LSU's coach, Thornton get top honors

It didn't take long for Trent Johnson's track record as a winning coach out West to translate to the Southeastern Conference.

In his first season in the league, LSU's new coach has been named by his peers as the SEC coach of the year after leading the 20th-ranked Tigers (25-6, 13-3 SEC) to the league's regular season title. His players got some recognition as well, with LSU leading scorer Marcus Thornton being named the SEC player of the year.

'It's flattering that the other coaches thougt that highly of us and our players,' Johnson said Tuesday.

Thornton averaged 20.9 points, second in the league only to Kentucky's Jodie Meeks (24.7 ppg). Thornton had more than his scoring going for him. He was one of the senior leaders of a squad that bought fully into their new coach's disciplined, defense-first approach. LSU wound up third in the SEC in scoring defense, a key to their vast improvement over last season's 13-18 record.

Other first-team All-SEC members were: Nick Calathes of Florida, Devan Downey of South Carolina, Tyler Smith of Tennessee, Tasmin Mitchell of LSU, Patrick Patterson of Kentucky and Jarvis Varnado of Mississippi State.

Varnado, who led the SEC with 143 blocked shots, was named the league's defensive player of the year. Freshman of the year was Mississippi's Terrico White.

SEC coaches voted on the awards. They were not allowed to vote for their own team and there were no tiebreakers.

LSU had other honorable mentions, with center Chris Johnson being named to the SEC's all-defensive team after winding up second in the league in blocks with 85 and ninth in the SEC in rebounding with 7.4 per game. LSU guard Garrett Temple was named to both the All-Defensive team and the All-SEC second team.

Trent Johnson has now won coach of the year honors in three leagues, including the Western Athletic Conference with Nevada and the Pac-10 with Stanford, where he spent the past four seasons.

He led Stanford to the regional semifinals of the NCAA tournament last season before leaving for LSU, taking over for then-interim coach Butch Pierre, who filled in after former head coach John Brady was fired.