University of Miami men’s basketball head coach Jim Larrañaga has completed his 2015-16 staff with the addition of James Johnson as the team’s director of basketball operations.
“JJ and I have been good friends for 10 years. My staff and I thoroughly enjoyed working with him for our two years together at George Mason, and have always respected his knowledge, work ethic and genuineness,” Larrañaga said. “We want our coaches to be great role models for our players and there is no finer man to mentor our young players than JJ. His experience will be a great benefit to our program. It’s great to bring him to Miami.”
Johnson, who was on Larrañaga’s staff for two seasons at George Mason University, including the historic NCAA Final Four run in 2006, comes to Miami after seven seasons on staff at fellow Atlantic Coast Conference school Virginia Tech, where he was the head coach for two seasons after five years as an assistant coach.
“I am blessed and extremely honored to join Coach Larrañaga’s staff,” said Johnson. “I have known Coach L since our days together at George Mason, and I greatly respect him, as he has mentored me as a man and as a basketball coach. I look forward to working with him, his staff and the entire Hurricane family.
In 2012-13, Johnson began his first season as head coach at Virginia Tech with a 7-0 record, the best start for the Hokies since the 1982-83 season. In December of 2012, VT defeated Iowa in the ACC-Big Ten Challenge, then in the very next outing, downed No. 15 Oklahoma State in Cassell Coliseum, earning the new coach a victory in his first game against a nationally-ranked team.
That season senior guard Erick Green became the first Hokie to be named the Atlantic Coast Conference Player of the Year (ACSMA) and to lead the nation in scoring. Green, the 46th pick in the 2013 NBA Draft, is currently in his third season with the Denver Nuggets. Two Hokies, Jarell Eddie and Christian Beyer, were named to the All-ACC Academic team. In his second campaign, Johnson’s Hokies were 9-22 overall.
Johnson spent the previous five seasons on the staff at Virginia Tech as an assistant coach from 2007-2011, before being promoted to associate head coach prior to the 2011-12 season. In those five years, Johnson helped head coach Seth Greenberg to a 103-67 mark. On April 13, 2012 Johnson accepted an assistant coach position at Clemson, but on May 1, returned to Blacksburg, Va., to take over the reins of the men’s basketball program.
Johnson joined the Hokies following two seasons as an assistant for Larrañaga 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 recruiting 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.
Johnson was a four-year player and three-year starter at Ferrum College. A three-time conference 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 National Association of Basketball Coaches (NABC), and in March 2001, Rivals.com named Johnson one of the Top 20 Assistant Coaches at Mid-Major Division I Schools.