Trent Johnson to Remain With Wolf Pack

By: Bryan Samudio
By: Bryan Samudio

Nevada basketball coach Trent Johnson agreed Tuesday to a new five-year deal that nearly doubles his annual pay to $450,000, saying he couldn't look himself in the mirror if he abandoned the Wolf Pack now.

Johnson, in his fifth year at Nevada, said he interviewed for the vacant job at Utah but decided Monday night on the return flight to Reno that he would remain with Nevada.

"I'm overwhelmed, really thankful," Johnson said at a campus news conference during which more than 50 boosters gave him a standing ovation.

"I am thrilled to be able to stay here and continue what we started," he said. "I want our program to be thought of as a program that can go to the NCAA tournament every year."

Johnson joined athletic director Chris Ault and university president John Lilley in announcing his plans to remain with the school that he led in this year's NCAA Tournament into the round of 16. It was the first "Sweet Sixteen" berth in the Wolf Pack's history and Nevada's third overall NCAA tourney appearance.

"People have discovered this university nationwide because of the very fine way in which Trent Johnson has conducted himself and the fine men he has coached," Lilley said.

Johnson had one year remaining on a three-year contract that paid him $227,000 a year. The new contract replaces that with an annual base salary of $200,000, radio and television compensation worth $150,000 and $100,000 for benefits and other appearances, the school said in a statement.

Nevada upended Michigan State in the opening round of the NCAA tournament then routed third-ranked Gonzaga before falling to Georgia Tech at St. Louis last Friday to close the season at 25-9.

The Wolf Pack, which plays in the Western Athletic Conference, has improved each year since Johnson arrived, posting records of 9-20, 10-18, 17-13 and 18-14 before registering this year's school-record 25 wins.

Johnson, 47, a former assistant at Stanford, told reporters last week he was upset by talk that he might capitalize on the team's strong showing and leave the northern Nevada school for a larger university.

"I said it before, I don't want to be known as a hot commodity," Johnson said Tuesday.

"I want to be known as someone who was a part of building something special," he said.

"The easiest thing to do in the coaching profession ... is when you have an element of success, you take off and take the next highest paycheck or go to the next elite program, so to speak," Johnson told reporters.

"That's never been the agenda for me. My agenda has always been what's best for the kids," he said.

Johnson said freshman center Nick Fazekas reminded him that he had picked Nevada over Utah and Marquette.

"He said, `Coach, I came to play for the University of Nevada but I also came to play for you,'" Johnson said.

"At the end of the day, what's being said and how much money is being thrown around - that's when I have to look myself in the mirror and say, `Hey, these kids made a huge commitment to all of us.' That's where my passion lies," he said.

Nevada loses two senior starters from this year's team, guards Todd Okeson and Garry Hill-Thomas. Junior swingman Kirk Snyder is considering leaving to enter the NBA draft.

Johnson said he's counseling Snyder to stay at Nevada unless he gets a guarantee that he'll be a first-round pick.

"If Kirk Snyder could go in the first round, that's guaranteed money. He could always come back and go to summer school. It would be very selfish of me to try to force Kirk to come back," Johnson said.

But "there are probably 45 guys in college basketball right now this year that are every bit as good and as talented - regardless of what position - as Kirk Snyder."


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