#By BRENT STUBBS
#Senior Sports Reporter
#THE basketball community is mourning the loss of former long-time and smartly dressed coach and referee Rodney E.C. Johnson, who made his contribution to the game at every level.
#The former softball player with the Third Street Boys, Doc’s Pharmacy and the BDP Rattlers and an executive in the New Providence Oldtimers Softball Association passed away on Monday at the age of 76.
#He leaves behind his life long partner Belkis Moore, his children Rhodnia and Rodney Johnson Jr, grandson Garrett Johnson, former wife Jennifer M Johnson, sisters Francis Smith and Ruth Brown and a host of relatives, friends and basketball players whose lives he touched as a coach.
#Through his involvement in basketball, Johnson’s daughter Rhodnia followed in his footsteps by becoming a statistician. But she didn’t venture into softball which he ended up playing during his pastime. “I remember his commanding voice and love of sports and music. He loved basketball and softball,” she said. “I got my love of basketball from him. That’s why I am a statistician today. His last few years he was a part of a softball club.”
#Some of the top players in the country, either at high school with the CC Sweeting Cobras or in night league in the New Providence Basketball Association, benefitted from Johnson’s coaching including Carvey Ferguson, Frank Rolle, George Henderson, Warfield ‘Bugga’ Bain, Pat Moss. Jeff ‘Batchie’ Carey, ‘Joe Black’ Brice, Paul Brice, Freddy ‘Falcon’ McPhee, Patrick ‘Big Hands’ Henderson, Edrick ‘Dricks’ Poitier, Kenny Laing, ‘Nukka da Buck’ Nottage, Gary ‘Pindling’ Bethel, Oral Hudson, Kevin ‘Chick’ Rolle and Raymond ‘Rhymes’ Wilson and Terrance ‘Red-Eye’ McSweeney.
#Hudson, who along with ‘Chick’ and ‘Rhymes’ went on to excel in volleyball as well, recalled Johnson as being one of the best basketball minds in the country. “He had a way of motivating the most average player and the ability to get that average player to do things he could not see in himself. He was my coach from I was in SJC (St John’s College), playing small forward at six-feet, two-inches and when I told him that I got a basketball scholarship to go to Alabama he said ok well at your height you will need to play guard so he had me working on my ball-handling skills right away.
#“He would always motivate me to be more offensive-minded. He would say, ‘you are my best player and shooter. Shoot the ball.’”
#When he left for Lomax Hannon Jr College in Alabama before he ended up playing at St John’s University in Minnesota, Hudson said he always remembered the dribbling skills that he was taught by Johnson.
#“He said it should only take four dribbles to get from baseline to baseline and he showed us how it was done,” Hudson said. “In university I would grab a rebound and before the defence could react I was making a layup on the other end of the court.
#“Coach was very vocal and he was never afraid to get his point across to anyone including the referee. He wil be missed.”
#Johnson is also being remembered by McSweeney, who followed his mentor and coach in the coaching ranks and in his dressing style.
#“My years at CC Sweeting, which began in 1973 when I first got to know Rodney Johnson as a basketball coach in grade 10,” McSweeney said. “In my latter years in grade 11 and 12, he became my math teacher and was my homeroom teacher.
#“Mr Johnson also allowed a few of us from grade 10 to 12 to play on a division II team, the Methuselah Vikings, but in my senior year in grade 12, I was recruited by the late Randolph Swaby to play for his CIBA Warriors.”
#With his unique style of dressing, McSweeney said he got to emulate his coach, who was also a very stern disciplinarian.
#“People would always see me outside coaching with my shirt tucked in my pants with a necktie on,” McSweeney said. “Mr Johnson, my coach, passed that style of coaching on to me. I remember when I was coaching the Sunshine Park Gators, Mr Johnson and refereeing the game and he came over to me and said ‘You look sharp today.’
#“I said to him I got this style from you. He had this thing where he used his two elbows where he demonstrated to his players, this is how I keep myself neat. I returned the favour and reminded him what he told us. We both had a good laugh because he didn’t know that I remembered what he did.”
#McSweeney said Johnson made sure that they took care of their academics in school or they were not allowed to play on the team, especially when they were preparing to enter the 12th and final year.
#“Mr Johnson had his way, as all coaches, especially dealing with males, but he locked into what he wanted and he stuck to that in practice and you had to make it happen in the game or he would sit you down,” McSweeney reflected. “Then he would come to you and ask you if you are ‘ready to play do what I need you to do,’
#“I just saw Mr Johnson on Saturday. I was heading to make a run to pick my boys up on Paradise Island. He was on his front porch and we hailed each other. One mind said I should have stopped and hailed, but because I was in rush to get my kids, I said I will do it another time.”
#Through their interaction as player-coach, McSweeney said he was taught a lot from Johnson, who officiated during the era of the late Vincent Ferguson, who was known for his stern manner in which he conducted himself on and off the court.
#McSweeney expressed his condolences to Johnson’s family for the tremendous impact that he made on him at CC Sweeting and eventually into the coaching ranks. He said he will continue to wear his long sleeve shirt and necktie as he coaches in honour of his late coach and mentor.