Former LSU head basketball coach Trent Johnson will be introduced to TCU fans in a press conference Monday, but in order to really get to know the situation and more about Coach Johnson's history and philosophies as a coach some of the best people to ask are the fans he's been coaching for before us. With that in mind we contacted the excellent SBNation LSU Blog And The Valley Shook who were kind enough to answer our questions (Yes, every time you see an SBNation blog link to another, we do refer to them as being great- in this case it's very true, ATVS is a great read even if you're not really invested in LSU).
1.) A lot of TCU fans seem to think that this signing was totally out of the blue. Were there any signs on the LSU side that Coach Johnson was unhappy with administration, or was seeing his name pop up in the TCU search unexpected?
To be honest, once I saw that TCU was interested in Johnson, I thought it was very similar to the situation that Ed DeChellis had at Penn State last year. Both of those coaches were in tough spots where they knew they had only one year left, and thought it was the safer move to take a step back to ensure they weren't fired. I don't think Trent was unhappy with the administration, but he was in a really tough spot at LSU.
2.) Being in the Mountain West, we were not exactly used to keeping an eye on the SEC West during basketball season. What sort of offensive and defensive systems does Coach Johnson like to run, and do you think his style will fit into the Big 12?
Offensively, LSU has been quite bad in every year he has been here in regards to his record. His first year was great, finishing with a 27-8 record, but still wasn't ranked in the top 50 by Kenpom. The struggle the last three years has been with relatively poor guard play and poor shooting. Bo Spencer, who you may or may not have seen with Nebraska this year, was perhaps the best guard he had in the last 3 seasons, and he wasn't all that efficient by any measure. He has had somewhat better success with the forwards, but even so, they seem to struggle against more physical players.
Defensively, Johnson has actually been very good. Kenpom rated this year's defense very highly despite the fact that LSU played a lot of good offensive teams. In the second to last game of the year against Kentucky, LSU was actually able to hold them to a total of 60 points and keep it competitive for most of the game. His defensive signature is probably that the guards are very active once the opposing team crosses half court. Anthony Hickey and Andre Stringer were able to force a lot of turnovers and get steals by simply using fundamentals and hustling. The forwards tend to foul quite a bit in his system, but they also tend to rebound quite well out of it as well.
3.) What was the attitude towards Coach Johnson in LSU before the TCU possibility was announced, and what is the mood now?
There's definitely a vocal minority of fans that will say they are happy Johnson is gone, though I think these are the same fans that really haven't been to a game in years anyway. I think the majority is like me, and they kind of just shrugged their shoulders at the news. I think with Justin Hamilton's departure, the expectations for next season fell drastically and everyone knew Trent would only be here for another year. It's not necessarily great news for me to see Johnson leave, because it signals how down LSU is right now, but it also gives us a head start on rebuilding. I'm not too optimistic LSU will be able to land a big name coach, so I'm not ready to say things will get better right away.
4.) How did Coach Johnson use his scholarships while at LSU- was he on the lookout for transfers or constantly recruiting his own high school guys?
In the four years at LSU, Johnson was more likely to lose players due to transfers than to pick one up. Justin Hamilton, from Iowa State, was the only transfer he brought in, while multiple players transferred out for various reasons. Recruiting wise, Johnson actually had a decent class last year with Johnny O'Bryant and Anthony Hickey, but he wasn't able to land Louisiana's best player, Ricardo Gathers. Gathers will be at Baylor next year. So if you can figure out a way for us to get Drew (ed. I mentioned hoping that Scott Drew, the Baylor head coach, would be the next coach for LSU), we also might have a chance at taking Gathers with him.
5.) Does he favor length or athleticism more in his recruits, and where do his players generally come from? Are there many fresh recruiting grounds opening up to TCU?
Johnson was actually was able to get players from lots of other states, though they weren't always the highest rated players. Our starting line up had players from 5 different states. I think the answer is yes to the second question, and you will find TCU bringing in players from different areas. As for the prototype, there really isn't one for Johnson. All of his players tend to be average in terms of size and athleticism. If anything, he looks for five players that can all shoot the ball and make free throws.
6.) What are Coach Johnson's best points, and what will have TCU hoop heads (all ten of us) shaking their heads during his coaching duration?
The best part of Coach Johnson is that when he has talent, he can get the most out of it. He inherited a very talented team his first year and was able to win the SEC regular season and a game in the NCAA tournament before falling to UNC. He also stresses academics, so expect TCU to always be eligible for the tournament and have 13 available scholarships. The worst part was that his recruiting was spotty, and since he isn't very charismatic, TCU may find that he never is able to assemble an awesome team to coach. He was able to at Nevada and Stanford prior to LSU, so there is hope that he could at TCU. It might just take a little bit longer than LSU was willing to give.
7.) Predictions for 2013's TCU/LSU football game in Death Valley?
As an LSU fan, I feel like we have a good chance of winning it right now, only because we still have our defense. If I start seeing an exodus to the NFL by our secondary and defensive line, I think TCU could really make the game uncomfortable if their offense continues to improve like it did last year.
Our thanks to And The Valley Shook, and may they always beat Texas A&M and Alabama (we're definitely winning in 2013 though).