The month-long search to find a successor to Paul Mainieri has reportedly come to an end.
Kendall Rodgers of D1Baseball was the first to report Thursday evening that LSU will hire Arizona head coach Jay Johnson to the same position.
BREAKING: @LSUbaseball has hired @ArizonaBaseball’s Jay Johnson as its next head coach, sources told @d1baseball. Johnson led #Arizona to two @NCAACWS appearance in six seasons with the program. #LSU #GeauxTigers https://t.co/MSW3nQZ2jN pic.twitter.com/WKg0xqJuLS— Kendall Rogers (@KendallRogers) June 24, 2021
Johnson, 44, has spent the last six seasons coaching the Wildcats and led Arizona to two appearances in the College World Series. Johnson’s first year in Tucson saw Arizona reach the College World Series championship series but ultimately finished second to Coastal Carolina. This year Arizona won the Pac-12, earned the No. 5 national seed in the NCAA Tournament, and reached Omaha before being eliminated after two games by Vanderbilt and Stanford. Johnson was also named the Pac-12’s coach of the year this season.
Under Johnson, Arizona had one of the more potent offenses in baseball. Arizona led Division 1 baseball in runs scored and doubles, was fourth in batting average and tied for 32nd in home runs. Johnson’s approach could be a perfect match for the talent currently on hand at LSU as the Tigers finished fifth in the country in home runs.
The hiring of Johnson ends one of the wilder coaching searches in recent years. A who’s who of coaches were linked to the LSU job. First it was Florida skipper Kevin O’Sullivan. Then, former Oregon State coach Pat Casey was reportedly the frontrunner for the job and even visited Baton Rouge. But that fell apart thanks in no small part to Casey’s connection with former Beaver pitcher Luke Heimlich, who pleaded guilty to molesting his six-year-old niece prior to Heimlich enrolling at Oregon State. With the Title IX lawsuit against LSU looming it would have been tone deaf beyond belief to bring in Casey.
Several other names emerged as candidates to be the next LSU baseball coach. LSU reportedly had varying levels of interest in East Carolina head coach Cliff Godwin, a former Mainieri assistant, Ole Miss coach Mike Bianco, Tennessee coach Tony Vitello, Vanderbilt coach Tim Corbin, and Notre Dame coach Link Jarrett. The Athletic’s Brody Miller also reported that Paul Mainieri “advocated” for Virginia head coach Brian O’Connor.
Johnson has spent his entire life out West. A California native, Johnson graduated from a liberal arts school in San Diego; from there he was an assistant at the University of San Diego and helped turn the Toreros into one of the West Coast Conference’s best, making six NCAA regionals in an eight year span. Johnson then coached for two years at Nevada and won the Mountain West in his second season before taking over at Arizona.