Written by Corbett Smith
Coaches and siblings - Dallas' Johnson family generations intersect at state basketball tournament
The Johnsons are having a family reunion in Austin this weekend.
It’s less about bringing plastic forks and paper tablecloths, though, and more about dry-erase clipboards and a bag of basketballs for the shootaround.
Three generations will travel to the UIL boys state basketball tournament for Thursday’s games.
Madison senior Roderick Johnson and his teammates will play San Antonio Sam Houston (27-9) at 1:30 Thursday in a Class 3A semifinal – with his father, first-year head coach Rod Johnson, on the sideline for the defending state champs.
Rod’s younger brother, Kimball coach Royce “Snoop” Johnson, will lead his program to its fourth consecutive state tournament, trying to win its third Class 4A title during that span. Kimball (23-7) will face Beaumont Central (31-4) at 7 p.m. Thursday.
And Rod and Royce’s parents – Dallas ISD assistant athletic director Goree Johnson and his wife, former Pinkston coach Diane Johnson – will be in the stands, cheering them along.
“It’s going to be a great weekend,” Royce said. “Every time we have a family reunion or a birthday party or anything, it’s not even basketball season and that’s all you hear them talking about: ‘What kind of team have you got?’ They look forward to this.”
The group is accustomed to heading en masse to Texas’ Frank Erwin Center.
As a senior, Rod lost in the 1986 Class 5A final, when Kimball was upset by Amarillo, 68-63. Royce won the 5A title in 1990, his senior season, the point guard on Jimmy Tubbs’ final Kimball team before leaving to become a SMU assistant.
Goree left Roosevelt to replace Tubbs as Kimball’s head coach, and won back-to-back 5A titles in 1996 and 1997, with Royce as an assistant and Rod working with those teams in the off-season. Royce, 41, has seven state trips in his tenure as Kimball’s head coach, winning 4A titles in 2011 and 2012.
And Roderick – who transferred from DeSoto this year to play for his father – was a ball boy for Roosevelt’s 2006 Class 3A champs, where both his father and former Madison coach Damien Mobley served as assistants for Stanford Hill.
“Ever since that moment, I wanted to be able to get down there,” Roderick said. “I’d do whatever it takes to do it.”
This time around, the family’s excitement is focused on Rod and Roderick’s journeys.
After 16 years at Roosevelt as a football and basketball assistant, Rod moved to Madison (28-3), working for Mobley for the last three years before getting promoted when Mobley left for Waxahachie last spring.
“We always told him that we thought he was the guy behind the scenes,” Goree said.
“I tell people all the time, I’ve got the better résumé, but he’s a better basketball coach than me,” Royce added.
Rod, 45, called the opportunity at Madison a “blessing,” stepping into a familiar situation with players that he’d worked with, and a loaded roster – including top 100 junior guard Admon Gilder.
“I was doing the right things, and just happened to be at the right place at the right time,” Rod said.
Roderick, a 6-5 forward, was a role player for DeSoto last season under coach Chris Dyer. Dyer – in the tangled web of South Dallas basketball – coached Rod and Royce while serving as Tubbs’ assistant at Kimball before moving on to win state titles at South Oak Cliff and DeSoto.
The youngest Johnson has moved into Madison’s starting lineup, serving as a defensive stopper and rebounder. In other words, he is a prototypical coach’s son — and grandson.
“Coming over here, I didn’t want my teammates to think that just because my father was the coach, that I was going to shoot everything,” Roderick said. “I came over here to play a role. My dad helped me understand my role, and I made sure I did it.”
Brothers Rod and Royce Johnson will be trying to bring home boys basketball state titles this weekend for the DISD. A comparison of the brothers:
Record in 2013-14