James Johnson is in his second season as Virginia Tech’s head men’s basketball coach. Johnson’s up-tempo style of offense energized the Hokie fan base in his first season and, with a fresh infusion of talent for the 2013-14 season, Tech will see a more pressure-oriented defense.
During Johnson’s first season, senior guard Erick Green became the first Hokie ever to be named the Atlantic Coast Conference Player of the Year and to lead the nation in scoring. Johnson and the Hokies defeated No. 15 Oklahoma State in December in Cassell Coliseum, earning the new coach a victory in his first-ever game against a nationally-ranked team.
Just as important, two Hokies, Jarell Eddie and Christian Beyer were named to the All-ACC Academic team. Johnson has renewed a pledge to better involve the program into the daily life of the Virginia Tech campus and the New River Valley community. In the past year, the program became a part of the Christmas Store, Special Olympics and other activities and charities in the area.
No stranger to the Hokie Nation, Johnson spent the previous five seasons on the men’s basketball staff at Virginia Tech. He was an assistant coach from 2007-2011 before being promoted to associate head coach prior to last season. He had accepted an assistant coaches’ position at Clemson on April 13 of this year, but returns to Blacksburg to take over the reins of the men’s basketball program. Director of Athletics Jim Weaver named Johnson to the position on May 1, 2012.
“I am pleased with Coach Johnson’s first year as head coach,” Weaver said. “He has surrounded himself with an excellent staff who cares about the players and their development in both the classroom and the basketball court.”
Johnson joined the Hokies following two seasons as an assistant at George Mason. While at Mason, he focused on organizing the team’s defensive efforts in practice and games. The Patriots were a combined 45-23 in his two seasons and advanced to the 2006 NCAA Final Four. Before GMU, Johnson spent two seasons as an assistant coach at Penn State. He was the recruitment coordinator for the Nittany Lions. Prior to Penn State, Johnson had a one-year stint as an assistant at the College of Charleston and he spent two years as an assistant at Elon.
“Virginia Tech and the Hokie Nation have a special place in my heart and I am blessed and excited for the opportunity to become the head basketball coach,” Johnson said at the time of his hiring. “I look forward to working with a great group of young men and moving forward with this program.”
Johnson, a native of Powhatan, Va., was a four-year player and three-year starter at Ferrum College. A three-time Defensive Player of the Year, he helped guide his team to two conference championships and a berth in the NCAA Division III Tournament. He was also voted his team’s Most Valuable Player in 1993. In 2001, Johnson was selected as one of the Top 10 players in Ferrum basketball history. In September of 2009, Johnson was elected into the Ferrum College Athletic Hall of Fame.
After graduating from Ferrum with a bachelor of science in psychology in 1993, he immediately stepped into the coaching ranks at his alma mater and served as an assistant for two seasons. Johnson helped guide the Panthers to a regular-season conference title.
In 1995, Johnson moved on to Longwood College as an assistant and then spent one year at Hargrave Military Academy, where he worked with the post-graduate team. In 1997, he began a three-year run as an assistant at Old Dominion. Johnson is a member of the Black Coaches Association (BCA) and the National Association of Basketball Coaches (NABC). In March 2001, Rivals.com named Johnson one of the Top 20 Assistant Coaches at Mid-Major Division I Schools. He was a squad leader in the Army National Guard from 1989-91.