NEW ORLEANS — It was appropriate that newly hired LSU men’s basketball coach Johnny Jones was accompanied by two of the top assistants on Les Miles’ football staff as the Tiger Tour made its annual stop in the Crescent City on Tuesday night.
Defensive coordinator John Chavis and running backs coach/recruiting coordinator Frank Wilson symbolize what Jones is trying to accomplish with the basketball program that he knows as a player and assistant coach.
Jones told the crowd at the Riverside Hilton that he plans to start building the foundation of his program with players from Baton Rouge and extend his reach into New Orleans and throughout Louisiana.
“We have to do what our football team has been able to do,” Jones said, “and that’s put a fence up around the state of Louisiana.”
Wilson, a well-respected recruiter and former high-school coach in New Orleans, has had a big hand in building and maintaining that football fence. He’s also part of a blueprint that Jones seems to be wisely following.
Miles’ most recent assistant hires have all been coaches with proven track records in recruiting the Tigers’ backyard and surrounding area and/or ties to the program. The others are Steve Ensminger (former LSU quarterback), Thomas McGaughey (Houston), Corey Raymond (New Iberia/LSU) and Adam Henry (Beaumont, Texas/McNeese State).
Jones recently completed his staff, which has a combined 80 years of coaching experience, mostly with roots in Louisiana, Texas, Alabama and Mississippi.
“I’ve watched from afar and looked at what (Miles) has been able to do with the football program,” Jones said. “I see what he has created, and that’s what we’re looking for.”
Jones told the crowd that he’s “on a mission to win championships.” He noted the sight of the football team hoisting two BCS championship trophies and the baseball program hoisting six College World Series trophies (and coach Paul Mainieri’s current team taking a seventh) and talked of his program joining the mix.
When an audience member asked about Jones’ team’s style of play he said, “it’s a lot like our football team’s style of playing: winning,”, drawing loud applause.
Jones said he plans to play a representative schedule that also balances the realities of competing in the Southeastern Conference. But, he repeated, he plans to ultimately get to where the football program is: “where 10 of you and I could play them and they’d fill the stadium because of the LSU on the front of the jersey.
“When we get to the point where we’re doing that in the P-Mac,” Jones said, “we’ll know we’re having success.”
Jones, who has four years as a player and 13 as an assistant coach during the basketball program’s heyday, can draw on that experience. He also can look around him and see where he wants to get — and how to get there.