Johnny Jones didn’t hesitate when he was asked at Wednesday’s postseason news conference if he did a good job coaching the LSU men’s basketball team this season.
He answered yes. Immediately. And he repeated himself when the question came up later.
It’s the kind of answer sure to draw lots of incredulous reponses and arched eyebrows from Tiger fans everywhere, especially in the wake of that offensive ice age LSU found itself in during the final 10 minutes of its NCAA first-round loss to North Carolina State.
Kneejerk reactions are often negative, but the verdict on Jones and the job he did this season shouldn’t be.
Could the Tigers have done better than 22-11 and one-and-done in the SEC and NCAA tournaments? Absolutely. Could Jones have made some moves, pushed buttons, gotten his team to execute an inbounds pass that would have made a difference? Certainly.
But for a team bereft of NCAA experience, and lacking any semblance of a dependable bench, Johnny was good.
The challenge, the demand really, is to be better. Even without All-SEC forward Jarell Martin, who officially declared Wednesday for the NBA draft. Potentially without All-SEC forward Jordan Mickey, who still must finalize his draft choice (interesting side note: Mickey was absent from Martin’s news conference Wednesday).
Only the most sour soul would say that LSU’s program hasn’t made progress in Jones’ three seasons: from 19 wins and home for March to 21 wins and the NIT last season to 22 wins and the program’s first NCAA appearance in six years this time.
Recruiting and program relevance have been slam dunks under Jones. Having a late-game plan to help his team reverse some of these close late losses needs polishing.
But the fact that folks will react, emotionally, to Jones’ critique of the job he did last season is meaningful in itself. It’s been a long time since people cared this much about LSU basketball, and Jones deserves credit for that.
For now, that is a good job in itself.
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