Basketball program lagging behind in Tigertown


It is a small but noisy group. They are the ones calling for the ouster of LSU men's basketball coach Johnny Jones.

That noise ramped up since the Tigers finished the SEC tournament with a 71-38 shellacking at the hands of Texas A&M.

LSU's win total stood at 19. It was supposed to be much higher, especially with freshman Ben Simmons, the top player nationally in the class of 2015, leading the way.

There are many reasons why LSU basketball was a big fizzle. You can debate the whys, and while you do, I will ask this question:

Is LSU basketball a program that should win big or win big on occasion?

Me? I am choosing door No. 2. Why? Because history says so.

LSU has had one Elite 8 appearance since 1987.

The most famous athlete in the history of LSU, Shaquille O'Neal, never made it out of the second round of the NCAA Tournament.

Since Dale Brown left the bench 19 years ago, LSU men's basketball has had four coaches. John Brady, who was chastised for his alleged thorny personality, had success. The 2000 Tigers reached the Sweet 16. Six years later, LSU would play in the Final Four for the first time since 1986.

Then came Trent Johnson from Nevada, who with a team Brady and assistant Butch Pierre recruited, won 27 games and an SEC title. Three years later, Johnson was gone.

So, LSU reached for one of its own in Jones. Jones was one victory shy of winning 20 games for three consecutive seasons. The last time that happened was under Brown in 1993. Like Brown, Jones has the label of great recruiter and average coach.

If, in the future, LSU is looking to hire a great coach, and a great recruiter, it had better open up its checkbook. According to AL.com, Jones, at $1.5 million per season, is the 11th-highest paid coach in the Southeastern Conference.

Alabama paid $2.8 million per season to acquire the services of New Orleans native Avery Johnson.

High school basketball in Louisiana produces its share of good players. But, there isn't a pipeline of talent. LsU must go out of state to recruit great players, the ones being recruited by all the big basketball schools. Which LSU isn't.

LSU football and LSU baseball can cast a net nationally and bring in some of the most talented. That hasn't happened in basketball since Brown's heyday in the early '80s.

On the first day of spring football practice, dozens of reporters waited outside for a chance to go inside LSU's practice just to watch individual drills.

The presence of all those media types just to watch a few minutes spoke volumes about what is king on the LSU campus, and what isn't.

In basketball, LSU is a middle-tier entity.

Which is just where they finished this season.

Ed Daniels is sports director of ABC26 WGNO. He can be reached at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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