Stan Johnson to fans

Coach Stan Johnson delivers his first postgame press conference following a victory vs. Southern Utah on Wednesday, Nov. 25, 2020. Johnson has been critical about LMU's lack of school spirit and adamant about the program's potential.

In a recent interview with the Loyolan via Zoom, first-year head coach Stan Johnson delivered a rousing message to all LMU basketball fans when asked about student and alumni participation at home games.

“If we’re going to be good, we’ve got to be good together,” he said. “You have to show up, and you’ve got to take pride in your school. And you should want to be a part of what we’re building because there’s special people here.”

Perhaps Johnson has been alerted to the fact that LMU regularly experiences less-than-boisterous student sections. In fact, last season, Gersten Pavilion displayed empty bleachers on a regular basis. For Johnson, that particular aspect of LMU tradition fell short of his lofty expectations for the program. He explained his desire to re-create a prototypical college atmosphere for home games once in-person attendance is allowed again.

“The collegiate game, especially basketball, should be a part of the collegiate experience for students,” he said. “When you leave school, you’re not going to remember how you got an ‘A’ in this class or that class … you’re going to remember the nights you went to that massive basketball game, when we win the WCC championship. Or the big game that put us into the tournament.”

There is certainly no doubt that home-court advantage has concrete benefits. And last year, despite the signature sparseness of Lions faithful, LMU went 7-9 at home versus 2-9 away. Johnson, however, chose to speak about creating a true “winning” environment in the coming years.

“I want to show people we have something that you can be proud of,” he insisted. “We have something that you can cheer for. And we’re going to put a good product on the floor, but we need your help.”

Coach Johnson didn’t shy away from pressuring fans into a culture change either, saying: “When [things get] back to normal, we can’t return to what it has been. And what it has been is unacceptable: people not showing up. And that’s on us, too. We’ve got to do our job, we’ve got to make people want to show up.”

But how does a mediocre program, at least by LMU’s standards, excite its fanbase in the middle of a pandemic? It starts by playing competitively this season and ends with solid behind-the-scenes recruiting. Eli Scott is gone next season, but talent is on the way. “I think we have a top 50 recruiting class,” elaborated Johnson. “There’s good things happening. But winning takes everybody, and part of winning is creating an environment where it’s hard for an opponent to come here and leave with a win. And that takes people in the gym.”

“I’m here because I believe in Loyola Marymount,” he continued. “I believe in the University. I believe in our president, the administration and the athletic director. We already have an incredible name, a national name. We have an unbelievable location. And we have an unbelievable academic institution to sell, in a great media market.”

Stan Johnson is not a repetitive man, but he kept emphasizing one message: “We’re sitting on gold. But for us to get to the gold, everybody’s got to roll up their sleeves and do some heavy digging. It’s going to be worth it.”

Perhaps one day, after a third consecutive WCC championship and an illustrious 20-year campaign, this article can serve as a time capsule for Stan Johnson’s first season. But until then, LMU faithful are presented with a mere glimmer of hope, Johnson implored: “We no longer can be the small school on the hill. We’ve got to let our light shine because there’s some incredible things that can be done here. It’s time to move forward, and to move men’s basketball to a place that unites our students, our communities and our alumni all across the country and the world.”

This is the opinion of Chris Benis, a sophomore marketing major from Seattle, Washington. Tweet comments to @LAloyolan or email comments to ahutton@theloyolan.com.

Chris Benis, asst. sports editor, has been a dedicated writer for the Loyolan since September 2020. He writes primarily about in-season critiques and enjoys publishing single-player features.

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