Scooter Hobbs column: It takes a big man to admit it

Published 12:00 pm Sunday, May 8, 2022

OK, as long as we’re stockpiling mea culpas here, let’s address this one up front.

I know it doesn’t happen often.

No doubt you’ve come to accept whatever comes out of this fox hole as the sports gospel and very close to infallible, as long as it doesn’t involve predicting a final score, of course.

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It’s a trust I occasionally take very seriously.

So this is rather tough.

But it appears that perhaps, just maybe, possibly, I could have been the teeniest tad off target a little more than a month ago from this very spot.

Some might even say I was flat-out wrong.

Put me in that latter group.

Maybe it was a knee-jerk reaction that short month ago when noticing that the LSU basketball team, with promising new head coach Matt McMahon, didn’t really exist, at least in the sense that it had no actual players.

Not one.

The cupboard was bare, picked bone clean by the NCAA transfer portal and other convenient exits available to those fleeing a sinking ship.

Even those who are not big fans of the way that portal thing works in this case couldn’t blame them. Not when working under the assumption that the alleged sins of Will “Wiretap” Wade has the NCAA poised to lay down severe sanctions in the wake of LSU receiving the NCAA Notice of Allegations detailing seven Level I allegations.

You figure at least of couple of years banishment from the NCAA Tournament — and, really, is there any other reason to play college basketball right now?

Back then I didn’t quite declare that the program was dead — figured they’d cobble together a varsity of some sort — just that, given the chance of competing, that it might as well be Wicked-Witch-of-the-West dead.

And … well, let’s just say that that wisdom hasn’t aged well.

My biggest question then was, why McMahon, with a promising future coming off of a 31-3 season at Murray State, would want to be at LSU let alone why any players worth having in the Southeastern Conference would join him?

That time bomb is still ticking.

But just a month later — with that tick-tick-ticking as background music — he has fairly well rebuilt the program already — from scratch — when conventional wisdom (mine, among others) said, at best, he might only be able to partially salvage it with misfits and castoffs.

Instead he has 11 players — good players, some really good players.

Three Murray State players followed McMahon — which probably says something about him — including 6-foot-10 Ohio Valley Conference Player of the Year K.J. Williams, who shoots 3-pointers when not dominating inside.

The others are guards Justice Hill and Trae Hannibal.

Two LSU players have returned from portal purgatory, starting guard Mwani Wilkinson and reserve guard Justice Williams.

Other transfers are Kendall Coleman, a 6-8 all-Southland Conference forward from Northwestern State; Cam Hayes, a starting guard at N.C. State; and Derek Fountain who started 10 games at Mississippi State last season.

From the high school ranks, there’s 6-10 forward Jalen Reed, a four-star from Jackson, Mississippi, who’d originally committed to Florida. There’s Tyrell Ward of Hyattsville, Maryland, ranked as the No. 10 small forward in the country by 24/7Sports. And 6-10 center Corneilous Williams of Hickory, North Carolina.

McMahon says he’s not done yet.

Lack of talent will not keep this team out of the NCAA Tournament The NCAA itself may well have other ideas.

I have no idea how McMahon has pulled it off.

I have less of a clue what the attraction was for those players. Did they not get the memo of doom and gloom?

But if I’m a civilian and not a basketball hot shot, I’m keeping my distance from McMahon.

If coaching doesn’t work out, surely he has a bright future selling timeshares or cryptocurrency.

Still, it’s not easy admitting you were wrong. But it happens even to the best of us.

So one month later, I’ll venture out on another limb. Let’s just go ahead and name McMahon the Miracle Worker as next season’s SEC Coach of the Year right now.

Scooter Hobbs covers LSU athletics. Email him at