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Changing sports: Johnson takes Barnesville boys' basketball post

By JEFF HARRISON For The Enterprise Published: May 24, 2017 12:00 AM
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When Matt Johnson stepped down as Barnesville High's head football coach a couple of months ago, he was quick to point out "by no means am I done coaching."

Johnson's statement proved prophetic as he's already back in the business -- this time as the head coach of the boys' basketball program for the Shamrocks.

"It was bittersweet to walk away from the football program with where we are now," said Johnson, who piloted the BHS grid squad for five seasons, "but this is really the job I've wanted since I started coaching 23 years ago.

"I've always loved basketball and I'm very excited as this opportunity," he added.

Transitioning from football to basketball won't be an issue, according to Johnson.

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"Coaching is coaching," he related. "You just teach life lessons and go from there, and you gain the trust of your players to build a culture.

"I enjoy the process of building a staff and putting life into a program," Johnson continued, "and I'm looking forward to the chance to do it with our basketball program."

A three-sport athlete who graduated from BHS in 1990, Johnson was a member of the Shamrocks' most-successful roundball squad which featured the school's all-time best -- Matt Powell -- and posted a 20-3 record while advancing to the regional.

"Those are memories I still have to this day every time I step into that gym," he said.

During his time at Cambridge, Johnson recalled several discussions with legendary basketball coach Gene Ford.

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"I was always picking Gene's brain about hoops when I was there," he said. "It was beneficial to be around a guy with that type of success and I took a lot from our talks."

Johnson says that there's some experience returning from last year's squad, albeit from a team that was 5-18.

"We do have some experience and four starters coming back," he said, "but it will be a totally different program for them. We'll ask them to be in shape by November 3 and not to start to get in shape then.

"We want our team to value the basketball; run the floor; take good shots and play solid defense," he added.

He'll also have the chance to coach his son, sophomore-to-be Payne Johnson, on the hardwood.

"That should be an enjoyable experience," he said.

Johnson says he'll still help out as a football assistant to new head coach Blake Allen.

Johnson guided the Shamrocks to an overall 9-2 record in football last year, including the OVAC Class 3A championship and a first-round OHSAA playoff victory over Chesapeake before they lost in round two to Fort Frye. He was 24-27 during his five-year football stint.

The new roundball coach has worn many hats during his coaching career, including assistant football coach at Barnesville and Cambridge; head softball coach at Barnesville; assistant and head boys' basketball coach at Bridgeport; and head baseball coach at Cambridge.

Johnson takes the reins vacated by veteran Chris Pack, who opted to step down after 12 seasons and will serve as an assistant girls' coach under Jamie Carpenter next season.


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