AHS grad comes back to coach

Published 11:20 pm Thursday, August 9, 2012

Todd Johnson, a 1976 AHS grad, will take over as Austin girls basketball head coach this season. -- Rocky Hulne/sports@austindailyherald.com

Todd Johnson will be getting a little re-acquainted with his old high school this winter.

The 1974 Austin High School grad, who spent his last 18 years as a varsity assistant girls basketball coach at Bloomington Jefferson, is ready to take over as AHS head girls basketball coach this season.

“I’m very excited to be back and I never thought I’d be back here,” Johnson said. “It’s weird to be home, but it’s nice to be home.”

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Johnson still recalls when Ove Berven Gym was the ‘new’ gym at AHS and he used to be one of the students who would pack the seats and watch the Packers play. Now he’ll be leading a team of his own onto that same floor.

“When I first walked in here it was pretty cool to be back in Ove Berven Gym and it’s pretty exciting to think that I’m going to be coming out here as a head coach,” Johnson said. “It gives me goose bumps and makes me tingly.”

While Johnson was at Jefferson, the team won three state titles and six conference championships. He is taking over an Austin team that went to state in 2008, but has gone just 25-52 in the past three seasons.

“One of the things I’ve learned is that talent brings you places, it’s not the coach,” Johnson said. “The coach can do things for you, but you need the talent to go up to that next level. So far from what I’ve seen here, I’m pretty excited about the talent and I don’t think the cupboard’s bare.”

Johnson has seen his team play this summer as the Packers hosted a camp and had a few summer practices. When the season comes around, he is planning on using a deep roster and pressing teams as much as possible.

He feels that strong defensive pressure can make a big difference.

“I like to press and I want to make it very uncomfortable for people to play Austin,” Johnson said. “I want to run up and down the floor.”

Johnson has plenty of experience as an assistant, but it will be a new challenge for him to run a team from the top. There are some lessons he’s already learned.

“Being an assistant coach, you’re kind of a friend to the players because you don’t make decisions with playing time,” Johnson said. “I think I need to keep that as a head coach and I need to keep communication open with players.”

It’s too early to make any predictions on where the Packers will finish this season, but Johnson has no doubt as to where he would like the team to eventually end up.

“For every team that plays, it better be your goal is to get to the state tournament,” he said. “I think it’s realistic for us to win our conference and section. The state title would be that kind of pie in the sky thing that we’ll see when we get there.”

Johnson takes over for Gary Peterson, who retired after coaching the Packers for 21 seasons and leading them to two state tournament appearances.