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Insider

Alleva will earn pay with this search

4/10/2012

Joe Alleva's base salary as LSU's director of athletics is $525,000 a year, according to various reports.

It's times like these when he earns it.

He's caught in a search for a men's basketball coach where a local candidate has emerged in Johnny Jones. But the North Texas coach isn't universally the local favorite. And that will make for an interesting and difficult dynamic for Alleva to navigate.

Jones, a Louisiana native and former LSU player, has a good record as a mid-major head coach - 205-162 - and a lot of notable public local endorsements, including outgoing coach Trent Johnson, who just departed for TCU, long-time LSU coach Dale Brown (Jones' coach at LSU and his boss as an LSU assistant coach) and noted former player Collis Temple, Jr.

But that record is not such a slam dunk that he is the shoe-in, no-brainer choice to many people. He's not a major college household name and as a mid-major coach, he's not the first to be connected to a bigger job like Shaka Smart or Brad Stevens.

So here's Alleva's dilemma: If you go to Jones quickly, there will be a large segment of the fan base that may look at it as settling or caving to an old-boy network. If you go with somebody who isn't as tied to the program as Jones, you run the risk of alienating some who see Jones as a return to the LSU glory days of the 1980s, when he played on the Final Four Tigers team and was an assistant coach on another.

What to do?

If you look at the past history of Alleva, you'd expect him to go for the home run hire.

When LSU women's basketball had an opening last year, he was able to land a hot up-and-comer in Nikki Caldwell. In softball, he briefly hired one of the sport's biggest names from a conference rival when he hired Alabama's Patrick Murphy (who lasted three days in Baton Rouge before having a change of heart and returning to Alabama). His first hire for LSU was Johnson.

In three important searches on the LSU campus, Alleva hired three coaches with no significant past affiliation with LSU, but with impressive histories as major college head coaches.

Why would one expect the approach to be any different this time and for this job?

Let's say he is able to attract a hot up-and-coming coach. The pro-Jones crowd would be impressed and at the end, most would welcome the move.

Hire an "outside the program" candidate that isn't from an A-list and you open yourself up to a fan base split on the new coach because some will think Jones would have been better, a strong emotional response for many who feel they were just burned by the "non-LSU" hire in Johnson.

On the other hand, if you hire Jones before you at least make a run at an A-lister - a run that has to come across as very public and very sincere - then you set yourself for the criticism that you should have aimed higher.

Caught in the middle is Jones. While he does have the endorsement of a lot of people with long-time ties to the program, it would be unfair to portray serious consideration of him as head coach to be simply the result of some sort of cronyism. North Texas was awful when he became the head coach and he has turned it into a program that regularly competes at the high end of its conference.

There's also the issue of Jones' part in the Lester Earl NCAA investigation which could factor with Alleva, who will likely stear clear from any candidate with past NCAA issues (especially after football just dealt with its own slap on the wrist). On the other hand, Jones has had 11 years free of NCAA incidents as a head coach at North Texas and there's the whole issue of Earl's eventual apology for what he said was his lies about Jones' role in the whole fiasco.

So it points to what seems like a logical conclusion: Go for the home run. If you hit it with a big name, everybody's happy. If you make a run at it and fail, then the backup candidate becomes more acceptable.