Former Arizona baseball coach Jay Johnson held his introductory press conference at LSU on Monday where, among other things, he explained why he left the Wildcats for the Tigers.
Below are some of the notable quotes. The full presser can be watched HERE.
Johnson’s opening statement: “I’m honored to be here. I’m incredibly humbled to be here. When I think about the 44 years of my entire life, I really believe every day has led me to this podium right now, to this program, and it’s beyond a dream come true. I didn’t come here for any other reason because this doesn’t come along but one time in your life, and I view this opportunity to be the head baseball coach at LSU as the opportunity of my lifetime.”
Johnson on leaving Arizona for LSU: “I just view this as the ultimate. You can thank these two men (Paul Mainieri and Skip Bertman) right there for that. It was a great place that I was at, and what made it great was the people. But this is the opportunity of my lifetime. A lot of people will look at it and go, wait, why did you do that? What are you doing? You are a West Coast guy. That’s comfortable. That’s not what I’m about. You stare down the challenge of that, you figure out how to put the pieces in place to be successful, and then we’re going for it.
I’ve been going for it for three or four days now. This press conference almost feels late. I’m knee deep into this thing and there’s no other way I would have it.
I think it’s more excitement and the challenge than anything else because these two men did a heck of a job and left as good as legacy as you possibly can, and so what an opportunity to have a chance to contribute to that.”
Johnson on the enticement of LSU: “Recruiting — when I walked through that blueprint of recruiting, developing, focusing on what’s important now and then repeating that, the development part is the most important part of that, if you have the right people in your organization. If you have the right people in your organization.
The things that we have available to us to put the right people in our organization are very enticing, and it’s very exciting. It’s shaping how I want to go about putting our staff together relative to when you’re at an NAIA school, when you’re at two mid-major programs, you’ve really got to learn how to sell. You’ve really got to learn how to sell and make the player understand why they need to play for your program.
Then getting a chance to move to Arizona, a little better. A little better, but they were in eighth place for a couple years in a row, and we needed to get players, and it wasn’t their first choice for players in the Pac-12, so that happened, as well. Then you start to have success, you go to Omaha, you’re a base hit away from winning a national championship, now it starts to become a little more enticing.
For me, it’s about putting the pieces in place for recruits to understand, yes, you have all of this. Yes, it really catches your eye. Yes, it is special. I want them to feel what it’s like to be out on that field if a recruit comes and watches a game and goes, there’s no place in the country I’m going to go other than that because that’s what I want. I want all that to be in place, and then I want them also to say like I want to go place for those guys. I want to entrust those guys with my development.”
Johnson on leaving the West Coast: “I’ll use the word difficulty. The difficulty is in relationships with players. That’s what matters to me. I left a team that accomplished a lot of things, and they did it with, as I said, great fundamentals, a competitive attitude and were great people and character. So the difficulty was leaving that team. That’s exactly why I feel like I’m right for a place like this, because I do invest in the players and I do invest in the relationships and I invest in their process to be good. That’s the only difficulty.
The rest of it is, let’s go. There was probably one place in the country that it was a let’s-go attitude. We’re standing here right now. In that degree, it was not difficult at all.”
Johnson on adjusting to LSU’s rabid fanbase: “That’s another reason I wanted to come. I want passionate people that want to achieve elite things around me. So when I mention our team, the fans are a part of that. With that being said, we’re going to take the best parts of that. There’s only a handful of programs around the country that you can count where this many people show up at a college baseball game, and what I want to do, what I think it is important that we do, is create the best home-field advantage in college baseball, and I’ve heard that’s what we have here, and then put a product on the field that they’re extremely proud of, that when the Tigers show up, they know what they’re going to get. They can’t wait to get to the ballpark after a long day of work and they can’t wait to high-five the players down the line after a big win, and they can’t wait to send their kids to baseball camp because they feel like they’re a part of this thing. For me, I only see that as a positive.”
Johnson on the key to recruiting the West Coast at LSU: “Awareness. We just got done playing Vanderbilt in the College World Series. We just got done playing Ole Miss in the super regional. Both of those teams had a significant amount of players from the West Coast that were key players at key positions. I can add to that. That’s something that we can bring to LSU, and my connections and contacts will do that.
With that being said, I’m working on a well-rounded staff that can cut into the recruiting at other places, that can be as fierce, as competitive, as you said, to not just win or not just win recruiting battles because of our logo or because of our resources but because they know what they’re going to get when they come play in our program. So by putting it together that way, I think it gives us a great chance with all the things that we have to put us right where we all want to be.”