By Scott Rabalais
June 26, 2012
That new LSU men’s basketball coach Johnny Jones made a speaking appearance before the Baton Rouge Rotary Club on Wednesday was hardly a surprise.
What’s more surprising these days is to find Jones not out talking to someone, somewhere.
“He’s been terrific,” LSU athletic director Joe Alleva said. “He goes to everything. He’ll go to a cake sale if need be. He’s done a great job getting out and letting our fans see him.”
Trying to whip up enthusiasm for LSU basketball isn’t a stretch for Jones.
“I can’t tell you how excited I am,” Jones told his audience at Boudreaux’s. “Bring away, I’ve learned to appreciate Baton Rouge that much more.”
Getting Baton Rouge to take more of an interest in LSU basketball again in the wake of a feast or famine two decades since the Shaquille O’Neal era ended in 1992 — three Southeastern Conference regular season titles and a Final Four counterbalanced by eight last-place finishes in the SEC West — is a major part of Jones’ task.
He is confident he has what he needs to build a consistently successful program.
“All the things are here for us to compete for championships and play at a high level year in and year out,” Jones said.
“We know the resources are here. We have to make sure we are taking advantage of it.”
Jones has to bolster his resources by filling out his coaching staff after the recent resignation of assistant Shawn Forrest.
Jones said he has already interviewed three or four potential candidates and hopes to make a hire soon.
“We’re getting close,” Jones said. “Hopefully we’ll get that done in a week or so.”
Jones said Randy Livingston, like Jones a former LSU point guard, is not under consideration. Livingston is the head coach of the Idaho Stampede in the NBA Developmental League.
Forrest came with Jones from his staff at North Texas but stepped down unexpectedly earlier this month for what were termed only personal reasons.
Jones declined to respond to a report by WBRZ which asserted that the issue with Forrest may have been over a master’s degree his biography said he earned from Troy University in 2000.
According to the report, a spokesman from Troy said Forrest took classes but did not complete the program.
Bolstering the roster is also a prime concern.
LSU has only five returning scholarship players: senior forward Eddie Ludwig, junior forward Jalen Courtney, junior guard Andre Stringer, sophomore guard Anthony Hickey and sophomore forward Johnny O’Bryant.
The Tigers have four freshmen coming in as well: guard Malik Morgan of John Curtis (who signed in November under former coach Trent Johnson), forwards Calvin Godfrey and Shavon Coleman of Howard (Texas) College and guard Shane Hammink, son of former LSU center Geert Hammink.
Jones said Hammink may not arrive until right after the fall semester begins in August because he may have an opportunity to try out for the Olympics. Geert Hammink is from The Netherlands.
Jones said his staff and players will benefit from a recently changed NCAA rule that allows coaches to have two hours per week of instruction time with their players.
“I think that’s really going to benefit me and my staff to have our hands on them this summer,” he said.