BATON ROUGE, La. — With LSU basketball nosediving to six losses in its last seven games, coach Johnny Jones seems aware that his current popularity with LSU fans ranks somewhere in the neighborhood of Texas A&M’s attempt at making a king cake.
But on Thursday afternoon the Tigers’ embattled coach said he is not worried about his job security. His focus is on fixing the multiple woes that have ailed the Tigers in conference play.
“I don’t think about anything like that,” Jones said when questioned about his job status. “I think about preparation for our next game and our players.”
That would be Saturday night’s game at Arkansas. The Tigers (9-8) face the Razorbacks (14-4) at 7:30 p.m. CT.
Jones said that whether times are good or bad, the focus must remain on the task directly ahead.
“A year ago when we had success right off the bat beating Vanderbilt and Kentucky, I didn’t think going into the third game that we hung the moon,” Jones said. “Each game has its own deal and we have to continue to take that approach. I don’t think it would do myself, our staff or team any good to think about anything farther than that. My focus is on those things that we can control, so that’s what I’ll continue to do.”
Still fight in these Tigers
Though Jones has largely lost the faith of the fans and media — present company included — he hasn’t lost his team. As evidenced by an 18-4 edge in second-chance points, LSU out-hustled Auburn in Wednesday night’s 78-74 loss. Antonio Blakeney fought through an ankle sprain to give the Tigers 30 minutes off the bench, which was another sign that LSU isn’t mailing it in.
“You saw our group battling last night, and it gave us a chance,” Jones said. “I think they will continue to battle, because they know there is a chance.”
But offensive execution was again flawed as LSU had 15 turnovers to go with 11 assists. If that flaw does not improve dramatically, and rapidly, it likely won’t matter how hard Tigers players fight.
“It’s been tough for everybody,” Jones said. “But it’s our job to keep them up and keep them fighting. If you’re in (the sport) long enough you have to go through those stretches. It’s how you deal with them. They are showing some signs that they’ll continue to battle.
“These kids believe and trust in what we’re doing. It’s not about perfection, it’s about direction.”
With Wednesday’s loss being the first in LSU’s current slump to come by less than 10 points, Jones thinks the Tigers are poised to bounce back. Perhaps it is a naive belief, but in order to drown out the outside noise clamoring for his head, it’s the only attitude Jones can take.