April 9, 2012

New Chapter

When Trent Johnson was introduced as TCU new men's basketball coach on Monday, he wasted no time letting the masses know what expectations he has for a program which had long been down and forgotten and is headed to the Big 12 next season, as well as for himself.

"I have been doing this for a long, long time and one of the things I never lost sight of is a university's quality and more importantly quality players," Johnson said.

"For me, I'm just a grinder. I am a morning, noon and night guy. I wished I golfed, wish I had some social life. My life is in the gym and in sports and my life is based on making sure these kids get a good education and play good basketball and my family."

Johnson takes over at the helm for the Frogs just eight days after Jim Christian, who led the Frogs to their first winning season and postseason appearance since 2004-05 last year, informed the university he was moving on to take the head coaching position at Ohio University.

"The challenge is one that we're all going to have to do together," Johnson said. "We're going to work our tails off to get this thing to an elite level in a hurry."

A Boise State grad, Johnson has a 226-185 career mark as head coach and previously had coaching stops at Nevada, Stanford and LSU. He was named SEC Coach of the Year and led the Tigers to the NCAA Tournament in his first season in 2008-09.

"I am battle-tested," said Johnson, who said he left LSU for "opportunity and challenge."

Johnson has taken both Nevada and Stanford to the Sweet 16 of the NCAA tournament and was named Coach of the Year in the WAC (2002-2003), Pac-10 (2007-08) along with the SEC honor.

Johnson struggled his second and third seasons at LSU, combining for 22 overall five conference victories in the two seasons, but led the Tigers to the NIT this past season.

At TCU, he said he hopes to create a lasting legacy and said he looked to one of the school's most successful programs for motivation.

"This is where I want to lay my bed and lay my stone and I am comfortable in saying this is where I want to be for the rest of my life," Johnson said. "I look at Coach Patterson and what he has been able to achieve."

Johnson said he plans to bring three LSU assistants with him to TCU in Donny Guerinoni, Brent Scott and Mitch Johnson but it still remains unclear which TCU assistants, if any, would remain on staff.

Johnson mentioned TCU's "academic profile", going into the Big 12 and having a talent pool in his backyard as just a few of the reasons he decided to take the job.

Recruiting

Known as a quality recruiter, Johnson was peppered with questions as to what his recruiting strategies would be and whether they would change given the level of talent in the Dallas-Fort Worth area.

"I have experience nationwide. With the DFW area, there's enough players to go around," he said. "It is extremely important that the best players in your area and the best players in the state attend the university.

"If you look at the tradition and history of the good programs, the good players have stayed home,' he continued. "For me, our success has been getting out and developing relationships with the high school coaches and AAU coaches."

Johnson mentioned knowing long-time Fort Worth Dunbar coach Robert Hughes as well as recruiting Dallas Skyline on several occasions.


NOTES

Style of play: On how he would run on-court business, Johnson said: "We are going to play as fast as we play well. I give the kids a lot of freedom on offense and the bottom line for me is they are going to defend, they are going to rebound, they are going to take care of the ball and they'll play extremely hard."

Past foe: Johnson coached against long-time NBA staple and former Frog Kurt Thomas and remembers the big man well. "I thought he was a pain," Johnson said. "I remember Kurt Thomas as a special player."

On the Big 12: "There's some similarities," Johnson said. "There's five guys that have been to the Final Four…The one thing that has always stood out to me is this league is very physical and they play very, very hard."

No media, no public: After his press conference, Johnson said he would close his team's practices to the media and public.

Facilities: Johnson joked that Del Conte was trying to scare him away after he was showed the facilities but said in the scope of things, facilities were not all-important. "When we were at Nevada, we had a locker room half that size, and they didn't stop (an elite recruit) from coming," he said.

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