No Shock: Former Tigers thrilled with Johnny Jones hire

BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - LSU will formally introduce Johnny Jones as its men's head basketball coach at a news conference Monday afternoon.

It will certainly be no shock if that event becomes more like a pep rally, considering all of the locals who pushed for Jones to get the job. Don't be surprised if they pack the fifth floor of the LSU athletic building and cheer on the festivities.

"It shows God still answers prayers," laughed Rudy Macklin, a former LSU great from 1976-81.

Macklin, like countless other Tiger players and coaches, is thrilled "The Bullet" is finally getting his shot.

"Johnny is already wired in. He knows how to recruit. He's taken a school with smaller resources, a smaller budget, with lesser facilities and turned that into the best run in North Texas State history. Now, you bring him to a bigger venue and that holds well for LSU fans. With the signing deadline looming, you need a guy that can hit the ground running. And Johnny is already doing that," Macklin added.

Macklin and another former LSU star, Ethan Martin, both played with Jones at LSU when the Tigers reached the Final Four in 1981. That team finished with a 31-5 overall record and a 17-1 mark in the SEC. To this day, many LSU fans consider it to be the Tigers' greatest squad ever.

"It's great news," said Martin. "It couldn't happen to a better guy than Johnny Jones. He's waited his time. He did a great job at North Texas and I think he'll do a great job at LSU."

While LSU fans will always cherish their memories from the glory years, many seem to think going retro is the wrong call. Others like the idea of regaining LSU's link to Dale Brown's legacy. Jones played for Brown from 1980-84, before serving as his assistant coach in some capacity for 13 years, which included another trip to the Final Four in 1986.

"The past was a great time for us. Hopefully, Johnny will bring the past to the future. I know he will," Martin added.

Skeptics will quip they want no part of that past, if it has anything to do with NCAA probation. As great as the Brown years were, they finished terribly with the Lester Earl scandal that dropped the program to its knees. Jones' name was eventually cleared by the NCAA and Earl likewise apologized to him in a letter published by The Baton Rouge Advocate newspaper on August 22, 2007.

Still, what if fans aren't crazy about the hire?

"Then, they're crazy," former LSU guard TJ Pugh quipped with a smile on his face. "Coach Jones knows this area. He knows Louisiana and has proven he can recruit. He's one heck of a coach and good person also. I think the fans need to give him a chance."

Pugh also joked that remembering the days gone by isn't a bad thing.

"That's what I thought. I thought the past was pretty good. Living in the past, maybe that's where we need to be. Because the present sure hasn't been too prosperous," Pugh explained.

Pugh played at LSU from 1990-92, where he often lobbed thunderous alley-oops to living legend Shaquille O'Neal. O'Neal reportedly pushed hard behind the scenes for Jones to get the job.

Even LSU's previous two coaches, Trent Johnson and John Brady, endorsed him in some fashion. Former LSU golfing great David Toms even chimed in during the LSU baseball television broadcast Saturday night, calling it "a great hire" and that he's "very excited" for LSU basketball.

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