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Star-Telegram.com

TCU sees new basketball coach as blast from the past

Posted Monday, Apr. 09, 2012

By Stefan Stevenson

sstevenson@star-telegram.com

Not long after Jim Christian resigned to take the head coaching job at Ohio, it became clear to TCU athletic director Chris Del Conte that what he needed in a replacement was a blast from the past.

Del Conte found what he was looking for in Trent Johnson, who was introduced Monday as the Horned Frogs' 21st men's basketball coach.

Johnson, 55, fit the mold TCU desired, a coach from an established school (LSU) who had a record of success. Johnson helped rebuild Nevada into an NCAA Sweet 16 team and took over a solid Stanford team and reached three NCAA Tournaments in four seasons. At LSU, he finished 27-8 and advanced to the second round of the NCAA Tournament in his first year after the Tigers won 13 games the year before. Johnson's contract, two sources said, is for six years at around $1.3 million annually. Christian was making around $590,000.

Del Conte looked at the tenures of former TCU coaches Jim Killingsworth and Billy Tubbs -- who each helped lead the Frogs to their most successful stints -- and used that as a blueprint for his search.

"They came from well-established programs and built programs from the ground up," Del Conte said. "So we started to look for someone who took over a program that no one ever thought was going to be successful and turned them into winners."

That's about what Johnson inherits at TCU, although the Frogs are coming off their first winning season and postseason berth since 2005.

"I'm a morning, noon and night guy," Johnson said. "I wish I golfed. I wish I had some social life, but my life is in the gym and in sports. My life is based off of making sure these kids get a good education and play good basketball, and my family."

He said he left LSU, where he was making a similar salary and had a year left on his contract, for the "challenge and opportunity." He said TCU's move to the Big 12 was an important factor in attracting him to the job.

"We have an opportunity to build a rich basketball tradition," he said. "I'm completely comfortable about wanting to be here for the rest of my life. I want to get this thing to the elite level. I can assure you this: We're going to work our tails off to get this thing to an elite level in a hurry."

As Johnson toured the facilities, including 51-year-old Daniel-Meyer Coliseum, he quipped about wondering if Del Conte was trying to "scare him off."

But Johnson said he wasn't concerned with facility upgrades or renovations. "When you win championships on an elite level, then you get what you deserve," he said. "Look at what they've done with football."

Johnson said he'll bring assistants Brent Scott and Donny Guerinoni with him to TCU and add Mitch Johnson, one of his former Stanford players, to his staff.

TCU assistant Bill Wuczynski is leaving to join Christian in Ohio. Assistants Rob Evans and Reggie Brown and director of operations Cody Hopkins met Monday with Johnson and their TCU futures are unknown.

TCU player Garlon Green, who will be a senior in the fall, said he's relieved the search took only a week.

"I'm glad to get closure with this whole deal," Green said. "I feel like coach Christian did a really good job his last couple of years here to bring in these guys. I feel [the program] has started to turn, especially with the guys we have now."

Johnson met with his team for the first time Monday afternoon. He was likely to tell his new players that their journey into the Big 12 was going to be remembered forever.

"I've been through that before a couple of times," he said. "The first time is always special."

And then he'll probably cut to what he says his teams are about: "We're going to defend, we're going to rebound, and we're going to take care of the ball."

Stefan Stevenson

817-390-7760

Twitter: @FollowtheFrogs

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