Eric Musselman had many intriguing job offers to choose from before he reached his decision.
The recent Arizona State assistant coach could have returned to the NBA where he was a head coach for three seasons in the early 2000s. He also had an option to work on televised college basketball games on the West Coast. Or Musselman could have stayed put in the college ranks.
But he didn’t want the sole responsibility of deciding the immediate future of his family. On June 12, Musselman sat with his wife and two sons at their kitchen table in Danville, Calif., to put the family’s fate to a vote. The result was unanimous.
“Everybody voted 4-0 to come to LSU and be a part of the Tiger family,” Musselman said.
On Tuesday, LSU coach Johnny Jones announced Musselman as the newest member of the men’s basketball program. The hiring is subject to a standard background check by the athletics department and approval by the LSU Board of Supervisors.
Given the recent departure of former assistant coach Korey McCray, the addition of Musselman and the pro-level experience he will bring couldn’t have come at a better time for Jones. But that wasn’t the only reason Jones selected Musselman.
“We were just looking and hoping for a good fit for the program that would complement the coaching staff that we have in place here now,” Jones said.
For Musselman, coming to LSU was a chance to reunite with close friend David Patrick, who has been an assistant coach on Jones’ staff since 2012. The two met when Patrick became a member of the Saint Mary’s basketball program in 2006.
“David Patrick is a really good friend of mine, and he was the conduit that put Johnny and I in touch,” Musselman said. “When he worked at Saint Mary’s, my son would go to the camp up there because that was the closest college to my house in the Bay Area, and that’s how we became so close.”
Beside the immediate chemistry between the coaching staff, Musselman brings a wealth of experience to an LSU program that has failed to make the NCAA Tournament since 2009.
Musselman served as the head coach of the Golden State Warriors from 2002-2004. In his rookie season at the helm, Musselman led the Warriors to a 38-44 record, which was a league-best 17 more wins than the previous season. His squad also scored 102.4 points per game, which was the second- highest average in the league.
For his efforts, Musselman finished second in the NBA Coach of the Year voting to San Antonio Spurs’ coach Gregg Popovich. Musselman also had a one-year stint with the Sacramento Kings in 2006.
Not only has Musselman showed the ability to coach the best players in the world, he also has an innate skill at developing young talent.
Musselman has coached basketball at all professional levels. He’s made stops in the Continental Basketball Association, the United States Basketball League and the NBA D-League, where he was named 2012 Coach of the Year after his team, the Los Angeles D-Fenders, won the league’s regular season title with a 38-12 record.
Eight members of that team eventually signed with NBA franchises.
It may seem odd for a coach with Musselman’s pedigree to choose an LSU program with only two 20-win seasons since 2006, but Jones said he believes his newest assistant’s desire to join his staff shows the growth of the program.
“We talked to several people that were extremely qualified for the position, and we’re just glad the program is at the stage where we have the interest of people of [Musselman’s] magnitude,” Jones said.
Musselman is coming to LSU at perhaps the most ideal time of Jones’ tenure in Baton Rouge.
According to rivals.com, LSU has received commitments from three four-star recruits from the 2014 and 2016 classes. But perhaps the future of Tiger basketball is five-star commitment Ben Simmons, a 6-foot-8-inch small forward from Montverde, Fla., who is rated as the fifth overall player of the 2015 class.
With the program going in the right direction, Musselman said it seemed like a natural fit for him to come to LSU.