Southern names Kevin Johnson as new Head Basketball Coach

Southern University will introduce Kevin Johnson as its 15th head men’s basketball coach at 12:00 p.m. Wednesday in room A-79 inside the F.G. Clark Activity Center. This event is free and open to the public with streaming available live via Jaguar Sports Network. This candidate will be voted on at the April Board Meeting, which is April 19, 2023 at 9am.

“I want to thank President-Chancellor Dennis J. Shields, Myron Lawson Chairman of the Board of Supervisors, Domoine Rutledge Athletic Chair Board of Supervisors and Director of Athletics Roman Banks and the rest of the Southern University committee who welcomed me during the search process. 

“I am extremely honored to be named Head Men’s Basketball Coach and excited about being a part of Southern University,” Johnson said. “The rich history, winning tradition and unbelievable support of Jaguar Nation will keep us working to restore the standard. I can’t wait to get to work with the current players, start forming relationships with the next generation of Jaguars student-athletes, and engage with our passionate alumni as well as the great people of Jaguar Nation. Go Jags!”

Possessing more than 28 years of experience coaching and recruiting the state of Louisiana and regionally, Johnson just finished his fourth season as assistant coach for Tulane men’s basketball and helped guide them to a 20-11 record and American Conference Tournament Semifinals appearance. He joined Ron Hunter’s staff in April of 2019.

Prior to joining the Green Wave, Johnson spent nine seasons as an assistant coach at Louisiana-Lafayette under head coach Bob Marlin, helping the program to 174 wins (19.33 per year) including a school record 27 victories in 2017-18. ULL reached the postseason five times including a bid to the 2014 NCAA Tournament, as well as a 2018 Sun Belt regular season title and NIT appearance. The Ragin’ Cajuns won at least 21 games in four of his final six seasons in Lafayette, as the program averaged 22 wins per year during that span.

Johnson recruited, signed and developed nine different players who combined for 17 all-conference selections and four defensive player of the year winners at UL Lafayette, including four-time All-Sun Belt Conference honoree Shawn Long, who was also the league’s freshman of the year in 2013 and player of the year in 2016. Compiling the 12th most double-doubles in NCAA Division I history, Long finished as the Sun Belt’s career leader in rebounds and was second in scoring and blocks. He was one of just seven players in NCAA history to compile 2,300 career points and 1,400 rebounds.

Another one of Johnson’s most noteworthy development successes includes Elfrid Payton, who was a lottery pick at No. 10 overall in the 2014 NBA Draft. Payton was a two-time first-team pick and the conference’s defensive player of the year in 2014.

Additional all-conference selections include Jay Wright (twice), JaKeenan Gant (twice), Frank Bartley IV (twice), Bryce Washington (twice), J.J. Thomas, Travis Bureau and Josh Brown. Gant earned top defensive honors in the Sun Belt in 2018 and 2019, after Payton (2014) and Wright (2017) garnered the same recognition in prior years.

Prior to his time at ULL, Johnson spent three seasons at Nicholls State, as the Colonels posted a 20-11 record and a 14-2 mark in the Southland Conference in just his second season in 2008-09. That year, Nicholls reached the 20-win mark for the first time since 1994-95, and just the second time since the school transitioned to the Division I level in 1980. His main duties included overseeing the Colonels’ on-court defense and organizing recruiting efforts, which was highlighted by 2009 Southland Conference Freshman of the Year selection Fred Hunter.

As the architect of Nicholls’ defense, the Colonels led the Southland in rebounding defense during its 20-win campaign, holding teams to 29.5 rebounds per game. Nicholls’ was among the national leaders in two major categories that season, finishing 17th among NCAA Division I teams in steals per game (8.5) and 18th in scoring defense (60.2). Johnson recruited and coached two-time All-Southland choice and 2009 league co-MVP Ryan Bathie, as well as two-time all-conference selection Anthony Bose.

Before his tenure in Thibodaux, Johnson served as an assistant coach at Louisiana Tech for two years, helping the Bulldogs to a 20-13 mark and an 11-5 conference ledger during the 2005-06 campaign and an appearance in the NIT. During his time in Ruston, Johnson coached current NBA star Paul Millsap and headed the recruitment of Kyle Gibson, who finished his collegiate career as one of the top scorers in school history.

Johnson spent eight seasons at Centenary College from 1997-2005, the first two as an assistant under Billy Kennedy and the next six as head coach. At the helm of the program, Johnson compiled a 50-17 record at home, and in 2003-04, guided the Gents to a perfect 13-0 mark in the Gold Dome and a second-place finish in the Mid-Continent Conference. In 2000-01, Ronnie McCallum led the nation in scoring, averaging 29.1 points per game, and finished his career second on the school’s all-time scoring list with 2,524 points. Another player under Johnson’s watch at Centenary – Andrew Wisniewski – finished as the fifth-leading scorer in school history with 1,758 points and was a Mid-Con First Team selection in 2003-04.

Prior to his time in Shreveport, Johnson spent one season as an assistant at his alma mater, UT-Pan American, in 1996-97 under head coach Mark Adams who was also the architect behind Texas Tech’s defense during its run to the 2019 Final Four. His coaching career began in a one-year stint as an assistant coach at Northwestern State in 1989-90. 

As a student-athlete at UTPA (now UT Rio Grande Valley) under head coach Lon Kruger, Johnson compiled 1,156 career points, which ranks 15th all-time in the Broncos’ record books. Johnson ranks fifth in school history in free throw percentage (.776), and is seventh in free throw attempts (389) and free throws made (302).

Johnson’s senior campaign was his most notable statistical season as he averaged 16.1 points per game, had a field-goal percentage of .492 and a stellar .574 conversion rate from three-point range.

His 3-point field-goal percentage led the American South Conference and ranked seventh in the country. Johnson was named to the All-American South First Team in 1988 for his efforts.

Following his playing career at UTPA, Johnson headed overseas to England where he played for the Leicester Riders. He spent one season with the Riders before accepting an assistant coaching spot at Northwestern State in 1989.

In 1990, Johnson returned to England to become the player/head coach for the Oldham Celtics. In 1992, he led the Celtics to a league championship with a 25-1 record. Johnson averaged 33.0 points per game in Oldham’s championship run and was nominated for coach of the year.

In 1993, Johnson returned to the states to become an assistant coach at Bryan High School in Bryan, Texas and rejoined the college ranks in 1996 as an assistant at UTPA.

A native of Morgan City, La., Johnson prepped at Morgan City High School where he was an all-district selection for the Tigers. His brother, Dave III, was an All-American at Syracuse and a first-round NBA draft pick of the Portland Trailblazers in 1992.

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