Tommy Johnson’s basketball coaching career is coming to a close.
The Socastee boys coach said Wednesday he is retiring after 38 high-school seasons, including the last eight with the Braves.
Johnson also spent time at Wilson and West Florence – where he led the Knights to the 1986 Class AAAA state title. He also served a two-year stint at Morehead State (Kent.) University. Earlier this year, Johnson was inducted into the Florence Sports Hall of Fame and the South Carolina Basketball Coaches Association Hall of Fame.
Now 62, he is ready to concentrate on something other than hoops, namely his family.
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“It’s been a great run. Basketball has been very good to me and my family,” Johnson said. “It’s afforded me a lot of opportunities. … The biggest thing I’ll take away is the relationships that you bond and form. You can’t put a monetary value on that.”
The colorful Johnson has been one of the stabilizing forces of Grand Strand basketball for years. Even before he came to Socastee, he was an influence in the development of the Beach Ball Classic. Johnson was previously named to the Beach Ball Hall of Fame, as well.
He intends to continue to teach Social Studies and help Athletics Director Tim Renfrow with various tasks in the sports department. However, Johnson’s quote-worthy personality and flair for the game will be restricted to the stands.
His career will end with approximately 600 coaching victories between his three stops, although he’s not exactly sure where that number falls. He originally said in February that he had no intention of leaving the game.
Wednesday, though, he said his priorities had changed over the last several months.
“I just didn’t wake up one morning and say ‘I’m done,’” Johnson said. “I still love the game part, but it’s more of a time [commitment] than anything else. Basketball is just long – from November to March. And it stretches into the summer.
“Getting into the Florence Hall of Fame and the South Carolina Basketball Coaches Hall of Fame, that’s the pinnacle. I just decided that it is that time. Everyone faces that sooner or later.”
Principal Paul Browning, who spearheads most of the major sports coaching hires, was not immediately available for comment. However, the supplemental position was not posted through the Horry County Schools Web site, meaning an in-district or even in-house candidate could have already been tapped.
Either way, Renfrow said replacing Johnson wouldn’t be easy.
“Tommy’s been here a long time and done a lot of things,” Renfrow said. “He’s been put into two halls of fame. You knew it was eventually going to come to an end. We appreciate what Tommy did.”