When I heard the news of Trent Johnson’s resignation from LSU, it truly was a very sweet and sour feeling for this proud Class of 2009 Tiger grad.
On one hand was the sweet – the feeling of joy knowing that my school was about to get a new head coach.
Sure, sure, Trent Johnson is a good guy. Sure, sure, he did a lot of nice things for the university and its students. I’m also well aware of his hilarious dodge ball videos, his bowling escapades with Sports Information Director Kent Lowe and that he won games and turned around programs at both Stanford and Nevada.
All of those things are fine and dandy. They are reasons why I was initially excited when the coach was brought into the Tiger family. He was different – a complete 180 from the ball of fury that was former coach John Brady.
But let’s be blunt about this. Johnson never lived up to his initial hype. And he probably shouldn’t have been given the opportunity to resign – he should have probably been fired after his third season with the team.
My reason? He just didn’t win enough games.
In today’s world of a 24-hour news cycle and a “what have you done for me lately,” society, rebuilding cannot be a decade-long project.
Four years into Johnson’s rebuilding and it was beginning to look more and more like the Tigers were digging deeply into mediocrity.
Sure, the 27-win rookie season in Baton Rouge was terrific. But that team was comprised entirely of players recruited by Brady – names like Tasmin Mitchell, Marcus Thornton, Garrett Temple and Chris Johnson.
Since Brady’s men have left the team? How do 40 wins in three years and a 12-36 SEC record settle in your stomach?
Sure, LSU made the NIT this year and showed marked signs of improvement. But with the team’s best player Justin Hamilton gone to the NBA and no real legitimate recruits coming in, 2011-12’s 18 wins seem sure to sag closer to the 12-15 mark next year.
At LSU, that’s just not good enough – even in the sport that is largely a red-headed stepchild behind football and baseball in the minds of inattentive fans.
So with the twinkle in my eye about change in Baton Rouge, the light in the tunnel immediately gets bleak when one considers the sour in this situation.
That’d be the man making the hire – LSU athletics director Joe Alleva.
Take a poll of the Tigers’ fan base each year of the most unpopular people within the LSU athletic department and I can assure you that Alleva will consistently be in the top 3 – if not No. 1 on the list.
Why people don’t like Alleva, I’m not fully sure – they just never have embraced him in Tigerland.
Maybe it’s because he’s a Yankee. He played his college ball at Lehigh University in Pennsylvania. Any warm-blooded Louisianan knows that those Pennsylvania folk don’t know a thing about football and the South, right?
Or maybe it’s because Alleva didn’t contribute much of anything to Duke athletics in his previous job, but he was still given the promotion to come to Baton Rouge.
Sure, the Blue Devils had a lot of basketball success while Alleva was in Durham, but he didn’t hire Coach K – so can he really get much credit for the program’s prowess?
I won’t even mention the lacrosse scandal that overtook that entire athletic department under his watch – that’s another conversation for another day.
Whatever the reason might be – the Tigers’ faithful just don’t trust their head honcho.
Because I’m fickle and short-sighted when it comes to my alma mater, I admit that I sip the Hater-Aid and tend to side with the fanatics in these given conversations – I don’t really trust him to make good decisions for the program.
Forget that he hired Beth Torina to be the team’s softball coach and the Lady Tigers are currently a blistering 11-3 in SEC play.
I’m also not giving out credit for the hire of Nikki Caldwell as the women’s basketball coach.
OK, OK, I can’t go that far. Caldwell is a home run hire and she will get the Lady Tigers back into the Final 4 within the next few seasons.
But I still can’t support Alleva’s decision-making ability.
Or can I?
I’ll cut the charade and sarcasm – I don’t have a grudge against Alleva – I’m just merely explaining the reasons why the Tigers claim they don’t support their leader.
Some are reasons I acknowledge – others are pure foolery.
But regardless, this will be a very important hire in the career of the LSU athletics director. Another home run that puts the Tigers back on the map nationally will probably be the final step in Alleva’s initiation into the LSU family.
If his hire struggles, crashes and then burns, expect the doubt to continue.
So the pressure’s on, Mr. Alleva.
Bring fans back into the PMAC and you’ll officially be recognized as the leader of Tiger nation.
Struggle with your second-straight men’s basketball hire and you’ll continue to be that silly man who can’t hold a candle to Skip Bertman.
The choice is yours.
I prefer sweet to my sour.