Prep pulse: Johnson carves out niche in coaching at Lake Land

Prep pulse: Johnson carves out niche in coaching at Lake Land

David Johnson recognized at a young age he couldn't play basketball forever.

Though it was "by far my passion," he had no visions of grandeur.

So it was back in seventh grade when Johnson, who went on to graduate from Rossville-Alvin High School in 1984 after competing in basketball, football, baseball and track, decided coaching might be his walk of life.

"I just think I felt I had really good knowledge of the game," Johnson said. "I just wanted to continue to be a part of the game. I knew that playing at some point ends, but you don't have to leave the game."

Turns out Johnson had a good idea for his career of choice.

In his 20th season as the Lake Land College women's basketball leader, Johnson collected his 400th career victory on Dec. 31 against Kankakee Community College. It was a nailbiter, as the Lakers held on for a 79-77 win to conclude play in the Lake Land Tournament.

Johnson said he knew beforehand the milestone was near, as one of his assistants mentioned a 2-1 record for Lake Land in its own event would push Johnson to 400 triumphs.

Lo and behold, that's exactly the mark the Lakers accrued.

"They made an announcement after the game, and that was pretty much it," Johnson said. "It's nice to be recognized. We're in the middle of the season, so I try not to make it a distraction."

When Johnson — a graduate of Danville Area Community College, Illinois State and Eastern Illinois — opened his tenure with the Lakers in 1998, he expected to stick around "probably five or six years." Plans changed once he grew to appreciate the Mattoon area.

"I really enjoyed it here," he said. "My wife and I started a family and felt it was a good place to be."

Johnson's spouse, Stephanie, is a Hoopeston Area graduate.

The couple have three sons — Davis, Meade and Madden. Davis currently is a freshman with the Lake Land men's basketball program.

"It's great," Johnson said. "I get to watch him practice every day and see his games. I missed that in high school because our games would match up."

Now 51, Johnson said he envisions at least a few more years roaming the sidelines for Lake Land, with Madden being just 10 years old.

It's easy for him to consider remaining with the squad given its success, as the Lakers achieved ninth place at the NJCAA Division II national tournament in 2001 and 2012. But Johnson's love for the profession goes beyond Lake Land's results.

"(My tenure) is very important for the fact I've gotten to coach several great players and young women," he said. "That's the best part. I've been able to coach kids that have gone on to four-year schools and gone into successful careers."