By Mike Monahan

In 1992, Lake Land women’s basketball coach David Johnson was named the district coach of the year while coaching basketball at Bloomington Junior High.

The 25-year-old Johnson, impressed by all of the hall of fame coaches, never dreamed that he would ever be among them. 

“At that time, all of the district coaches of the year were honored at the banquet with  all of the hall of fame coaches at the same time,” said Johnson, who will enter his 25th season next fall. “I was 25, and to see the people that got 500 or 600 wins was very impressive. I didn’t see myself in that same kind of way.”

Flash forward to April 30 of this past year when Johnson was among 12 coaches inducted into the Illinois Basketball Coaches Hall of Fame as a coach at Illinois State’s Redbird Arena after having won 513 games and a national championship at Lake Land College. 

His Lakers squads also placed ninth in the nation in both 2001 and 2012. Johnson has previously been named NJCAA DII Women’s Basketball Coach of the Year, IBCA and District M Coach of the Year, Region 24 Coach of the Year, and IBCA Junior College Coach of the Year.

“It was a great honor,” said Johnson. “I never saw myself in that same way (winning 500-600 games). It is a tremendous honor to be with a lot of the coaches that were also inducted.”

Johnson, a Rossville-Alvin High School graduate, had the pleasure of playing for Ken Crawford, a former Teutopolis boys basketball coach, who was inducted into the IBCA in 1998. 

Johnson was a four-sport athlete at Rossville-Alvin, receiving 14 varsity letters in his four years. He is also a graduate of Danville Area Community College, Illinois State University and Eastern Illinois University. 

“I had him my freshman year before he went to Teutopolis,” Johnson said. “He is somebody who I have a lot of respect for, and I learned a lot about basketball in just one year; just the work ethic it takes to be good.”

Johnson has posted 20 winning seasons out of 24 and captured six regional and conference titles. 

“My wife (Stephanie) and sons (Davis, Meade and Madden) were all there at the induction,” said Johnson. “Also my mom was there and it was really neat to have everyone there. I can’t say enough for what my wife has sacrificed to allow me to coach. It was her responsibility for her to run the home, take care of the boys – and just about everything she did allowed me to coach.”

The IBCA had announced this Hall of Fame class in December. 

“It’s kind of surreal,” said Johnson. “Obviously, it is a tremendous honor and is something I didn’t see coming. I didn’t go into coaching for the glory, but I am very thankful to the IBCA for selecting me.”

Johnson says his longtime assistants have played a big part in the teams’ success. Tom Titus and J.R. Hodges have been assisting for 20 and 17 years, respectively.

“Success doesn’t just happen,” said Johnson. “You have to pursue it with commitment and dedication to a cause. No accomplishment is a singular act. It takes a group to make it successful.”

Other assistant coaches have included Jodie Sanders, Emily Washburn and Sheri McCain. “I am fortunate that I have had the same assistants for nearly every year and they understand what I am trying to do,” said Johnson.”They have a really good idea of what I am trying to get across.”

While a JV coach, Johnson said he also learned a lot from Bloomington girls varsity coach Kay Robbins, who went 163-116 in 11 seasons.

“I was fortunate to pick up a lot of things from her,” Johnson said, “especially her defensive concepts.” 

The Lakers placed ninth in the nation in 2001 and 2012. Johnson has been named NJCAA DII Women’s Basketball Coach of the Year, IBCA and District M Coach of the Year, Region 24 Coach of the Year, and IBCA Junior College Coach of the Year.

The 2019-20 had been 30-3, seeded third and headed to the NJCAA national tournament when it was canceled due to COVID-19. The team won the national title the following year, beating perennial title contender Johnson County in the championship, 53-49. 

“From the first day of our summer workouts, the players were motivated and committed to win the national title,” said Johnson. “They worked hard and continued to fight all the way to victory.”

Another highlight was in February 2011 when Lake Land won an overtime game over Kaskaskia College after having trailed by 64-34 with 12 minutes, 47 seconds to go in the game. The Lakers rallied to tie the game, and won it in overtime, 98-89, at Centralia. 

“It is not very often you come back from 30 points with 12 minutes to go and come back,” said Johonson of his team that scored 66 points in 16 minutes or 67 percent of their points). “I remember those 12 minutes like it happened yesterday. I called a time-out and told the starters ‘You have one more minute or I will clear the bench’ and they ran off the next eight to 10 points in the next minute and a half.“

Johnson teaches in the social science and education division at Lake Land. 

Johnson said players today have much more experience than when he started 24 years ago.

“We didn’t have a lot of AAU when I started,” Johnson said. “There were high school teams that maybe in the summer played for the team, but most of the kids now play high school and are on an AAU team. So, they play basketball eight to ninth months per year. They have also played against better talent than 20 years ago. Basketball is still basketball. Now you can recruit kids that have played against Division I players. Twenty years ago, they didn’t get that same opportunity to play against Division I players.”

Johnson said his first season in 1997-98 was memorable for the way in which his players responded in the second half of the season. After starting 3-12, the Lakers won 13 of the final 16 games to both post a winning record and win the conference with a 9-1 mark. 

“I didn’t know halfway through the season if coaching at Lake Land was what I wanted to do,” Johnson said. “All of the teams that went to nationals are memorable teams. I think each year you take away from your opportunity to coach players who have dedicated themselves to play college basketball. I don’t know if one year is any special than the other as it is an opportunity to meet and lead people. That, I think, is more of an excitement. Coaching is a very fulfilling career in that you get the opportunity to affect other people’s lives. The 24 years that I have been here have all been enjoyable and great experiences, and I just want to continue to do the best job that I can do.”

DAVE JOHNSON YEAR-BY-YEAR RECORDS

YEARRECORDD-II*POSTSEASON
1998-9916-1512-3CCCI champs
1999-0021-1118-7Region 24 Final 4
2000-0129-723-4Region 24 champs
2001-0221-1116-8Region 24 Final 4
2002-0322-1119-9Region 24 runner-up
2003-0422-1018-6Region 24 Final 4
2004-0523-820-5CCCI champs
2005-0612-198-61st yr in GRAC
2006-0719-1411-4Region 24 Final 4
2007-0817-169-7Region 24 Final 4
2008-0924-710-3
2009-1011-207-7
2010-1126-79-4Region 24 runner-up
2011-1225-1113-5Region champs
2012-1325-812-4Region 24 runner-up
2013-1423-1011-5Region 24 runner-up
2014-1520-129-7Region 24 Final 4
2015-1615-177-7Region 24 Final 4
2016-1719-139-5Region 24 Final 4
2017-1822-119-5Region 24 runner-up
2018-1924-810-3Region 24 Final 4
2019-2030-313-1Region 24 champs
2020-2125-218-1National champs
2021-2222-1016-8Region 24 Final 4
TOTALS513-261307-124
  • – record against other Division II teams.