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Stanford makes the right move


May 25, 2004
How many times have you seen it? That's right, magical work in an NCAA Tournament leading to a hot coach switching jobs.

Trent Johnson
Trent Johnson is returning to Palo Alto.
It can change your coaching career. It happened when Dan Monson got hot at Gonzaga and landed in the Big Ten at Minnesota. Stan Heath got hot at Kent State and got the head coaching position at Arkansas. Thad Matta led Butler to an upset over Wake Forest and than landed at Xavier. Ben Braun left Eastern Michigan after tournament success and landed at California.

Now it has happened to Trent Johnson as he prepares to take over at Stanford following Mike Montgomery's departure to the NBA. Johnson knows the Cardinal program after spending three seasons as an assistant coach under Montgomery.

Johnson helped guide the Cardinal to three NCAA Tournament appearances, including the Final Four in 1997-98 with Montgomery. Johnson was also instrumental in Stanford's 1998-99 Top 10 recruiting class.

Johnson was one of the bright stars on the scene at this year's Final Four. Remember, Nevada upset Kansas during the regular season, and then beat Michigan State and Gonzaga in the NCAA Tournament before falling to eventual NCAA runner-up Georgia Tech by five in the Sweet 16.

The NCAA Tournament can become a stepping stone for many coaches if they get hot. You can get an increase in dollars and negotiations go up and up.

Johnson, in five seasons at Nevada, helped the Pack tie for their first regular-season WAC crown and then guided them through the WAC Tournament, capturing the conference title and the automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament. Nevada advanced to the Sweet 16 for the first time in school history and tied the school record for victories, finishing 25-9.

He's happy to go back to the place where he learned so much under Montgomery and his confidence has to be high after a 25-win season in Reno.

Johnson inherits a team that includes point guard Chris Hernandez, center Rob Little and swingman Nick Robinson. There is also the possibility that Josh Childress could return if he pulls out of the NBA draft; he hasn't signed with an agent.

You have to give Stanford athletic director Ted Leland a lot of credit for not wasting time. He didn't spend hours chasing down candidates once Montgomery opted to join the Golden State Warriors. Leland had a plan and went with it, just like Kentucky and C.M. Newton handled things after Rick Pitino left.

Now Trent Johnson has the opportunity to succeed in Palo Alto.

Dick Vitale coached the Detroit Pistons and the University of Detroit in the 1970s before broadcasting ESPN's first college basketball game in 1979 (he has been an ESPN analyst ever since). Send a question for Vitale for possible use on ESPNEWS.

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