- Gary Laney, Reporter, GeauxTigerNation
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For some, it was perfect fit.
For others, LSU settled for something less.
Now that Johnny Jones, the Louisiana native and LSU graduate , has the head men's basketball coach position at his alma mater, it's up to him to prove the former true. Because he will be walking into a divided Tiger nation.
As a native Louisianian from the small town of DeRidder who played on the 1981 Final Four team and started his coaching career as a Dale Brown assistant, his supporters say he's the guy to turn around a program that has failed to sustain consistent success since the Shaquille O'Neal days.
To his detractors, he's the guy who was on the LSU staff when the Lester Earl scandal happened (he was cleared of wrongdoing). And he's a mid-major coach with a modestly successful record, a 205-162 worksheet that includes 11 seasons at Sun Belt Conference member North Texas where he managed just one division championship and two NCAA Tournament appearances, neither yielding a win.
For these people, he can't "win" his introductory press conference Monday. Those who thought LSU should have dumped the state treasury at the feet of Shaka Smart or Jamie Dixon won't be swayed by anything Jones has to say when the formal unveiling happens.
But he will have two chances to win over the detractors, all before his first LSU team takes the floor for a game.
You see, Jones' best attribute, the thing that supposedly separates him from his predecessor Trent Johnson and all the other candidates athletic Joe Alleva interviewed since Johnson left last week for TCU, is his ability to recruit.
That reputation will be put to the test right away. And by right away, it mean he's already working from behind.
This is the middle of the spring signing period, and with LSU having five scholarships available to give, we'll see what Jones can come up with by the time the signing period ends in mid-May. His supporters have promised that Jones will be the pied piper, that the players will come specifically to play for him.
Time to prove it.
There are available players out there that can supplement the eight players already in the program. And Jones, as is often the case in these situations, will have to "re-recruit" a couple of the holdover players.
Jones will have a chance to make an impression. And he'll get an even bigger chance to do it again in the fall.
Not only will Jones have more time to recruit for 2013 and not be limited by what's left in a late signing period, he will be able to recruit in Louisiana, a state that has a particularly strong 2013 class.
Jarrell Martin, the talented forward from Madison Prep in Baton Rouge, is rated No. 20 in the ESPN 60. Brian Bridgewater, another local prospect from Baton Rouge's Episcopal, will likely move into the rankings when the list is expanded to 100 when they are seniors.
It's a chance for Jones to land a class that will quiet the critics, all before they have a chance to complain about the first bad pass, questionable shot or missed block out that might happen in the winter.
If he pulls some recruiting rabbits out of his hat in the next few weeks then follows that by landing a Martin and a Bridgewater, all the critics who say he wasn't a big-time hire will join his supporters in a hardy course of Kumbaya.
And he can get this done all before his first game.
If you had to envision a successful Jones tenure, that will be how he does it. He salvages the 2012 signing period. He lands the big names in the 2013 class, follows by landing highly-touted New Orleans forward Craig Victor in the 2014 class, then brings in what's supposed to be a star-studded 2016 class in Louisiana some in the state's grass roots basketball community are already calling as good as the class that produced Glenn Davis and Tyrus Thomas (who led LSU to the Final Four).
It's all about recruiting and, conveniently for a coach who is known for his recruiting ties in Louisiana, it's all about keeping some bumper crops home.
For Jones, Monday is not the big unveiling.
Those will come on signing days.
For some, it was perfect fit.For others, LSU settled for something less.Now that Johnny Jones, the Louisiana native and LSU graduate , has the head men's basketball coach position at his alma mater, it's up to him to prove the former true.