Bowlsby's Stock Under Pressure

Daniel Novinson takes a closer at how the president, the provost, the University's biggest donor and other key players in Stanford Athletics are less than thrilled with the manner in which the men's basketball coaching situation has been handled by Athletic Director Bob Bowlsby to date. Plus, the latest on Trent Johnson.

And in other breaking news, Generalissimo Francisco Franco is still dead. (For my generation: Generalissimo Francisco Franco)

Okay, maybe it's not quite as obvious as the SNL tag line, but Bob Bowlsby is, unsurprisingly, not universally adored by the Stanford faithful following Trent Johnson's departure. (Bowlsby supporters, don't worry, we have two stories more reflective of his thinking coming soon.) Even so, the rancor with which many big players in Stanford Athletics and our sources are presently viewing Bowlsby was surprising, at least to this reporter.

"I am left with very little respect for the man's level of self-honesty at best and dishonesty at worst," said our second source, well-connected to the Athletic Department and close to Trent Johnson. "He is unable to see any part he played in losing Trent Johnson as our coach. This public spin – I didn't see it coming, I thought Johnson was telling the truth when he said we would meet Thursday, I never offered three years (what he told me) – is crap."

Our first source, closer to Trent Johnson, reports that LSU's newest basketball coach has received notes and emails of support from coaches across the collegiate landscape and the Stanford campus, "including some of our most high profile," the source said. "They used the terms ‘disgusted' and ‘shocked' quite a bit. It was pretty amazing."

On one hand, coaches tend to support each other, and it's in an Athletic Director's very job description to make controversial decisions. On the other, losing the support of your school's President, Provost and number-one donor, as Bowlsby appears to have done, isn't likely to earn you a contract extension, be it for three years or five.

"All three of the Johns are unhappy about this turn of events, as well as the folks I talk to," our second source said. "You have to wonder where Bowlsby's stock is. Having John Arrillaga on your bad side would make it hard to sleep at night if you were Bob Bowlsby."

Every story has two sides, however. Here, the opposite perspective comes courtesy a third source, a booster with longtime Stanford affiliations who holds Bowlsby in high regard.

"First, I think Arrillaga had more influence in the Ted Leland era than he does currently," said this source. "I really think Bowlsby is a strong guy, a strong person with his own views, who wants to make his own mark on the program. He's very, very savvy and careful about how he interacts with every constituency, even his biggest donors. He can't possibly ignore John Arrillaga, but I'm not sure he would be in anyone's hip pocket."

The final hours of Johnson's tenure have also become better defined. Johnson felt that nothing of value was put on the table in Bowlsby's last-ditch efforts Wed. April 9th, and thus took a red-eye to the Bayou after the team's banquet that evening. He was introduced Thursday as LSU's head coach.

"The abruptness of his decision caught everybody I know by surprise," said our second source. "Trent is a private man, and I realize now that he was masking his own level of discontent to a significant degree." would be remiss in not reporting two other Trent Johnson notes. First, Johnson has been overwhelmed by the support he's received at LSU, according to our first source.

"Johnson said he can't go anywhere in Baton Rouge without getting asked for an autograph or a picture – really nice people and a supportive Department," he said.

Second, this source adds that Mitch and Trent Johnson continue to talk and enjoy a close relationship. In his opening statement at his introductory LSU press conference, Trent Johnson said that seeing Texas' DJ Augustine beat a closer Mitch Johnson to a loose ball in the Sweet 16 demonstrated his inability to bring top athletes to Stanford, and why he ultimately left the Farm.

"Coach talked to Mitch: Mitch had no problem with anything," said the source.

Ironically, Mitch Johnson, a rising senior captain, will serve on the search committee to select Trent Johnson's replacement.

Keep visiting, as we next examine the head coaching situation from Bob Bowlsby's perspective. What might have caused him to slowplay Trent Johnson's contract extension? Stay tuned.

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