Johnson named new Providence coach

Jeff Birchfield • Mar 25, 2019 at 8:19 PM

Damon Johnson has been named the new boys basketball coach at Providence Academy.

The former Science Hill High School and University of Tennessee star, who played 11 years professionally, most recently served as the head coach for the KACHEA team made up of local home-school players. Prior to that, Johnson was an assistant on the 2016 David Crockett High team, which made the school’s first-ever state tournament appearance.

“I think this opportunity is Heaven-sent,” Johnson said. “I’ve been waiting on the right opportunity. When (Providence Head of School) Mr. (Ben) Holland presented this to me, he talked about where the program was going, I felt like it was right for me. I’m super excited to get started and get the atmosphere at Providence where we have the respect throughout the community.”

Johnson, 45, has college experience as an assistant coach with the East Tennessee State women’s program and the men’s team at King College, where he helped guide the Tornado to back-to-back Conference Carolinas regular-season championships and the school’s first-ever appearance in the NCAA Division II national tournament.

He also served as a coach in the Johnson City School System. Johnson takes over for Josh Roark, who served as the Knights coach after the retirement of longtime coach Martin Sells.

Sells, now Providence’s athletic director, said in a statement: “We’re excited to welcome Coach Johnson to the staff. He’ll make a great addition to the Providence family and will be instrumental as we transition conferences in the coming years.”

Johnson’s playing career included being a part of Science Hill’s 1990 state championship and 1991 state runner-up teams under coach George Pitts. He was a first-team All-American at Hiwassee Junior College before playing at Tennessee from 1994-96, where he was a two-year starter. He was named the team’s best player in 1995 and most versatile player in 1996.

“I’ve played my whole life and all I know is basketball,” Johnson said. “God has given me this blessing and opened doors for me. I’ve been around some really tough individuals and good individuals as coaches.”

Pitts, whom Johnson both played for and coached with, is obviously a tough coach who immediately comes to mind. Johnson talked about him and others who influenced him as a player and a person.

“Coach Pitts has influenced my life in general,” Johnson said. “When he came to Science Hill, I wasn’t in a good place in my life. It was more than basketball. He was a person in my life that I needed, more than a coach, but a mentor. X’s and O’s are X’s and O’s, but being a coach is more about being a mentor and being someone the kids can talk to and being a positive force in their lives.

“When I grew up, coaches helped me through things that my mom couldn’t. It’s the platform to touch kids’ lives at Providence and speak about God. It’s a unique situation. But going back to the coaches, it was Lawrence Frank at Tennessee, who later was an NBA coach of the year, and Rick Hughes at Hiwassee, and the coaches overseas, I’ve been blessed to have the knowledge from those men and the mentors they’ve been.”

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