For all of us that coach, including our spouses, it is a profession of highs and lows -- a continual roller coaster ride. For those that stay in it long-term, it is because of the love we have not just for the game, but more importantly for the young people we have the ability to impact. With it however, comes criticism, adversity and setbacks. Nothing, and I mean nothing, is ever easy in this job.
But then there are moments like yesterday.
When a coach realizes a dream because of countless years of hard work and paying his dues. When a coach reaches that which he has sought and deserved because he pushed through the criticism, adversity and setbacks...because he has labored to master his craft...because he shows patience when necessary and class when many wouldn't.
For all of us in the LSU men's basketball family, yesterday evening created a watershed moment. It will be an evening we will long remember because of our love for the LSU men's basketball program and especially because of our love for Johnny Jones.
I often speak of the honor I had working for Coach Dale Brown, but I also had the privilege of working along side Johnny. From those many years forged a relationship that has altered who I am. Johnny Jones is the closest thing I have to a brother. He introduced me to cigars and Sammy's Bar and Grill. He refined my love for jazz music and gave me lessons in Louisiana culture. He taught me a lot about recruiting, teaching and how to treat people. He certainly taught me the importance of long-term relationships and friendship.
Following Coach Brown's retirement, our career path's took a fork in the road, but we have always remained close and in contact and supported each other through the good times and bad times. Nothing good or bad has ever happened for me that I didn't immediately get a phone call from Johnny along with sage words of advice, or thoughts of encouragement. But what makes Johnny special is all the phones calls that come for no reason except to check on me and my family.
Ironically, Johnny and I spoke via phone a half of dozen times in the past two weeks in part talking about the possibility of his return to LSU but also as I sought his advice for an important career decision I was about to make. We all have (or should have) a couple of "go-to-guys" that we can count on that can be honest with us when we need advice -- Johnny is one of mine.
Johnny is a unique person that genuinely cares about everyone he comes to know. It is that characteristic that makes him a marvelous recruiter as well as a quality teacher. And it is that reason that all of us in the LSU men's basketball family were rejoicing last night. It was an amazing evening talking to Tiger alums via text, facebook, and phone all night long -- celebrating a perfect union -- Johnny Jones and LSU Basketball!
One of my favorite things after he left LSU would be to meet Johnny at Sammy's Restaurant on his visits to Baton Rouge. Having moved to Orlando last summer it's been about 7 months since we've had a chance to break bread. Being scheduled to speak at A Step Up Assistant Coaching Symposium later this month in Dallas, the first thing I did was call Johnny and make sure we could get together for dinner. In true Johnny Jones fashion the next thing out of his mouth was "you're staying at my house too."
The last conversation I had with Johnny right before he was offered the LSU job, we spoke about how if he was to land it, he wouldn't be in Dallas for our dinner. He said, "I love ya Bobby, but I sure hope I'm not able to take you to dinner." We both laughed. And right now I'm sure glad we won't be meeting in Dallas.
Congratulations Johnny! And congratulations LSU Men's Basketball!