Johnny Jones is new coach

BATON ROUGE — Johnny Jones, a member of two LSU NCAA Final Four teams as a player and assistant coach, was named the school’s 21st men’s head basketball coach Friday.

Jones, 51, has served the last 11 seasons as the head men’s basketball coach at the University of North Texas. The DeRidder native replaces Trent Johnson, who resigned as head coach after four seasons.

Jones will be formally introduced as head coach today at a media conference. The LSU Board of Supervisors still must approve the appointment.

“I am pleased to welcome Johnny Jones back to Baton Rouge where he helped build a winner and where I am confident he will once again build a winner and bring excitement back to the Maravich Center,” said LSU Vice Chancellor and Director of Athletics Joe Alleva. “I have followed Johnny closely since my first meeting with him four years ago when he was very impressive in my interview with him the last time the head coach job was open at LSU.

“I have taken every opportunity to visit with him since that time, and I have come to know him well. He is the solid coach and recruiter that we need, and I am particularly impressed with his passion for LSU. It is his passion that I know will translate into success on and off the court for our student-athletes under his leadership.”

Jones played four years at LSU and was a member as a freshman of the 1981 NCAA Final Four team under Coach Dale Brown.

He served 13 years on the coaching staff at LSU and was on the staff when the Tigers became, at that time, the first 11-seed to advance to the NCAA Final Four in 1986.

This will be 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 career as the head coach of the University of North Texas prior to the 2001-02 season. The Mean Green has advanced to four of the last six Sun Belt Conference tournament championship games, including each of the last three seasons.

“I am extremely excited about this opportunity, and I can’t wait to get back there to Baton Rouge and LSU to get started,” Jones said Friday. “I look forward to the challenges ahead and to have an opportunity to come back and be a part of a special program at LSU. This is certainly a dream come true to return to a place that has so many memories for me.

“We will hit the ground running on recruiting with five scholarship spots available for this coming year, and then in the near future, I will begin to put together a championship staff for our program. I want to reconnect with the fans in Baton Rouge that pushed us and gave our basketball team so much energy through the years when I was there as a part of the program.”

North Texas averaged just five wins per season in the four years prior to his arrival. Under Jones, the Mean Green has averaged 21 wins per year during the last six seasons, including a school record 24 wins in 2010 and a pair of Sun Belt Conference titles and NCAA Tournament trips.

Jones has won more games than any other Sun Belt coach during the last six years, and he has coached five of the nine 20-win seasons in North Texas history. Jones is responsible for the third-best single-season attendance mark in school history in 2012, a 121 percent attendance increase during his tenure.

In his 11 seasons in Denton, Texas, Jones has recorded a 190-146 record, making him the second-winningest coach in school history. His overall career head coaching record is 205-162.

In 2010, Jones was named a finalist for the Ben Jobe Award, given annually to the nation’s top minority coach. He defeated five Final Four coaches — Lou Henson, Nolan Richardson, John Brady, Billy Tubbs and Tom Crean — in his time as North Texas head coach.

A statement to Jones’ up-tempo mentality, North Texas boasted the Sun Belt’s highest scoring offense and highest scoring player each of the last two seasons. The Mean Green ranked first or second in the league in scoring in each of the last seven seasons.

North Texas has posted a .500 record or better in each of the last eight seasons, making that stretch the most successful stretch of basketball at the school since the 1930s.

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