New LSU baseball coach Jay Johnson preaches 'recruiting, development, win'
BATON ROUGE — LSU athletics director Scott Woodward wasted no time conveying to new baseball coach Jay Johnson what he must do.
He decided to hold the coach's introductory news conference in the Champions Club of Alex Box Stadium.
"I can't think of a better place to have this," said Woodward, one month to the day after coach Paul Mainieri, 63, announced his resignation after 15 season with the Tigers due to health reasons in the same room.
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"Because that is the legacy that Skip Bertman built," Woodward said.
Bertman, LSU's former coach who won five national titles from 1991-2000, was seated in the front row with Mainieri. As athletics director from 2001-08, Bertman spearheaded the construction of the new Alex Box Stadium, which opened in 2009. And Mainieri answered by winning the national championship that year in just his third season since coming from Notre Dame.
"This is the legacy Paul Mainieri continued," Woodward said. "And the legacy Jay Johnson inherits today."
Johnson said he would be calling both Bertman and Mainieri often while he is coach, but he does not believe he will automatically win big because they did.
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"LSU's not going to win championships because of things that happened in the past," Johnson said in his opening statement. "It's recruiting, development, win, what's important now and constantly repeat."
LSU's fan base, which has led the nation in attendance since 1996 with average attendances of more than 10,000 a game since 2010, is one reason Johnson took the job.
"I want passionate people that want to achieve elite things around me," he said. "So, when I mention our team, the fans are a part of that. There are only a handful of programs around the country that you can count where this many people show up at college baseball game. I want to create the best home-field advantage in college baseball."
Johnson has three assistant hires to make — pitching coach, hitting coach and recruiting coordinator. Pitching coach Alan Dunn has said he will not be returning to LSU. Hitting coach Eddie Smith became the coach at Utah Valley, and recruiting coordinator Nolan Cain took the same job last week at Texas A&M, which also hired Johnson's pitching coach at Arizona — Nate Yeskie.
"I will not sacrifice time to make sure we have the right people," he said. "It's not a narrow search."
And with that, Johnson was off to the Alex Box field to answer questions from fans.
"This is the Yankee Stadium of college baseball," he said. "It's a beautiful place. We're going to use it to recruit. I want our team to have a new attitude here, and I want teams to hate to play us."