The whistle blows and Johnny Jones steps to cenTer court with his team to begin another season as the head coach of the LSU men's basketball team.
While he calmly imparts the message for that day's workout session to his eager group of Tigers, inside there is a burning desire to continue to move the program forward and the passion to compete. It's the same passion he showed LSU fans in the early 1980s as a point guard on the Tiger basketball teams. It's the same passion he showed as an assistant for many years with Coach Dale Brown.
The burning desire and passion, combined with the love of his alma mater that has made Jones and LSU a strong fit together as he enters his fifth year as head coach. Jones has proven his recruiting ability with multiple top five ranked classes and 80 wins in four years at LSU, the most four-year win total by any head coach in school history.
In fact, his first three wins in the 2016-17 season will push him past both C. C. Stroud and Press Maravich into fourth on the LSU Coaches win list behind only the three longest tenured coaches in school history who combined to handle the head coaching position for a period of 65 years.
More notably, all four years he has posted non-losing seasons in the difficult Southeastern Conference and his 40 league wins is the second best start among present league coaches who have been on the job at least four years.
But there are more numbers that have to be taken into account when it comes to Jones' first-four years at LSU:
13 – Number of graduates in four years … Every basketball player that has reached their senior season with the program under Jones has graduated from LSU, including three who returned to school during his tenure.
1 – No. 1 NBA Draft selection (Ben Simmons, 2016) … Simmons became just the second LSU player to be picked No. 1 in the draft, joining Shaquille O'Neal (who Coach Jones was on the bench for as an assistant at LSU).
4 – NBA Draft selections last three years. -- Johnny O'Bryant III (2014, Milwaukee); Jarell Martin (1st rd, Memphis, 2015)) and Jordan Mickey (Boston, 2015); and, Ben Simmons (No. 1, Philadelphia) in 2016.
80 – Wins (three shy of moving into fourth all-time at LSU)
2 – Post-season appearances
9 – All-SEC selections
3 -- Ranking in college basketball in 2016 in increase in average attendance from 8,897 in 2015 to 11,383 this past season.
$200,000 – Money raised for Baton Rouge area flood relief by the Shaquille O'Neal-Coach Johnny Jones Golf Tournament.
For Jones, just the fifth LSU alum to hold the top position in the men's basketball program and the third to have played and serve as head coach, his beliefs about reaching out to fans and giving them an exciting style of basketball to watch in the Pete Maravich Assembly Center has been a strong selling point to fans and recruits alike.
Jones, in his coaching career, has aimed to put teams on the floor that will play hard from start to finish and play a style of basketball that makes players want to come to LSU to showcase their talent in a team concept. His teams have averaged well over 70 points a game the last four years and has shown the ability to rally when necessary, including 10 times when down by five or more at the half.
Jones has a job that he has been preparing for years to accept and that call to be the head coach at LSU came on April 13, 2012. He returned to a place he had spent many years playing and coaching. It was the dream job scenario and what he did after leaving LSU the first time prepared him to make this return successful.
This will be Jones 22nd year as part of the LSU Basketball program;
22 total years working with LSU Basketball
4 seasons as player (1980-84)
13 seasons as a member of Dale Brown's coaching staff (1984-97)
Entering 5th season as the head coach at LSU (2012-present)
Jones believes in one of the long-time philosophies of LSU basketball – “HIT” – Hard. Intelligent. Together. It's a philosophy that LSU players learn very quickly that if they play hard, play with intelligence and play together, a lot of good things can happen. Throw in “Family” and you have the mantra of LSU Basketball under Johnny Jones.
It's a “family” that has worked together at such times as flood relief, unloading a giant 18-wheeler of supplies from Shaq for a local area, or making an annual visit to the local hospital children's wing to sing Christmas carols to patients. It's reading in school to kids or visiting and learning from children at the Louisiana School for the Visually Impaired.
It has been that way since day one for Coach Jones as he has gone out of its way to embrace all aspects of this community.
He has spoken and visited in every part of the state, speaking to alumni and Tiger Athletic Foundation groups as well as youth organizations to help deliver the message of LSU Basketball.
Included in his talking points at every stop is how much he wants people to embrace LSU Basketball. It's not only fans he wants to hear that message but high school coaches who are excited again to have LSU coaches visiting with them on a regular basis.
Before teaming with O'Neal for the flood relief golf tournament, Jones was working on a project entitled “Johnny Jones Courts For Kids” and in 2015, the ribbon was cut for the first court, located at Expressway Park in Baton Rouge.
Coach Jones has a very successful booster club that gathers before each game for food and scouting reports in the practice facility. He also hosts public luncheons each month during the season that draws big crowds to hear about the LSU program and listen to guest speakers.
The LSU Seasons
In his first year at the helm of the Tigers (2013), LSU won 19 games and became one of the league's toughest teams by winning 10-of-the-their-last 16 games against SEC competition while making a school record 234 three-pointers and posting five players scoring in double figures.
It was a team that brought memories to long-time fans of the team in the 1970s that was known as “The Hustlers.”
The second year (2014) saw the Tigers advance forward with 20 wins and the first post season appearance by an LSU team since 2009. The Tigers were named to the NIT field and went to San Francisco on short notice and walked away with a victory. Johnny O'Bryant III, who was selected in the NBA draft by Milwaukee earned first-team All-SEC honors, and freshman Jordan Mickey, who became the first player since Shaquille O'Neal to block 100 shots in a season at LSU, earned second-team All-SEC selection.
Another freshman, Jarell Martin, overcame and early season ankle injury to earn freshman SEC honors and was one of LSU's key players in the late-season run to post-season play.
During the 2015 season, the Tigers won on the road against a ranked team for the first time in 10 years, taking down No. 16 West Virginia on a late bucket. The win was more impressive since LSU was down double digits in the second half before rallying for the victory. LSU won 22 games overall, 11 in the SEC and received a bid to the 2015 NCAA Tournament. Martin and Mickey returned and became stars in the league and both were first-team All-SEC selections. Mickey, despite battling injuries, again blocked more than 100 shots, making him and O'Neal the only LSU players with multiple 100-plus block seasons.
Both players were drafted in the 2015 NBA Draft, Martin in the first round by Memphis and Mickey by the Celtics.
For the 2015-16 season, LSU brought in its second top five recruiting class and won 11 games in the league for the second straight season, tying for third. Ben Simmons was named the national freshman of the year and the winner of the prestigious Wayman Tisdale Award as well as a first-team All-SEC selection. The Tigers, despite injuries early and late, won 19 games including late-game victories against Arkansas at home and Alabama on the road to go with a win against No. 9 Kentucky on the floor of the Maravich Center before a full house of LSU fans.
Freshman Antonio Blakeney began to blossom during league play and had two 30-plus games against SEC opposition in earning freshman All-SEC honors.
Blakeney will be joined by returning players that experienced and learned from this past season. The 2016-17 team will also have some loca flavor as Brandon Samspon of Madison Prep will be joined by Baton Rouge natives Skylar Mays and Wayde Sims. Sims' dad, Wayne, played for the Tigers when Coach Jones was an assistant at LSU.
Jones' Head Coaching Roots
This is Jones' third career head coaching position as he served as the interim head coach at the University of Memphis during the 1999-2000 season and began his run as the head coach at the University of North Texas prior to the 2001-02 season.
The Mean Green advanced to four of the last six Sun Belt Conference Tournament championship games, which included each of the final three seasons Jones was the head coach there (2010, 2011, 2012).
Under Jones, the Mean Green averaged 21 wins per year over his last six seasons which included a school record 24 wins in 2010 and a pair of SBC titles and NCAA Tournament trips.
Jones won more games than any other Sun Belt coach over his last six years in Denton and he coached five-of-the-nine 20-win seasons in North Texas history at that point.
In 2010, Jones was named a finalist for the Ben Jobe Award, which is given annually to the nation's top minority coach. As head coach at Memphis and North Texas, he defeated five Final Four coaches – Lou Henson, Nolan Richardson, John Brady, Billy Tubbs and Tom Crean.
At LSU, he has added to that total with wins over Final Four coaches Tubby Smith, John Calipari and Bob Huggins.
After ranking first or second in the league in scoring in each of the last seven seasons Jones was in Denton at North Texas, LSU has averaged over 70 points in four consecutive seasons for the first time since the 1993-96 seasons.
All four years have seen Jones' LSU team average more than 72 possessions a game, including this past season when the team averaged 74.7 possessions a game.
When Johnny Jones suited up for his first game as an LSU Tiger against Colgate in the Great Alaskan Shootout on Nov. 28, 1980, it would mark the first of 121 games that he would play for LSU.
Then the player would turn assistant coach and be on the bench with Coach Brown for another 407 contests.
Before going to LSU, he attracted the attention of college scouts around the country after a stellar prep career at DeRidder High in southwest Louisiana where he led the team to a combined 83-26 record. He was named the state MVP in Class 4A and a prep All-America his senior season, averaging 28.3 points, nine rebounds and five assists.
As a player at LSU, besides playing on the 1981 NCAA Final Four team, Jones started 54 games. Nicknamed “The Bullet” he led the team in assists (124) as a junior and was ranked among the top five in the SEC that year. He is just one of 30 players in the history of the program with 200 assists or more (271).
His 136 career steals makes him one of 24 Tigers that have recorded 100 career steals.
After finishing his eligibility in 1984, he was asked by Coach Brown to join the staff as a student assistant before moving into a full-time role on the staff after earning his degree one year later.
Jones is the only person in LSU history to both play (1981) and coach (1986, assistant) in an NCAA Final Four. After his Tigers went to the 2015 NCAA Tournament, he became the first person to play for the Tigers in an NCAA Tournament, serve as an assistant coach for LSU in the NCAA Tournament and to be the LSU head coach in an NCAA Tournament game.
In all, Jones played in two NCAA Tournaments and has served as assistant or head coach in 10 additional NCAA Tournament seasons at LSU.
It was during his tenure at LSU that Jones earned his stripes as a top recruiter, something that continues to be his passion as head coach as he brings in the best players available that can help move the program forward.
Among those he helped lure to LSU in his assistant days were NBA superstar and Naismith Hall of Famer, Shaquille O'Neal. He also was involved in the recruiting of two-time All-American Chris Jackson (now Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf) and national high school player of the year(and now an assistant coach under Jones), Randy Livingston.
After Coach Brown's retirement following the 1996-97 season, Jones moved to Memphis to serve as Associated Head Coach in 1998 and 1999.
Jones was named the interim head coach at Memphis just prior to the 1999-00 season and then spent a year as an assistant coach in the SEC with Alabama (2001). He was named the head coach at North Texas on April 16, 2001, where he stayed until the LSU job became his in April 2012.
Johnny Jones and his wife, Kelli, have two children – John and Jillian. John has shown his basketball ability as part of three state championships teams in 2014, 2015 and 2016 at University Lab in Baton Rouge. Jillian is also involved in sports at U-High, playing on the school volleyball team.
The Jones File
Seasons: Fifth at LSU
Birth Date: March 30, 1961
Hometown: DeRidder, La.
High School: DeRidder High
College: LSU, BA, 1985
Children: John, Jillian
College Coaching Experience
1984-85 - Student Assistant, LSU
1985-87 - Assistant Coach, LSU
1987-88 - Administrative Assistant, Lsu
1988-94 - Assistant Coach, LSU
1994-97 - Associate Coach, LSU
1997-99 - Associate Coach, Memphis
1999-2000 - Interim Head Coach, Memphis
2000-01 - Assistant Coach, Alabama
2001-12 - Head Coach, North Texas
April 13, 2012-Present - Head Coach, LSU
Head Coaching Record Year-by-Year
||Interim Head Coach
||SBC Tourn. Champs, NCAA
||SBC Tourn. Champs, NCAA
||NIT Second Round
||NCAA First Round