In Matt McMahon’s Rapid Rebuild of LSU Basketball

Matt McMahon
(Photo: Stephen Lu, USA TODAY Sports)

As LSU’s new head coach, Matt McMahon somehow squeezed the entire offseason into just over a month. The Tigers’ first-year men’s basketball program leaders had to build this 13-man roster from scratch in a very short time, which, on paper at least, exceeded most expectations.

It’s a program that has 11 players in the transfer portal and is about to receive some form of punishment on the way out of the NCAA, and McMahon’s making this a place where players and coaches want to come shows that he The vision process for this moves forward.

While McMahon and the new LSU basketball system cannot control the likely outcomes of an NCAA investigation, one area the Tigers control is laying a solid foundation for the program’s future growth. The first step is to find the right fit, starting with the coaching staff and the players he wants to be a part of this inaugural season.

“For us, the way we try to recruit is to try to identify talented players. But then it’s going to be very thorough, finding the right people, who will be fully integrated into the culture we’ve built here,” McMahon said. “Selling LSU, the SEC, player development, player investment. That’s one of the things that really matters when I hire people.”

McMahon wanted a coach that was not only comprehensive, but also able to build relationships not only with players, but with the players’ families. As LSU tries to build a successful foundation in its first year, building these strong relationships over the next few months will only help with a transition on the court, effectively a new roster.

“We’re going to put incredible time off the court to help these players maximize their opportunities here,” McMahon said. “With the player investment and the style of play we plan to incorporate, it’s a fun way to play. It really allows talented players to showcase their skills within the framework of the team.”

Finding the right fit will be no easy task, as most LSU teams for the 2021-22 season have already decided to drop out of the program. That puts a lot of responsibility on filling out an experienced roster through the transfer portal, where McMahon has acquired six players of varying levels of experience.

Of course, some knowledge of how McMahon works with his program will come through guards Justice Hill and Trae Hannibal, as well as forward KJ Williams, who all transferred from Murray State to LSU. North Carolina State’s Cam Hayes, Northwestern State’s Kendal Coleman and Mississippi State’s Derek Fountain make up the transfer team, but the real sign that McMahon is building something special is the success of recruits like Mwani Wilkinson, Justice Williams And recently returning players like Adam Miller are back in the program.

“It’s 2022 college basketball, and most players have made the decision to move on after a coaching change, which is fine,” McMahon said. “When I came here, all I asked for was the opportunity to show you our five-week program in the spring, which included basketball, the weight room, leadership, and the whole trade. Show them how the program will work in Louis Ana State transfers. They’ve been bought off, and they’ve been in every workout on the basketball court and in the weight room, and they just keep getting better. It’s been a lot of fun building those relationships.”

At the time of the conversation, LSU still has three spots to fill its 13-man roster. The area McMahon emphasized is at least an addition to the frontcourt and a wing that can shoot and score at all three levels. With the addition of Williams, Miller quickly completed the roster, leaving Miller at LSU and eventually adding 7-foot freshman Sean Phillips to the class.

The moves came in a matter of weeks and dramatically changed unplanned perceptions of how quickly this shift could be made in the first year under McMahon.

“I’ve always hoped we could find the best player for your program,” McMahon said. “It’s the coach’s responsibility to implement a system to showcase these great pieces.”

The next step is something summer hopes to start getting done. McMahon really wanted to build and live by five core values ​​in his first year with the Tigers.

  1. Work hard – “Elite performance requires elite preparation.”
  2. Selfless – “Make everyone around you better.”
  3. Tenacity – “You have the ability to keep going, focus on the next most important thing, and compete at your best.”
  4. Accountability – “Are you doing what you say?”
  5. Joey – “This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. Of course there will be challenges, but I’ll have the time of my life.”

The goal for McMahon and his team is for the entire team to come together during June and July to begin the next phase of building a competitive team on and off the court. The weight room, nutrition, and most importantly, relationships and team building will be immediate goals this summer. This summer, the Tigers will have eight weeks together to really start building those relationships, not just on the court, but off the court as well.

“I always tell our players, if you like the process, you’ll like what the process produces,” McMahon said. “I think these five things apply not only to basketball or academia, but also to life. Ultimately, what we’re trying to accomplish here is to have an impact on young people people, help them maximize their opportunities at LSU and prepare to succeed in those opportunities. “