Trent Johnson Not Pleased by Departure Rumors

By: Associated Press
By: Associated Press

The Nevada Wolf Pack is enjoying unprecedented success in the NCAA Tournament but coach Trent Johnson wasn't entirely happy Monday.

Johnson said he's upset by talk that he might capitalize on the team's strong showing and leave the northern Nevada school for a larger university.

"I don't want to be known as a hot commodity. I want to be known as a coach who helped be a part of building a special program," Johnson said Monday.

The fifth-year Nevada coach, who has a year to go on his contract, told reporters he won't address his future until after the season but that he's "more committed ... to what is going on here than I've ever been."

"I don't want to be a part of something you can say is a `one-hit wonder.' So, we've got a long ways to go," said Johnson, 47, a former assistant at Stanford.

Making only its third NCAA Tournament appearance, Nevada (25-8) upset Michigan State 72-68 last week for its first tourney win ever, then routed third-ranked Gonzaga 91-72 to earn a spot in the "Sweet Sixteen" against Georgia Tech (25-9) on Friday at St. Louis.

"Whatever happens to me and my future is going to be based off the people who hired me and these kids right here," Johnson said at a news conference on campus with Wolf Pack players Todd Okeson, Garry Hill-Thomas, Kevinn Pinkney, Nick Fazekas and Sean Paul.

Johnson is in the second year of a current three-year contract worth $654,000 over the three years. The Wolf Pack have improved each year since he arrived, with records of 9-20, 10-18, 17-13 and 18-14 before registering this year's school-record 25 wins.

Johnson refused to specifically address a suggestion by a sports columnist for The Salt Lake Tribune in Monday's editions that Utah should hire Johnson to replace Rick Majerus.

Johnson said it was of interest only to people "who are into rumors."

"This sort of stuff starts to surface all the time and it's not a distraction, it just upsets me. It's what's wrong with college athletics to a degree," he said.

"I told these guys (players) at the end of the year we will have a time to sit down as a group and we will have a time to sit down and we will all be involved in decisions," he said.

University president John Lilley said he's aware many schools would like to hire Johnson, and said he was encouraged by the coach's remarks at Monday's news conference.

"I think Trent Johnson wants to be here and we want him to be here. We are going to do our very best to make sure he is going be here. It is a very high priority," Lilley told The Associated Press.

"He wants to build a legacy. He wants to build a tradition. So we are going to help him do that," he said.

Johnson, who also was an assistant at Washington, Rice and Utah, said fellow coaches suggested he could do better than the Nevada job when he was still an assistant at Stanford.

"It was really amazing to me that in the coaching profession everybody talked about how tough of job this was. And that `Trent, you should stay at Stanford because you can get a better job,'" he said.

"I like the atmosphere here in the community because to me, the impression I've always had is it is blue collar and that's what I'm about basically in my own mind," he said.

"So far so good. Things are working out. We are making progress," he said.


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