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Jeff Eisenberg

LSU's Trent Johnson will return next year despite losing streak

Jeff Eisenberg
The Dagger

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How differently SEC schools approach football and basketball has never been more apparent than in LSU athletic director Joe Alleva's response to a question about coach Trent Johnson's job security.

Alleva told the New Orleans Times Picayune on Wednesday that Johnson will coach the Tigers next season despite two rocky seasons after a surprise SEC title run in his first year in Baton Rouge. LSU fell at home to Alabama on Thursday night, a ninth straight SEC loss that dropped the Tigers' record to 10-16 overall after they nearly went winless in conference play last year.

"I don't care if we lose 20 games in a row this year, the program is in good shape and is going to be just fine," Alleva said. "You've just got to let it play out. I see a lot of good things for next year. People just need to have some patience."

While a coach with heavy West Coast ties like Johnson may have been an unusual hire for Alleva in spring 2008, the athletic director is making the right choice in showing patience instead of making a rash change. Three freshmen from Johnson's 2010 recruiting class are starting this season and McDonald's All-American Johnny O'Bryant and Iowa State transfer Justin Hamilton should fortify the front court next season.

The SEC championship Johnson won his first season in Baton Rouge was somewhat of a fluke because the Tigers did it with a senior-laden team and junior Tasmin Mitchell. Instead of replenishing the program quickly with junior college products and transfers, Johnson has built the program with four-year players in hopes that it will pay off in the long run.

"Nobody feels worse than the players or I do," Johnson told the Times Picayune. "Everybody wants instant gratification; they don't have patience right now. I understand. But I always believed it's better to understand than to be understood."

Attendance for Thursday night's game against SEC West-leading Alabama was sparse, a trend that suggests Alleva's patience can only subsist so long.

It's understandable that Johnson will get a fourth year to revitalize LSU's basketball program next season, but he'd be wise to show signs of progress or there may not be a fifth.

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