For some reason, every time a head coaching job opens at LSU we go through the same process. In the public forum, we spend all our time trying to find a coach with huge name recognitiion that has some connection to LSU. In football, names like Jack Del Rio are mentioned. In basketball, names like Tim Floyd and Reggie Theus are thrown around.
The problem with this formula is that it does not consider what the program needs. So before I start mentioning names of candidates, we must be clear about the qualities needed to be the head basketball coach at LSU.
1. He must have charisma and a personality that make people want to pay attention to basketball. Basketball has been the third sport at LSU since Skip Bertman made LSU the program of the 90s. Not only that, since Nick Saban made LSU a top 10 program on an annual basis, football and baseball almost circle the calendar and almost touch each other (minus about two weeks in February). Consequently, the new coach has to give people a reason to pay attention. If not, basketball is just too easy to ignore at LSU.
2. Above all else, he must be able to recruit very well. It starts with recruiting the best players in the state because Louisiana does produce talent that should be the foundation of the program. But, you have to supplement that talent with big time talent from outside the state.
3. His philosophy needs to bring an exciting brand of basketball. Louisiana is not Indiana. This state does not have many “basketball purists.” LSU basketball needs to win, but when they lose the score needs to be 80-75, not 53-48. By the way, an aggressive, fast style of play fits the talent in this state.
So now that we have established the qualities necessary for the job, begin your search. You will find that many excellent coaches would not be as successful at LSU as they are in their present jobs due to the climate of sports in Louisiana. In addition, you need to stop thinking someone will leave their job to coach at LSU for less money. Also, coaches aren’t leaving top 20 programs in BCS conferences to come to LSU. It doesn’t work that way. If they are interested, I would be suspicious.
Of course, I wouldn’t write on this topic if I didn’t have my own suggestions. Before, I give you two names I think would fit the above qualities, let me give full disclosure. I worked with both of them during my time at LSU as a manager and Administrative Assistant. But, please keep reading and I think you will see why both are great choices.
I would be happy if Joe Alleva chose Johnny Jones or Donnie Tyndall. Most readers know Johnny Jones and his resume. He clearly fits all the above conditions. We know the problems LSU ran into with the NCAA, but he has had no problems since. On the other hand, I can tell you why he is a great recruiter and would be successful in Baton Rouge again. He is very personable, genuine, and humble. I doubt I would be the only one that was part of the LSU basketball program while he was there that would to tell you that about Coach Jones.
Most of you do not know Donnie Tyndall, so I will spend more time explaining why he would be an outstanding choice. Coach Tyndall is currently the head coach at Morehead State in Kentucky. If you are wondering why you have heard of Morehead but don’t know why, the reason is that Morehead beat Louisville in the first round of the NCAA Tournament last year. Yes, Louisville who went to the Final Four this year with basically the same team as last year.
I don’t blame you for not knowing Morehead State off the top of your head, but they play in the Ohio Valley Conference (the same one that has Murray State). Before Coach Tyndall arrived at Morehead, the Eagles had won a total of 14 games the previous two seasons and had not made the NCAA Tournament since 1984. Morehead made the NCAA Tournament in just his third season and again last year. This year, Morehead finished third in their conference despite graduating their two best players (including the OVC Player of the Year), and losing their best returning player to a knee injury halfway through the season.
Like Coach Jones, Coach Tyndall is likeable, humble, and genuine. In addition, he is passionate and hard working. I recognize he does not the big name most people want in the next choice. I think people need to get over themselves, though. LSU basketball needs a young, passionate coach at this point.
Whatever happens, I think we are fortunate Coach Johnson decided to move on. As the paper said this week, it is a win-win for both sides.