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04/09/2012

Trent Johnson to TCU has a big "maybe" feeling

TrentFORT WORTH - A big day for the TCU men's basketball program.

No. 1 It hired a new coach, Trent Johnson.
No. 2 Baylor is in trouble with the NCAA.

One of the main problems the TCU program has suffered for years is that its fan base has been left to cheer for the failures of its rivals rather than having something to support on its own.

I am not sure Johnson's introduction changes that. The general reaction from Horned Frog nation has been, "Huh? Who?"

I had the same reaction. But my impression changed after I met him. Maybe it can work. Maybe. This is a very hard job, and the reality is it may be a better gig for his successor, should this not work out.

Johnson is candid. He is feisty. He playfully took exception to NBC 5 reporter Newy Scruggs' question during the press conference about TCU making the NCAA tournament. 

"Why are you asking me that?" Johnson said, half jokingly. His point was he had not met his players, seen them play, so how could he possibly evaluate anything. He wants until November when he has a chance to see what he has before he answering such questions.

This is 2012, and once donors and boosters became part-time athletic directors "fairness" left big-time college athletics. Because one or two recruits can change things in men's basketball, people believe bigger improvements should be quicker.

I told him given that the standard in his business is a bid to the 68-team NCAA tournament, the question is fair. All it requires is some rah-rah stuff.

"People have to understand these are not the days of (former NC State coach Jim Valvano) and (former LSU coach) Dale Brown," Johnson said. "Things are different now. You can't can't get away with that type of stuff any more and if you do you're going to get caught."

10813562-large(Hmmm ... he couldn't be talking about a school in Waco, could he? Probably not.)
His point is building takes time.

With a 6-year contract that is worth about $1.3 mil per year, Johnson is going to get time to build TCU men's basketball. For both his sake and that of the school, I do hope it works.

Here is very likely what happened: TCU AD Chris Del Conte called everyone up to and including Pitt's Jamie Dixon and Marquette's Buzz Williams to gauge their interest. Once it became apparent the price tag to land a supreme coach at a "basketball" school was going to be at least $2 million per year, not to mention the pay increases for the assistants and other financial assurances, TCU had to scale back its expectations.

It does not sound like TCU was ready to more than triple its "operating" costs so quickly. The Frogs are going to have to win first before the stupid money pours in.

TCU found a man who has built (Nevada) and sustained (Stanford, LSU) winners, and was obviously ready to leave Baton Rouge. It's apparent he wanted out of LSU, and the Tigers weren't getting in the way of his exit.

"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," LSU athletic director Joe Alleva said on the school's website. "I wish Trent all the best in his new job."

Nowhere in the statement included a 'Thank you for a tremendous job ... blah blah blah".

I asked Johnson if he was given any verbal or contractual assurances if upgrades to the facilities were coming. He said no; he sounds convinced they will. TCU has improved everything else, so it is hard not to have faith that the renovations will happen.

Johnson may not be Jamie Dixon, but there is enough on his resume to suggest he may be able to win at TCU. He built a nothing program into a winner at Nevada. He won at a power conference in the Pac 10 and SEC.

For his sake, I hope he adapts to this job quickly. As written before, TCU requires some back-slapping and salesmanship that if he doesn't enjoy doing he better at least try.

Johnson says he runs a closed practice. You close practices when you win. If he thought interest in LSU Tigers basketball was low wait until he coaches a game here. Johnson says he needs everybody to buy in, including the community. That means he needs to go out into the community and sell himself as well as his program.

He will also need to get lucky and convince a few recruits to come to a place that for so long did not make basketball a priority.

Johnson is not coming into an ideal situation, but expectations are not high and he has won before at the highest level.

Maybe it will work.
If nothing else if you are a TCU fan, you can always enjoy Baylor's bad day.

 

@MacEngelProf
tengel@star-telegram.com
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Comments

TCU Fan 4 Life

Love to see our basketball team get fixed. I'm as hopeful as the next guy but I just don't see it happening. Culturally we just aren't considered a basketball school. I'm eturnally hopeful but I'm not going to hold my breathe. I think the new coach sounds great and looks great, and I'll support the new guy. But seeing is believing. Love to see this guy and the kids he recruits put us on the basketball map.

Jim R.

Hope springs eturnal. Go TCU.

rocketman9495

Unless he gets top recruits, TCU will never win anything in Mens basketball and you can mark it down!!!!

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