Johnson defines Comet tradition
Published: Wednesday, March 14, 2012
Updated: Wednesday, March 14, 2012 12:03
Many coaches on staff at Contra Costa College have a prior connection to the campus and community.
However, few of them are as deeply rooted into Comet society as men’s basketball coach Miguel Johnson. It is that connection that drives his passion for creating a successful program and being a role model for his players.
From 1988-90 Johnson played for the Comet men’s basketball team.
Yet, long before his time at CCC, just two years after Johnson was born, his father Michael “Tea Bag” Johnson began his Comet playing days.
“I played here, my father played here, my assistant coaches and two uncles also played here,” Miguel Johnson said. “(My staff and I) have a lot invested in CCC, which drives us to make this program one of the best again.”
Born in Oakland in 1970, Johnson was raised by his single mother Elayne Harris in Richmond.
She gave birth to Miguel at the age of 15. As soon as she was able, she found a job working for Wells Fargo Bank, where she maintained employment for 16 years. After that, she worked for BART for 24 years.
Johnson said his hardworking attitude is something he attributes to his mother, who died in January 2010 at the age of 55.
“The things that I hold most dear are the facts that my mother was able to see me graduate from high school and college,” Johnson said. “I value that she was able to see me become the first in my family to graduate from college and the fact that she was able to see her grandchildren.”
CCC Athletic Director John Wade, who coached Johnson at Eastern Washington University from 1991-93, said the Richmond High School graduate was a pleasure to work with as a student-athlete.
“He came from a humble background,” Wade said. “He’s overcome a lot; his mother had him when she was 15 and both of his parents have passed away. If people knew what Miguel (has overcome) they would have a lot of admiration for him.”
Johnson graduated from EWU in 1993. He went on to John F. Kennedy University in Oakland where he earned his master’s degree in sports psychology.
Johnson’s passion for basketball is expressed through his dedication and hard work, and he instills those same characteristics into his players and assistant coaches.
“He wants his program run how he wants it run,” freshman guard Pershante Hill said. “He’s stern about basketball, but he is also passionate.”
Hill said he learned that basketball is more of a mental game than physical under Johnson’s tutelage.
“In high school I didn’t have to think that much,” Hill said. “Playing for Johnson has made me think a lot more.”
During Johnson’s first five years as basketball coach, starting in 2006, the team failed to make the postseason playoffs. During the 2010-11 season the team finished 2-21, a year Johnson said was his worst ever as a coach.
However Johnson, his coaching staff and a laundry list of new players helped make 2011-12 the best men’s basketball season in Johnson’s tenure. The team finished second in the Bay Valley Conference with a 21-10 overall record (9-3 in the BVC).
CCC had a great 2011-12 season, but its journey was far from easy. After winning the first two games of BVC play, the Comets dropped three straight.
“His attitude was basically, get better,” Hill said. “He told us to forget about those games and move forward.”
The Comets responded well to Johnson’s words. Of their final 12 games of the season, including the BVC tournament and playoffs, the team lost only two games — one to the 2010-11 state champion City College of San Francisco and the other to eventual 2011-12 state runner-up Yuba College.
“This season was crazy,” guard Robert Ellis said. “I definitely learned a lot, not just about basketball but about being a man and how to handle business.
“Coach Johnson said he was going to bring in more talent and that we would get better. I expected us to win games and make the playoffs and that’s what we did.”
Ellis thrived under Johnson and finished the season as the Comets leading scorer as well as being No. 2 in the state in steals, averaging three thefts per game.
“He let us go out there and just play,” Ellis said. “At Imperial Valley College (his previous college) the coach didn’t let me do a lot of things on the court. Coach Johnson doesn’t have a leash. He lets his players go out there and play.”
Rounding out the men’s basketball coaching staff are assistants Glen Graham,