Sports

Trent Johnson leaves dream job behind for LSU basketball

Pac-10 Coach of the Year in men's basketball didn't get the contract extension in time from Stanford

Trent Johnson may have been too honest for his own good, describing his situation at Stanford as his dream job and letting anyone within earshot know it.

Underpaid and apparently underappreciated at Stanford, the 51-year-old coach was introduced as the new men's coach at Louisiana State during a press conference on Thursday in Baton Rouge.

"The opportunity to recruit the best student-athletes across the country and have the opportunity to compete for a championship year in and year out ... that is the goal," Johnson said. "We have an excellent chance to get this thing turned around soon."

Johnson's departure put an exclamation point on one of the most tumultuous weeks ever for Stanford basketball.

The Lopez twins, Brook and Robin, sparked the exodus when they announced their intention to forego their final two years of college eligibility and make themselves available for the NBA draft.

Former Stanford coach Mike Montgomery followed when he accepted the head job at California. Montgomery had been serving as a special assistant to Cardinal Athletic Director Bob Bowlsby.

Johnson made it a trifecta when it was learned he had been offered the job at LSU on Wednesday, the same day in which Stanford held its men's basketball banquet.

Johnson's leave-taking is reminiscent of Dusty Baker's sudden departure as manager of the San Francisco Giants following the 2002 season, in which Baker, a three-time NL Manager of the Year with the Giants, won the NL pennant and reached the seventh game of the World Series.

Johnson did not address the coaching change at the banquet, but someone in attendance said the coach choked up when he was given a standing ovation. He left immediately after the banquet to catch a flight for Baton Rouge.

Johnson was apparently LSU's first choice all along, but resisted earlier offers while waiting for Bowlsby to call.

The Pac-10 Coach of the Year, Johnson was in the final year of his contract at Stanford, and was scheduled to meet later this week with Bowlsby about an extension. According to a source close to Johnson, Bowlsby verbally offered Johnson a contract about half the length of the five-year deal he wanted. For Johnson, it was too little, too late.

Johnson had "preliminary talks" with LSU officials at the Final Four in San Antonio this past weekend. His new contract with LSU is estimated at $1 million to $1.2 million annually — nearly twice the reported salary he received at Stanford.

There's no sense looking for a villain in this drama, as mysterious as it all seems. Bowlsby and Johnson are making decisions based on their own character, and both have proven to be successful in their own right.

Johnson will never open up publicly regarding his situation at Stanford other than to say how much he appreciated the opportunity.

It's been noted that Johnson is a loyal man who is comfortable with himself and his ethics. He is loyal — more so to individuals than to institutions. Doug Oliver coached Johnson in college, and Johnson coached Donny Guerinoni at Nevada, recruited Nick Robinson to Stanford and developed a relationship with Palo Alto High grad Chris Bobel, a walk-on for Johnson during the 2006-07 season. Those were his assistant coaches this year.

Johnson, a graduate of Boise State, spent the past four seasons at Stanford compiling an overall record of 80-48 with three NCAA tournament appearances and one NIT appearance.

Johnson guided the Cardinal to the Sweet 16 this season, beating Cornell and Marquette in the NCAA tournament before it was eliminated by Texas.

Prior to his stint at Stanford, Johnson served as the head coach at Nevada from 1999-2004, leading the Wolfpack to the Sweet 16 in 2004.

Johnson becomes the first ever African-American head coach in LSU men's basketball history.

Before arriving at Stanford, Johnson spent four years as an assistant coach at Rice. He's also served as an assistant coach at Washington.

Johnson began his Division I coaching career at Utah from in 1986, where he began to establish his reputation as a top recruiter.

At LSU, Johnson replaces interim coach Butch Pierre, who replaced John Brady, who was fired at midseason. The Tigers finished the season 13-18, and just last week LSU hired a new athletic director, Joe Alleva, who had been the athletic director at Duke.

At LSU, Johnson will take over a team that got to the Final Four two years ago, but went 6-10 in the SEC this season.

Freshman Anthony Randolph, a 6-11 center who was the team's No. 2 scorer (15.6 ppg) and top rebounder (8.5 rpg), recently announced that he would enter the NBA draft. He did not, however, hire an agent, thus leaving the door open to return to LSU.

What is in store for Stanford next year? The program returns to the drawing board with Anthony Goods, Lawrence Hill and Mitch Johnson as the senior leaders, and a junior class of Da'Veed Dildy, Landry Fields, Will Paul and Drew Shiller depleted by the departure of the Lopez twins.

Unless it's the ghost of Howie Dallmar, Bowlsby will find it difficult replacing someone as beloved as Johnson.

Comments

 +   Like this comment
Posted by chris
a resident of University South
on Apr 9, 2008 at 3:55 pm

congratulations to Trent on getting a high-paying job;
a lot of people in this area can relate to that objective


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Bill
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Apr 9, 2008 at 5:35 pm

If only Monty had waited a week or so before signing at Cal. This is rather ironic.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by post lopez duet
a resident of Green Acres
on Apr 9, 2008 at 7:57 pm

Johnson and Montgomery knew that there was a big downside to Stanford's fortunes once the Lopez twins turned pro. Without super quick, athletic guards that can hit 3's in their sleep, and bruising post up inside leapers, there's no way the Cardinal will compete with the best of the Pac 10. Neither J or M could recruit with the effectiveness of other schools because of the Stanford admissions office mindset on "scholar athlete" model freshmen.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Bill
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Apr 9, 2008 at 8:02 pm

In the past Stanford has had great teams and great scholar-athletes - men and women.
It will again and more power to the University for sticking to its ideals.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by chris
a resident of University South
on Apr 10, 2008 at 6:55 pm

I don't think Stanford wants or needs a BB coach who is insulted if he isn't making $1.5M/year.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by SKC
a resident of another community
on Apr 11, 2008 at 5:45 pm

1.5 mil per year seems like poverty coaching pay in the Bay Area to me. Billy D is getting 3.5 mill per yer in cheap to live Gainesville,FL ...but does have a few NC rings to deserve to earn it.


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