With the recent news that head basketball coach Trent Johnson would be accepting the TCU Horned Frogs offer to become their head coach as they head into their first Big 12 season, LSU fans have been wondering who LSU would target to replace Johnson. There has been very little movement this off-season, mostly due to the fact that no major program has had an opening. Illinois was the biggest opening, and their hiring of Ohio's John Groce didn't result in a big movement of coaches from one major school to another. In my opinion, it's unlikely that LSU is able to cause a big movement of coaches either. Here's why:
First, I'm not convinced LSU is willing to pay out the big bucks to get a big name coach from another major program. Most coaches at a decent basketball school will be making around 1.7 million a year. In addition to that, any program with a successful coach would likely offer an increase to that coach, so LSU would have to not only match that increase on the 1.7 million, but increase it. The numbers add up really quick. For only $300,000 that it might take for Baylor to keep Scott Drew in place, LSU would have to offer at least 2.3 million, and likely more to get him to leave Waco. When you consider that Johnson was only making 1.5 million, I start to get skeptical that LSU will double their head coach's salary over the weekend.
In addition to that, you probably already noticed that LSU is in bad shape for next year. With Justin Hamilton's departure, in addition to seniors Storm Warren, Malcolm White, and Chris Bass, LSU is likely to have a small team anyway you measure it. In terms of actual players, we will have only eight players as of right now. Without a coach, I imagine that any last minute recruiting is also halted, making it more difficult to get a late in the season pick up. Our team will also be small in terms of height, with only three players that are forwards. It would be mighty difficult for any coach to win with the current roster, and I don't think it's likely that someone would give up a team that is already well established.
Lastly is the culture and geography, as they kind of go together. It's no secret that LSU is situated in the middle of football country. During this time of year, it's no secret that fans are more excited for spring football games than they are for the NCAA tournament. Athletes, both in Louisiana and in surrounding states, are more likely to play football than they are to play basketball. As a result, there's simply less basketball talent for LSU to pick from in their recruiting area. It's not necessarily an excuse for LSU not to have a decent basketball team, but it does make it harder for any coach at LSU because they will need to win recruiting battles in other states as opposed to at home.
I know some feel that "anyone but Johnson" is the way to go, but being free from Johnson doesn't mean LSU is in a good position, at least not yet. We already know that the SEC is getting stronger with new members Texas AM and Missouri, but it is also getting stronger out east with South Carolina's introduction of Frank Martin as their head coach. It's not a good time for LSU to be down, simply because it will take a much better coach to quickly get LSU to the middle of the conference.
Knowing all of that, here's a quick list of the names that have popped up, coaches that may be interested, and coaches that are more likely to fill our vacancy.
Brad Stevens(Butler)- He's unlikely to leave Butler unless it is for a blue blood.
Shaka Smart(VCU)- Same as above. Illinois already tried offering $3,000,000 and they couldn't get him away from VCU.
Bruce Pearl(N/A)- He's a cheater that can't even recruit until 2014.
Gregg Marshall- I'm not so sure he's going to stay put until a blue blood opens up, but he's making good money at Wichita State already, and already turned down a $2,000,000+ offer from Nebraska. I doubt LSU can get him.
Thanks But No Thanks
Scott Drew(Baylor)- I think he will get a call with a decent offer, but like I said above, I think Baylor could get close enough to our offer and keep him there. He's got a great thing going and I don't think he would risk it.
Jamie Dixon(Pitt)- I'm not sure where all of the rumors for Dixon moving are coming from, because it isn't just LSU fans that have talked about it, but I don't think Dixon will leave Pitt unless it is a step up. Like Drew, he's making $1,700,000 a year, so LSU would have to match whatever increase Pittsburgh might offer to keep him and beat it. With a move to the ACC coming soon and massive increase in TV revenue, Pitt will have the money. The only difference between him and Drew is that he hasn't been as successful this year and is having problems with transfers. Of course, he set the bar so high that a 22-17 season looks bad because it was the first time he didn't make the NCAA tournament.
Chris Mack(Xavier)- I would have put him in the unrealistic category, but I'm not quite sure he's making enough at Xavier to totally rule him out. From what little I could find, the estimates were somewhere between $500,000 and $1,000,000 with out-dated data. It's also not reported because Xavier is a private university. If LSU is able to throw a lot of money at him, he may be interested, but I think he will wait for a better opening.
Kermit Davis(MTSU)- Based on the simple fact that he's a former LSU assistant and coming off a decent year at Middle Tennessee, I think it's likely that he gets a call from LSU and would be interested. I can't say that I would be excited about the hire, because he's never made the NCAA tournament. Of course, Cuonzo Martin never did before being hired by Tennessee, and he looks to be a strong hire for the Vols. It would be a dice roll with Davis, and it might be a cheaper option if LSU isn't willing to spend the big bucks.
Marvin Menzies(NMSU)- If LSU was situated farther out west, I would actually think hiring Menzies would be a good hire. He's spent most of his coaching career out in California before getting his first head coaching job at New Mexico State. He's been to the tournament twice in 5 years, and has been near the top of the standings in the WAC every year. He doesn't have the big resume that the other coaches have, but given more resources he could be a good hire...for a Pac 12 team. After Johnson, I'm not sure a west coast coach will work at LSU.
Johnny Jones(UNT)- A former LSU player and assistant, Jones probably appears to be the most likely replacement because of his ties to LSU. He's the current coach of the North Texas Mean Green, and has held that position for 10 years. He's had a pretty up and down career there, with seasons ranging from 7-21 to 24-9. He has made the NCAA tournament twice, but never made it out of the first round. If I was Vegas, I'm probably establishing Jones as the favorite to land the LSU job, but as a fan I wouldn't be blown away with his hire. I know others would be more excited than I because he is an LSU guy, but I'm not sure that makes him the best available candidate. I'm just hoping that LSU settles for him rather than targeting him, although that sounds cruel to say about a fellow Tiger.