I just sent a congratulatory text message to Trent Johnson….. I heard from an ex-Stanford basketball player who told me the news: Trent Johnson now appears headed to LSU as their new coach! Not many coaches have done what Trent has done in a few short years. He’s secured multiple Sweet 16 performaces, a huge recruiting pipeline into Los Angeles, Oakland and throughout the East Coast, as well as one of the best X’s and O’s coaches in the nation. Coaches like Trent Johnson do not come around very often and if LSU really did sign him, then the whole state down there should be cheering.
I can attest to the fact that all of us who played under Trent (when he was a Stanford Assistant Coach) are mourning if he’s really gone, but at the same time we are happy for him. I am happy for Trent and his family. This man deserves the very best because he is a first class individual and one of the best basketball minds in the business. In the same way that there is a business side to the NBA, there is a business side to being a college coach. I wish somehow we could have kept Trent at Stanford, but it looks like he’s taken another great opportunity. I think what LSU fans and players can expect is a man who combines a disciplinarian approach with someone you can talk to as a mentor and role model figure. Another few words come to mind about Trent: work ethic, intensity and fire.
The new wave of the basketball world will embrace coaches who can communicate with today’s athletes. Trent Johnson is one of the best communicators in the basketball world. When he was an assistant coach at Stanford, he ALWAYS stayed after practice and played one-on-one with guys who weren’t getting the reps they wanted. He talked with them and built them up and made them ready for when the opportunity which one day would come. He put in the time and work that a lot of people never saw, but earned the undying respect from the players by doing the “little things” like this. But, his knowledge and feel for the game of basketball are what puts Trent into the category of “elite” when it comes to coaching.
I was surprised by the news of Trent Johnson’s departure and wish he was still at my alma mater of Stanford. But, at the same time I’m incredibly happy for him. Today is now a day of reflection for me with regards to Trent and the good times we had together on “The Farm.”
I can tell you for a fact I know someone who has a big smile on his face right now and he’s one of the most illustrious graduates of LSU: The Big Aristotle–Shaquille O’Neal!
Sometimes even the unthinkable can happen. When I arrived at our NBA shoot-around today I learned that Mike Montgomery was going to be name head mens basketball coach at Stanford archrival: UC Berkeley. Of course I called him to congratulate him but it went to voicemail right away so I left him a message–I left that message grudgingly.
All I can remember about UC Berkeley is hostility. One time one of our walk on players from the East Bay almost got into an altercation with a UC Berkeley fan even before the game started! I think the fan threatened a lawsuit or someting. Then last year someone actually hijacked my Gmail email account! The sad thing was that I could see when he was online through the “Chat” functionality from another one of my gmail accounts. I “chatted” with him online to my “old” account and threatened to get the FBI, CIA and every law enforcement agency possible on his tail unless he gave me back my account. Finally he releneted and sent me a message: “You can have your email account back, the new password is “UCBerkeley.”
So maybe you can see why I’m confused about Mike going over there. It’s just a bunch of low lifes over there at Cal.
Of course I’m kidding. While I’m serious about the email hijacking, Cal is an awesome place and a world class institution. I was excited about maybe going there myself, but then they kind of stopped recruiting me. One of my best high school teammates went there an loved it. Actually one of my first text messages was to my brother in law who is doing a UC Berkely PHD. I told him I was mad that his school was stealing our old coach!
In fairness I think it’s great for everyone, and I think that the San Francisco Bay Area is going to have some great basketball in the coming years. Trent Johnson is one of the real rising stars in the college game and one of the best minds I’ve ever had the privilege of playing for (he was assistant coach at Stanford while I played there.). Now you’ve got Trent at Stanford, Mike over at Cal and a lot of great recruits comign out of Northern California. UC Berkeley just took a major step in the right direction in getting back to the levels of Pete Newell and Jason Kidd.
Tonight we played against one of the best teams in the NBA–The Phoenix Suns. Steve Nash finished his normal “day at the office” with 20 points and 18 assists. Kevin Garnett was dominant on offense and defense and finished with 44 points, a load of rebounds, and a lot of defensive plays that won’t show up on the stat sheet. Every starter for Phoenix was in double figures. It was a great game to play in and a great game to watch.
Mike D’Antoni has changed the way basketball is played in the NBA. (On a side note: He and I jawed a little bit during the game during a stretch when I was pushing for a technical foul for the Phoenix bench when they really protested a call. He heard me calling out to the officials: “Give them a technical” and then he yelled at me to “just play basketball.” It was a little heated for a second then it just died down. I got his point and he was probably right.)
But Phoenix’s new style has impacted everyone from the refs to NBA coaches all the way to professional scouts. The big bruising players are still effective in the NBA, but speed and shooting are at a premium now because of the success of the Suns and the way they have shown you can win with leaner, faster players with high skill levels. I think D’Antoni’s style is showing the pros and colleges a new and exciting way to play the game. I can tell you firsthand that playing against the Suns is fun for us as NBA players, win or lose, because you know it’s going to be uptempo and there’s going to be a lot of scoring. You know you’ll be playing against one of the best teams in this league.
I had a huge celebration when I watched the Stanford men’s basketball team knock off the top ranked UCLA Bruins yesterday. This year, all the national experts are saying that the Pac-10 is the top conference in college basketball. Even though Fred Hoiberg likes to mess with me about how he doesn’t like Stanford’s mascot–The Tree–our mascot was out there dancing around Maples Pavilion in Palo Alto after our big win. I think I will get some video footage of it and email it to Freddie. The funny thing is that everywhere I go people ask me about the Tree. “Hey is it true that the Tree got suspended for two games a few years ago for yelling at a ref.” I hear questions about that all the time. I’m not even totally sure what the right answer is. Well, all I can say is that the Tree is doing something right because everyone’s talking about him/her and the on-court exploits of the tree are taking on an almost mythical status.
On a more serious note, I think that Stanford’s Coach Trent Johnson is showing why he should be a leading candidate for coach of the year. He has dealt with some tough injuries this season but has done a great job of developing his young players like Brook and Robin Lopez. It was special to watch such a well coached team two nights ago. It was nice to see Lawrence Hill take over that game in the second half along with Anthony Goods and the Lopez’s controlling that paint.