(Memphis) Inside Bruce Hall Gymnasium on the LeMoyne-Owen College campus, Jerry Johnson walks on the basketball court that bares his name.
He’s not just one of the winningest coaches in NCAA history, he’s also a living legend who prides himself as being a teacher. “I don’t care what kind of obstacles I have I’m going to get up and make it. So, you got instill that I believe, you got to instill that to your players.”
Coach Johnson retired from the LeMoyne-Owen’s Basketball program in 2005 after more than 46 remarkable seasons. During that time, his teams won an incredible 818 victories, the second most in NCAA records and several championships, as displayed with banners. “When I retired, and this may surprise you, every institution would stop the game and give me an award and this unusual for everybody to do that.”
Even with all his plaques and street signs with his name on them, Johnson says his main goal wasn’t just to win, but to educate and motivate students. “If you are going to teach youngsters a certain sport you got to think about something else in their lives other than just basketball.”
His impact on-and-off the court is why LeMoyne-Owen is throwing the coach a week-long 93rd birthday celebration next week.
William Anderson is the school’s athletic director and head basketball coach, and one of Johnson’s former players. “He’s touched five generations of young people who’ve now gone on to be successful in many different professions.”
Jerry Johnson, a man committed to community, coaching and mentoring generations of young men and women who hope to follow in his footsteps of life. “They all come up with that discipline thing. They all say I didn’t appreciate it then, but I sure appreciate it now. (laughter).”
Next Thursday, the LeMoyne-Owen gymnasium will be renamed after Coach Johnson and Friday there’s a golf scramble at Tunica National. Later that night at Stax Records, a documentary will be unveiled on the coaches life and Saturday morning a coaches clinic and several other events are planned.
For more information you can call the LeMoyne-Owen Athletic Department at 901.435.1235