at a given position in a given year at Stanford, and hypothesized that that number at LSU would likely be closer to 15.
He also confirmed that LSU initially contacted him two days earlier, and referenced "an exceptional situation I just left."
The day after the head coach quasi-unexpectedly steps down is an obvious low-water mark, but that's the biased perspective fans have today. And who would have guessed that, from the present vantage point, the basketball program might just be in as dire of straits as its gridiron counterparts?
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