Former LSU basketball coach Johnny Jones doesn’t yet know where he’ll be this fall, but he knows what he wants to be doing.
It doesn’t involve sitting around watching the leaves turn colors.
Jones, who will celebrate his 56th birthday on March 30, said Friday he hopes to be doing what he’s done for the past 33 years: conducting practices and coaching games.
In his first interview since being fired March 10 after five seasons as the head coach at his alma mater, Jones told The Advocate he wants to continue his coaching career if the right situation arises.
“I’m a basketball coach, look at our record and what we’ve been able to do over the years,” he said. “A lot has been accomplished, and there’s a lot more for us to offer and to give. We look forward to that opportunity, if it presents itself, to be able to do that.”
Jones’ tenure at LSU ended less than 48 hours after the Tigers completed a 10-21 season with a 79-52 setback to Mississippi State in the opening round of the Southeastern Conference tournament.
It was the first time Jones, who was hired in April 2012 to succeed Trent Johnson, had a losing record at the school after going 19-12, 20-14, 22-11 and 19-14 his first four seasons.
But after guiding the Tigers to the NCAA tournament just once in five seasons, combined with this year’s disappointing record, LSU athletic director Joe Alleva decided it was time for a change.
Jones, who will receive his base salary of $400,000 a year for the next two seasons from a contract that paid him $1.5 million annually, said he still has a burning desire to be a Division I coach.
Jones, who was 90-72 at LSU, is 295-234 overall in 17 seasons as a head coach — counting one year as the interim coach at Memphis and 11 seasons at North Texas.
“Shoot, this is obviously a bump in the road in our business that you go through,” he said. “I’ve been very blessed and fortunate to have the success that we have had and the places we’ve had them ... getting to the NCAA tournament, being able to recruit and creating the passion and environment we’ve had.
“I feel like we’ve run an unbelievable program from top to bottom and have done all the right things, so we’re looking forward to having an opportunity to share that with someone else."
Jones pointed out that all of the players who completed their eligibility under him have graduated and the program has had a consistently high academic progress rate (APR).
He said his players have also grown socially and spiritually as well as athletically and academically.
“We feel that we have the blueprint and don’t mind taking advantage of it," Jones said.
Still, he said some of it will depend on his family: wife Kelli and children John, who just completed his high school basketball career at University High, and Jillian, a senior-to-be for the U-High volleyball team.
“It’s about the family, and I have to make sure I do right by them,” he said.
In other words, it’s about being the right situation.
“I don’t do things just to do it,” Jones said. “You want to make sure you have the right opportunity, the right situation to be successful, and not necessarily a program that’s got a lot of wins.
“You have to look at it and see what the potential is and the reasons. It’s like coming back here. You knew the history and tradition of the program. It has to be a program that’s going to be supported and have everybody on board doing everything they can do so the program can be successful.”