Johnson bolts LSU for TCU

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Baton Rouge’s worst kept secret was made official Sunday afternoon – LSU men’s basketball coach Trent Johnson is going to TCU.

The Tigers’ athletic department confirmed that Johnson had resigned from his post to make the leap to the upstart Big 12 program.

The resignation ends the coach’s tenure at LSU with a disappointing 67-64 record and one NCAA Tournament win.

LSU Athletics Director Joe Alleva said the resignation isn’t necessarily bad news for the Tigers.

“Sometimes coaching changes work out well for all parties involved, and we will take this opportunity to seek out the best coach for the long-term future of LSU men’s basketball, Alleva said.

Johnson’s tenure at LSU appeared initially to be a match made in heaven.

After two-straight seasons near the bottom of the pack under former coach John Brady, Johnson’s Tigers burst onto the national scene in the coach’s first season, posting a 27-8 record, including an SEC-best 13-3 conference record.

That season, the Tigers advanced to the NCAA Tournament, where LSU defeated Butler in an opening round game before dropping a tightly contested second-round tilt with eventual national champion North Carolina.

But program stalwarts like Marcus Thornton, Chris Johnson, Tasmin Mitchell, Garrett Temple and Terry Martin left the team following that season for graduation.

With a now-depleted depth chart, Johnson was never able to recruit top-tier talent to Baton Rouge to build on his first-year success.

As a result, the team suffered, posting just a combined 22-41 record in his second and third seasons with LSU – both marks poor enough to place the Tigers in last place in the SEC.

LSU rebounded this past year and reached the NIT with an 18-15 record. But the modest success was not enough to keep Johnson in Baton Rouge.

The now-former LSU coach told Tiger Rag Magazine in an exclusive interview that money was a big reason for his departure.

The coach disclosed that the Horned Frogs will pay him $2.3 million per season for the next six years. That total is up from the $1.3 million Johnson was owed next year in Baton Rouge.

Alleva said when crunching the numbers, he saw that the decision was one Johnson had to make.

“I wish Trent all the best in his new job,” Alleva said.

With Johnson gone in Baton Rouge, the attention immediately shifts to a replacement.

Alleva said he hasn’t begun talking to candidates yet, but he wants an energetic coach who will revitalize the program.

“We will move quickly but deliberately to find a coach who will lead our program with integrity and discipline, someone who will recruit effectively in order to build championship teams while inspiring success in academics, and someone who will energize our fan base,” the LSU athletics director said.

Names like Baylor coach Scott Drew, UTEP’s Tim Floyd and even Marquette’s Buzz Williams have been rumored as possible candidates due to their Louisiana ties.

But Johnson’s parting words were an endorsement. The now-former LSU coach said he believes one man can return LSU to relevance – former LSU player and longtime Tigers’ assistant and current North Texas coach Johnny Jones, who has posted a 190-156 record with two NCAA Tournament berths in 11 years with the team.

“There’s only one person who can come in and get it done,” Johnson told Tiger Rag Magazine in an exclusive interview. “And that’s Johnny Jones.”

Whether Alleva heeds Johnson’s advice remains uncertain.

But there will definitely be a new coach this fall in Baton Rouge.

The Trent Johnson era has seen its final days.

Hamilton opts for NBA Draft

The news of Johnson’s departure wasn’t the only blow dealt to the Tigers’ program this week.

LSU junior center Justin Hamilton announced that he is foregoing his final eligibility and is entering his name into the NBA Draft.

Hamilton’s career with the Tigers will end after one season during which the 7-foot center averaged 12.9 points, 7.2 rebounds and 1.4 blocks per game.

“I would like to thank my coaches, the administration and all the teachers that have helped me along the way,” Hamilton said. “They have all provided me with a great experience at LSU. I will graduate next month and I am getting married this summer. I am ready to take the next step in my life.”

The junior center’s decision comes as a bit of a shock to those with knowledge of the NBA realm.

Hamilton landed at LSU following two seasons at Iowa State. In his first season with the Tigers, the junior impressed and was a definitive difference maker on and off the floor.

But even with the success, most draft boards have Hamilton either going late in the second round or going undrafted, which has many wondering why the 7-footer isn’t coming back to LSU to improve his stock.

Either way, Johnson said he supports the center in his endeavors, adding that he will graduate this spring, so his obligations to the program are complete.

“His development from the time he arrived prior to the 2010-11 season has been very impressive,” Johnson said. “During this process, our responsibility as a basketball staff was to make sure we educated Justin and his family of the many challenges that will lie in front of him. He will graduate from LSU this semester and will have his degree in hand. I, and the members of our program, wish him nothing but the best in his future.”

Former LSU coach Trent Johnson