LSU’s Jay Johnson • D1Baseball


LSU athletic director Scott Woodward had zero doubt that Jay Johnson would convey one other nationwide championship to one in every of faculty baseball’s most storied applications.

As Woodward and different LSU officers launched into a nationwide seek for a head coach two summers in the past after long-time head coach Paul Mainieri retired, that they had a laundry checklist of who’s who in Division I Baseball within the job. Legendary former Oregon State head coach Pat Casey flew all the way down to Baton Rouge and snapped an image with icon Skip Bertman on the sector at Alex Field Stadium, Vanderbilt’s Tim Corbin was rumored to be a heavy candidate for the job, Tennessee’s Tony Vitello was talked about as an choice, as was now Texas A&M head coach Jim Schlossnagle. Florida’s Kevin O’Sullivan was even a candidate early within the course of.

You can argue that offers couldn’t be reached with these candidates, and thus they didn’t find yourself heading to Baton Rouge. However as Garth Brooks says in one in every of his well-known songs, maybe these candidates had been merely simply ‘unanswered prayers’ for LSU baseball followers.

Ultimately, the Tigers ended up with Jay Johnson — a man from small Oroville, Calif., who had completely zero ties to the Southeastern Convention. To say it was a dangerous rent on the time by Woodward and LSU could be an understatement. However backstage and in the course of the interview course of? Woodward couldn’t have discovered a greater choice.

Now, his choice — Jay Johnson — is a nationwide champion and is the winner of the 2023 Coach of the Yr award.

“He was the most effective — if not the perfect — interviews I’ve ever carried out as an athletic director,” Woodward instructed “He was ready, he was prepared, and he had a imaginative and prescient. He got here into the interview course of realizing precisely what he wished to do.

“I get it — he was a West Coast man, however I actually wasn’t anxious in regards to the geography of his rent,” he added. “I knew he was a grinder, and most significantly, I knew he was a winner. For me and my workers, as soon as we had been completed interviewing him, I believed it was by far a no brainer.”

Johnson didn’t waste a lot time making an impression in Baton Rouge. The Tigers put collectively a 40-22 total report and a 17-13 SEC report in his first season. LSU fell wanting internet hosting a Regional and hit the highway to Hattiesburg, the place it misplaced to Southern Miss within the Regional title recreation.

After that ultimate loss to the Golden Eagles, a stoic Johnson hit the rostrum at Pete Taylor Park and made a slightly stern assertion. In essence, he stated we’re not going to let this occur once more — go on the highway in a regional — and he was going to do the whole lot in his energy to make it occur.

Because the Switch Portal opened, gamers weren’t required to take a seat out a yr and NIL was launched in an enormous strategy to the faculty athletics — and faculty baseball – panorama. LSU took benefit of that actuality, touchdown 2023 D1Baseball Participant of the Yr Paul Skenes from Air Pressure out of the portal, touchdown former NC State slugger Tommy White, touchdown UCLA righthanded pitcher Thatcher Hurd, all whereas returning Dylan Crews, Ty Floyd, Gavin Dugas, Cade Beloso and Tre Morgan, amongst others.

LSU coach Jay Johnson (LSU photograph)

With that accumulation of sheer expertise, expectations had been sky excessive for the Tigers coming into the 2023 marketing campaign. As rugged because it may appear, LSU followers anticipated nothing wanting this system’s seventh nationwide championship, and we had the Tigers ranked because the No. 1 crew within the nation in our Preseason High 25 Rankings.

They had been presupposed to be a gargantuan pressure. What we didn’t know is how Johnson would handle the completely different egos, and a rash of accidents to the pitching workers that included guys like Grant Taylor, Chase Shores and Garrett Edwards taking place for the season. 

The reply? Johnson couldn’t have dealt with all the state of affairs higher.

“The factor about Jay is that he by no means, ever backed down from the expectations that had been placed on these guys,” Woodward stated. “He accepted it, and he embraced it. He beloved the expectations, and he definitely beloved the stress.

“Ultimately, that’s simply what winners do.”

LSU overcame some adversity throughout its magical run to the nationwide title. The Tigers had a hiccup late within the season however rebounded properly from it. In addition they dropped a recreation to Wake Forest within the School World Sequence, solely to ship the Demon Deacons packing a couple of days later. Then, within the CWS Finals, after getting embarrassed within the second recreation of the collection to SEC rival Florida, the Tigers responded like a championship membership — and a well-coached crew — ought to, they bombarded the Gators within the collection finale to win the crown.

Jay Johnson is completely satisfied to be a nationwide champion. However he didn’t get into teaching, or go to LSU, to win only one championship. He’ll endlessly need extra.

Simply ask Omaha hero Cade Beloso.

“He loves baseball a lot and there’s not an individual within the room that cares extra about LSU and the sport of baseball than Jay. This program is fairly fortunate,” Beloso stated in Omaha. “They’re going to should construct one other intimidator billboard, as a result of he’s going to maintain coming and coming, and he’s not going to cease.”

One telephone name from former Level Loma Nazarene head coach Scott Sarver to former long-time College of San Diego head coach Wealthy Hill modified the course of Jay Johnson’s profession endlessly.

On the time, Hill was on the lookout for a brand new assistant for the Toreros, whereas Sarver had departed Level Loma and handed the keys to the motive force’s seat to a younger Jay Johnson for the 2005 season.

As Hill’s search continued, the telephone rang. It was Sarver, who additionally coached Johnson as a participant in faculty.

“Scott simply known as me at some point and stated ‘hey, I do know you don’t know this man, however you must belief me on this one — hold up instantly and name him’,” Hill recounted. “He went on to inform me that he doesn’t have a ton of expertise at this stage, however I’ve to confess, Scott was the driving pressure behind me hiring Jay at USD.

“He instructed me Jay was a distinction maker,” he added. “And you realize what? The remainder was historical past.”

Jay Johnson hoisted the trophy in 2023.

Johnson went on to assist Hill and the Toreros make some large strides as a program. The Toreros had been a nationwide seed at one level throughout his tenure as an assistant, whereas in addition they captured three West Coast Convention championships and appeared in 4 NCAA tournaments.

Whereas serving to the Toreros win on the sector together with his teaching, Johnson additionally made an enormous impression on the recruiting path. Certain, USD did a terrific job of creating gamers, however Johnson additionally helped this system safe the providers of some gamers who often would have chosen bigger, extra established applications on this area.

As an instance simply how relentless Johnson was in his analysis of each video games themselves and the recruiting facet of the game, Hill instructed me a narrative in regards to the time he went to Johnson’s dwelling towards the tip of the season when the Toreros had been combating for an NCAA match look.

“Man, one in every of my favourite tales about Jay is I needed to choose up one thing from his home one time whereas he was an assistant — he lived out in Level Loma. Anyway, it was late within the yr, and I stroll in, and the man has two enormous white dry erase boards up on his dwelling rooms partitions,” he stated. “Considered one of them had the potential NCAA match bracket on there with the place we stood by way of an at-large berth, and the opposite board had all of our recruits colour coded by catchers, infielders, outfielders, you realize title it.

“And oh yeah, there have been a few pizza bins and fast-food gadgets laying round, too,” he stated with fun. “I simply checked out him at that time and stated there’s no manner you’ve turned that oven on because you moved into this place.

“That’s simply Jay, man. He’s baseball on a regular basis. I believed that state of affairs just about summed up who he’s as an individual and coach.”

As LSU strikes ahead with Johnson as the pinnacle man, its followers can solely hope that is the start of magical run over the following decade. Or let’s say, the reboot of a dynasty that after was. These are, in fact, very lofty expectations to say the least.

However nothing at this level would shock anybody near Johnson, and positively not Hill.

“When individuals ask me on a regular basis if I believed Kris Bryant could be that good as a participant, I at all times say completely not. However when individuals ask me if I believed Jay Johnson could be this good of a coach, I say that I noticed all of the makings of an important coach,” Hill stated. “The largest factor about him is that he has a template in his thoughts of what a school baseball coach must be in 2023 and ’24. He’s tremendous good, he’s a relentless employee, and he is aware of easy methods to join with youngsters within the trendy setting.

“If I’m being trustworthy, he’s carried out an excellent job of staying a few steps forward of everybody else.”

That’s one in every of many the explanation why Johnson is our Coach of the Yr.