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April 12, 2008
Roundtable: Best available coaching job
The football side of things came up with this idea, so we're stealing it. We're starting a College Basketball Roundtable, where each week we'll ask each member of the college basketball coverage staff for his opinion about a specific topic from the past week in college basketball.
THIS WEEK'S QUESTION: Which job that has come open this offseason is the best job?
When you look at the ability to win big coupled with less-than-intense pressure, you have to look at LSU.
The school has some tradition; there have been star players (Bob Pettit, Pete Maravich, Chris Jackson, Shaquille O'Neal) and some long runs in the NCAA Tournament (Final Fours in 1953, 1981, 1986 and 2006).
Given that LSU is a "football school," there is less of a media glare on the basketball program. Plus, you're in a division – the SEC West – where there is no established power.
Finally, in terms of being able to win big, Louisiana is a very fertile recruiting area. Keeping the best Louisiana kids in Louisiana would go a long way toward establishing LSU as a perennial top-20 team. If new coach Trent Johnson can do that, he'll give the Tigers fans something to look forward to other than National Signing Day and spring football practice in February and March. He'll also be paid handsomely for his endeavors.
If you look beyond the money at a job where you can win and win immediately, where not only do you have an excellent recruiting base but you have limited competition for it in your own state, then it's LSU.
Now, Trent Johnson did get a nice raise to leave Stanford. In fact, he roughly doubled his salary and is well into seven digits.
Can he get to a Final Four? The answer is a definitive yes. The guy he's replacing went to a Final Four just two years ago, and it's hardly a stretch to believe Johnson is a better X's and O's guy than the coach he's replacing.
How did the Tigers get to the Final Four? Try local talent. All five starters were from Louisiana. Three (Glen "Big Baby" Davis, Tyrus Thomas and Garrett Temple) were from Baton Rouge. Rivals.com's No. 1 player in the 2009 freshman class is Greg Monroe, who's headed to Georgetown. He is from – you guessed it – Louisiana.
Johnson need only throw a blanket around his state and he'll be competing for national championships. And he has no major-conference competition for those recruits inside the Louisiana borders.
Indiana seems like the obvious choice. After all, Tom Crean left behind a good team at Marquette to take over the Hoosiers program.
But I think Crean is going to find it tougher to win at Indiana. The Hoosiers are losing the Big Ten Freshman of the Year (Eric Gordon has decided to turn pro) and the Big Ten Player of the Year (D.J. White's eligibility is exhausted).
The Big Ten also promises to be much better in a couple of years. Michigan and Iowa made great hires in John Beilein and Todd Lickliter – two of the best X's and O's coaches in the game – last year. The same goes for Minnesota, which paid big bucks to hire Tubby Smith.
Plus, there is the possibility of the NCAA handing out more penalties for recruiting violations that occurred under the previous staff. Who knows how stiff they will be the second time around?
I think the answer to this question is Oklahoma State, which has plenty of tradition.
The next Cowboys coach also will have enough talent to win from Day One. James Anderson was one of the Big 12's top freshman last season. Senior point guard Byron Eaton and junior wing Obi Muonelo were five-star recruits. Moreover, the fan support in Stillwater is about as good as it gets. Gallagher-Iba Arena is the loudest venue in the Big 12.
Much has been made about the outrageous amounts of money that the Cowboys reportedly were tossing at Kansas coach Bill Self and the pressure that comes along with such a high price tag. But there is plenty of pressure to win at any big-time job.
I've never seen a coach ask for less money in return for more job security.