NEW ORLEANS LSU men’s basketball coach Johnny Jones may have second thoughts about signing a one-and-done talent in the future.
Make that former LSU coach Johnny Jones.
LSU athletic director Joe Alleva fired Jones on Friday, two days after the Tigers were ousted by Mississippi State 79-51 in the first round of the SEC Tournament in Nashville, Tenn.. The loss put an exclamation point on a dreadful 10-21 season, including 2-16 in conference play.
Incredulously, the Tigers were 9-4, 1-1 in the SEC in early January, when trouble began percolating. A school-record 15 consecutive losses and 1-17 finish ultimately spelled Jones’ demise. He ends a five-year run at LSU as the school’s fourth winningest coach with a 90-72 record that featured the first four seasons with no fewer than 19 wins.
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A member of LSU’s Final Four team in 1981 and a longtime assistant to former LSU coach Dale Brown, Jones leaves with two years remaining on his contract. He will be paid a settlement of $915,00 of his remaining $3 million in total compensation.
It marks the second high-profile men’s coach Alleva has dismissed in six months. Football coach Les Miles was fired Sept. 26 four games into his 12th season at LSU.
Alleva said LSU Deputy AD Eddie Nunez will oversee the program until a new coach is hired. A search firm and staff members will assist Alleva in the search process.
While it’s easy to point to this season as Jones’ downfall, I’m of the opinion that the skid was greased a year ago when NBA-bound freshman phenom Ben Simmons and a talented supporting cast failed to reach the postseason.
Yes, the Tigers finished 19-14 overall, 11-7 in conference play. But but an embarrassing 71-38 loss to Texas A&M that bordered on a team quitting on its coach in the SEC Tournament semifinals served to punctuate what had deteriorated into a totally dysfunctional roster by season’s end.
Jones’ curious decision to decline an NIT invitation exacerbated the issue and abruptly ended Simmons’ mostly disappointing one-and-done season. While proving to be a bona fide NBA talent (Philadelphia madLSUe him the No. 1 overall draft pick in June), Simmons’ basketball brilliance did more to divide the team than to conquer and there were few tears shed when he entered the draft.
When asked recently if he had any regrets signing Simmons, Jones said “no“ and would do it again.
To which I say, Jones got caught up in the collateral damage of his own doing and ended up one-and-done as well after Simmons’ departure.
Too bad because Jones deserved a better ending.
As Brown recently said, Jones will bounce back, “just not at LSU.”
Brian Allee-Walsh, a long-time sports reporter based in New Orleans, can be reached at email@example.com.