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Stan Johnson is the Men’s Head Basketball Coach at Loyola Marymount University, taking over the program on March 20, 2020.
Prior to his arrival at LMU Johnson coached five seasons at Marquette University and was promoted to associate head coach in June of 2017 after helping guide the Golden Eagles to an NCAA tournament trip in 2016-17. Johnson arrived in Milwaukee after working the previous two seasons at Arizona State.
Johnson also spent time as an assistant at Drake University, The University of Utah, Cal State Northridge, Southwest Baptist University, and Bemidji State University.
As a player, Johnson was a three-year letterman at Southern Utah University. He was a team captain and starter in 2000- 01 and helped lead the Thunderbirds to the Mid-Continent Conference (now Summit League) title and a berth in the NCAA tournament. Johnson played his senior year of college basketball at Bemidji State before beginning his coaching career by joining the Bemidji coaching staff the following season.
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Make sure you have your notebook ready, you’ll definitely want to take some notes as you listen to this episode with Stan Johnson, Head Men’s Basketball Coach at Loyola Marymount University.
What We Discuss with Stan Johnson
- His childhood growing up in Liberia, West Africa until age 10
- Leaving Liberia as a result of Civil War and moving to the United States
- His first experience with basketball on a school playground in Salt Lake City Utah
- Using basketball as a way to connect with other kids and be accepted
- There’s an absolute power in the ball and that ball can unite a lot of people and it can bring people together
- Being a self-taught player
- Developing his game on the driveway and playing pickup ball with older players
- The need for balance in player development – training AND games
- Paying his experiences in the game forward through coaching
- Why he always wanted to be the host for recruits at Southern Uyah when he was a player there
- Making the NCAA tournament as a player at Southern Utah
- Make the big time where you are and the big time is not a place it’s who you are
- Even with less, you can still do more
- The coaching journey starting at the bottom and the lessons he learned
- His first coaching job at Bemidji right after finishing his playing career there
- The best coaches never make it about them, it’s always about the players
- The best relationships create the best outcomes
- Why you shouldn’t go negative in recruiting
- Don’t be a job hunter, do the best job where you are now
- The need to support your teammates
- Relationships before championships
- Selfless, Connected, and Relentless
- You have to love tough before you can show tough love
- 6 C’s of leadership
- You have to teach players what leadership looks like in order for them to lead
- Leadership with accountability behind it
- You have to grow a culture that your guys fight for every single day.
- You’re either above the line or you’re below the line
- His excitement for the future of Loyola Marymount Basketball
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THANKS, STAN JOHNSON
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TRANSCRIPT FOR STAN JOHNSON – LOYOLA MARYMOUNT UNIVERSITY MEN’S HEAD COACH – EPISODE 364
[00:00:00] Mike Klinzing: [00:00:00] Hello, and welcome to the Hoop Heads Podcast. It’s Mike Klinzing here with my co-host Jason Sunkle and tonight we are pleased to welcome to the podcast, the head coach at Loyola Marymount University, Stan Johnson. Stan, welcome to the Hoop Heads Podcast.
Stan Johnson: [00:00:14] Thanks for having me guys pleasure to be on here with you today.
Mike Klinzing: [00:00:17] We’re very excited to have you on get a chance to dig into all the things that you’ve been able to do in the game across many levels, both as a player, and as a coach, want to start by going back in time to when you were a kid and you’ve got kind of a unique story for someone who ends up a division, one college basketball coach growing up in West Africa.
Talk to us a little bit about your childhood, what it was like growing up there, and then how eventually your family made your way to the United States. And you got introduced to the game of basketball.
Stan Johnson: [00:00:45] Yeah. I have an interesting childhood probably compared to the normal person who’s just born in America.
I was born in Liberia, West Africa is where my dad’s from. my dad went to Montana [00:01:00] tech, for college. He met my mom there. They moved back to Liberia and started a family there. I was there till I was 10 years old. My sister was born there. My brother was born there, both who are younger than I am.
But when I was 10, there was a civil war that broke out in the country. And it really knocked that country back for what looks to be, decades upon decades, upon decades. And till this day, it really hasn’t recovered. But we were very fortunate. My mom was an American citizen.
So at that point we had dual citizenship and we were able to be evacuated out of the country. You know, my dad had just built a home a second home and a dream house and life was pretty good for them, but we lost it all, moved to the States with about three bags [00:02:00] and kind of settled in Salt Lake City, Utah.
Mike Klinzing: [00:02:04] How quickly after the civil war broke out, were you able to get out how, how quick was that process or how slow was that process in your memory?
Stan Johnson: [00:02:15] It was probably three weeks to a month between the war really, affecting us. And when we got on that army war plane, and got out so it was probably three weeks to a month, that we you got to experience war.
I mean every night you heard gunfire up close over the house things of that nature. you experienced rebel leaders and or members coming to your door, knocking on your door. And I remember every time they would knock, my [00:03:00] parents would make us hide so they would knock on the door.
He would hear that knock. He knew it was them. And they would have us hide under beds. And we had other family members staying with us cause we all wanted to be together. And every in all those moments, man, you never know at what point they were going to maybe come in your house and shoot everybody up or kill you, kidnap somebody.
They would ask for the car, give us your car key. give us what you have in the pantry, give us money and you know, we were fortunate. Those are the things that they took and they didn’t take our lives.
Mike Klinzing: [00:03:37] Yeah, I’m imagining as a 10 year old kid. And it sounds like prior to that breaking out that you guys had a pretty stable lifestyle and there was nothing that kind of indicated to you that you were going to have to experience that.
So I’m sure as a 10 year old kid having an Ida under the bed, every time somebody comes to the door was not the experience that what’s [00:04:00] something that you thought was ever going to happen to you. So when you were thinking about. When you guys got here to the United States and you think about your athletic background, what were some of the things that you played while you were in West Africa, had you been interested basketball at all?
Or you were just playing, what were you playing back then? And then how did that transfer into playing basketball when you got to the United States?
Stan Johnson: [00:04:21] Yeah. You know, basketball at that time in Africa, the game wasn’t, I wouldn’t say in 1990, it wasn’t a global game at that point. The game was trending that way, basketball, was maybe the third or fourth sport in that country.
You know, so I had touched the ball a little bit, but I had no real interest in basketball, soccer dominated the continent, not just in Liberia, but the entire continent of Africa, the community where we were in, it was really mixed. A lot of foreigners, a lot of Germans because of the mining community.
So Tennis was a big [00:05:00] sport there. And at that age I was playing soccer and tennis. so those were the games I kind of gravitated to, and at the age of 10 that I was actually playing.
Mike Klinzing: [00:05:12] Are you still a tennis player today?
Stan Johnson: [00:05:14] You know what? I love the game. I haven’t touched a racket in a long time, but I still love it. I was just watching the U S open, over the weekend, it’s a great game. but I wouldn’t consider myself a tennis player by any stretch of the imagination.
Jason Sunkle: Just don’t get disqualified, hitting a person with a ball on the throat. Right?
Stan Johnson: [00:05:32] Yeah. That was incredible. When I was watching the highlights, I never got the real angle. So it looked like he hit it and I thought the ball bounced. So I was going, man, I didn’t look that bad. Right. But then I finally got to see the hit and it was. He got her pretty good.
Mike Klinzing: [00:05:49] Yeah. You just wonder what’s going through his head in that moment.
Like, what are you, what are you doing at that point? It’s just crazy. But then again, I guess I grew up with John McEnroe as my favorite tennis player. So I don’t really have room [00:06:00] to probably say a whole lot about that. A little bit of a different era of tennis back then for sure. The decorum was a little bit different at that point.
Alright. So hoops. So how do you, how do you get introduced to hoops? Give us the story of your first indoctrination into the game?
Stan Johnson: [00:06:19] Well we finally, we got to Salt Lake City finally got settled in as always going to school as a new kid.
And I’m thinking about my little kid right now, I have three kids, but my five year old, he finally went to his school, started yesterday and you know, he was born in Wisconsin, Milwaukee, and you could see the angsty had gone to school. Right. it’s always hard, but I think it’s even harder when you’re coming from a totally different continent and something that looks polar opposite.
To this new way of life that we had. [00:07:00] And so you go to school and that’s already an anxiety in itself. you know, at that time in 1990, I mean, there, weren’t a lot of African American guys running around Salt Lake City so I’m probably one of maybe three, four, five, maybe in the entire school.
And one of the other guys is my brother who’s three years younger than me, so there’s not many. So that’s a whole nother ball of wax. And so it’s like, who do I hang out with at recess? And so these guys are getting ready to play a game. They asked me to play and they didn’t see if I could play.
They just assumed I could. And I’ll never forget. I was literally the first pick. they picked me first. Cause again, you’re black, man. You gotta be able to hoop right. Black guys can hoop. and I always kid around, I mean I didn’t know if it was a soccer ball, basketball, deep, bounce it, or kick it.
Right. And I probably kicked the ball off my feet more than I’ve bounced it. And that was the [00:08:00] last time I was, I was, I was picked first. I was picked last that entire year. and you, what made it even more disappointing is. When they knew you were the last guy in that team had you, so there’s two guys on standing and one team picks the other.
They’re like, Oh, okay. Oh no. Yep. We got, we have him so I had that for a year I just decided I wasn’t going to have that anymore. And I was gonna really dedicate myself to the game, fall in love with the game. You know, I was fortunate our condominium, where we lived. Was literally across the street from the elementary.
So yeah, I’d walk over there everyday by myself and, work on my game. And, I couldn’t wait for that next recess the beginning of the next school year and the tables turned quickly.
Mike Klinzing: [00:08:53] What was it about the game? Was it the challenge of it? Was there some particular aspect of it that you liked about [00:09:00] it?
Was it that you could practice it on your own and get better? What was it about basketball other than that experience of. Not wanting to be picked last and wanting to improve. So you could play in those games. What was it about the game itself that really drew you in?
Stan Johnson: [00:09:14] Well, I think initially, right, it was a way to connect.
It was a way to not really be an outcast. It was a way for me to be accepted. it was a way to connect some kid from like Liberia West Africa. With another kid from Murray, Utah. And in order to have something you could relate to that had to be that common bond, you know? So that’s what really forced me every day to want to grow and want to get better.
And to your point I was a game that I could literally bounce my ball, go to the hoop school and at work. Well, I didn’t need somebody to be by my side. And then [00:10:00] the I think if you’re a competitor and you have that in you, you don’t want to get picked last either.
So all those three things working together really made me fall in love with the game. And I, I say it all the time. there’s what I found from that experiences. There’s real power in the ball. There’s an absolute power of the ball and that ball can unite a lot of people and it can bring people together.
And I’ve seen that with my own life. I saw that as a kid in elementary school , I saw as I got better, the relationships, that were established because of the game as I went to college and got into coaching I always tell people, everything I have in my life is because of that round orange ball and there’s power behind it.
You know, so those are the things that really drew me to the game and those are the things now that I carry with me, as I coach.
Mike Klinzing: [00:10:58] I don’t think there’s any doubt about that in [00:11:00] terms of the power of the ball. And I would phrase it almost the exact same way in terms of what I’ve been able to do in my life and how much I attribute that to basketball, either from the things that I’ve developed as a person, because of what I’ve learned through the game.
And then through the relationships and the people that I’ve gotten to know through a playing career, a coaching career, and then through this podcast, it’s really incredible. What. The basketball can do and how it can, as you said, connect people, when you think back to. That time when you’re starting to get into the game, you’re really starting to work at it.
You’re starting to get better. At what point did you start to realize, Hey, I’m not just good enough to play at the recess game and elementary school, but as you’re moving into junior high and high school, when you start to realize that, Hey, I’m actually pretty good and maybe I’d have an opportunity to play in high school, beyond high school.
When did that realization start to hit for you?
Stan Johnson: [00:11:59] I think you [00:12:00] got real. you know, I’m probably as a ninth grader. Yeah. You know, I could, I could feel that my, my skillset at that point was a level above the guys I was competing with in junior high in Utah, you and your highest seventh, eighth, and ninth grade high school, there starts 10th, 11th, and 12th.
But I felt like I could, I could sense it. You know, when I went out and played in different AAU tournaments, I felt like I was one of the better players. and then you start playing with older guys and you’re holding your own a little bit that’s when I started getting a sense of this is something I have a chance to do in college.
And that just once you get that, there’s an even greater drive to continue to get better. And, and that was, again, a driving force but for me I look at kids now and the kids are so fortunate. There’s so many [00:13:00] good trainers, so many, they have so many great people around them that that know basketball can help them get better.
You know, for me, it was a little different I feel like everything that I knew I gave to myself and I don’t mean that in a braggadocious way. I’m actually some days when I wake up, I’m a little disappointed in that because I hadn’t had a guy around me that really didn’t know the game and understand it, understood it, and could really teach it to me and, and helped me that way.
You know, I may have had a chance to be a better player cause I did have to drive so I was just self taught that way and like anything, man, you can, you can only go so far when you’re doing it by yourself.
Mike Klinzing: [00:13:45] Yeah, no doubt about that. So what did, what did training look like for you during those junior high high school years?
How were you going about trying to get better? Where are you getting your ideas for things you had to work on? And how much were you in the [00:14:00] gym by yourself working on your game versus trying to find pickup games or playing on the AAU circuit? Just maybe give us an idea of what your summer looked like when you were in high school.
Stan Johnson: [00:14:10] Well, when I was in high school it was a little different than when I was in junior high. I would say even my ninth grade year, I mean, most of my development was right on my front driveway. You know, I mean, I spent hours out there and you know, when I got in high school even ninth grade, I just started watching games being in Utah you’d watch a lot of, Obviously Jazz games and you know, the national games that came on TV.
Yeah. I just studied guys and you go outside and you try to emulate that. That’s kinda how I got better. We’d play a lot of pickup at Taylorsville high school. I was good enough to the point, even as a 10th grader, they would invite me to go play with the varsity team and play up.
That helped me. and then I had a membership to a place called the Sports Mall as a 10th grader that my parents gave me. And on Monday [00:15:00] nights, that’s where all the good players would show up within the city and, and, and go play. And it was one of those places where if you lost, you were out so loud, just take your ball and go home.
You know, it’s going to be a minute, but that’s, that’s where I really not only continue to grow, but learn how to compete and be competitive, play against older people and, and really push yourself. So that, that, that was kind of. Mine development, how we got better in terms of value at that point, AAU was active.
It was big, but it wasn’t what it is today. And I didn’t play on a high power AAU team we’d go to Vegas and do some of that. but that, wasn’t a huge piece of my basketball experience back then.
Mike Klinzing: [00:15:52] I love what you said about finding the place where all the good players would show up on Monday night.
And I think that kind [00:16:00] of is similar to the way that I grew up, where you just kind of drive around. You knew that this playground or this park or this gym, this was the night where. The best players showed up at that particular location. And you’d figure out a way to get their hitch, a ride with somebody, or as you got older, take your own car or whatever you had to do to go and find those games.
And I think that you talked earlier about the benefits that kids today have of me and with trainers and having, I think a lot better. Coaching in most cases, certainly you have a lot more people that are knowledgeable about the game that have an opportunity to impact kids at a younger age without a doubt.
But I do think that one of the things that those kids miss out on, and you’ve mentioned it a couple of times now is the opportunity to play against. Older kids when you’re young. Sure. And I think there’s such a benefit to that and that you learn how to not only play and use your body and fight off a guy who’s bigger and stronger than you, but you also learn some things just about your character and being willing to stand up for yourself as a 14 year old.
When you’re playing [00:17:00] with high school, varsity guys or college guys or adults. And that’s one of the things that when I look at the basketball system today, it’s one of the things that I feel I feel more bad than anything else that a lot of kids don’t get to experience that same thing that you and I got to experience growing up, playing more pickup basketball with people of all different ages.
Stan Johnson: [00:17:19] Right. You know, I always say too much of any one thing is not good. I’m a big believer in balance are oranges good for you to eat? Absolutely. If that’s all you eat is not a good thing you have to have balance and having a great trainer is, is good. If all you do is train and you don’t have, you don’t go and compete and put that training to work.
It’s not good. Vice versa. If all you do is, is go out and you’re just playing and pickup games and playing pickup games, but you’re not holding your craft on the side. That’s not good either. And I, to your point, I think that’s what we miss [00:18:00] now. And for me, I thought that’s what I missed. You know, I didn’t have that real individualized.
you know, plan or somebody knew my game in and out and, and was really even pushing me harder and finding ways for me to get better. you know, I went and I sought that on the court, which was outstanding, but if you could marriage. Those two things and, and, and put those together. Gosh there’s, there’s power in that.
And to your point, I think a lot of kids miss that now. And I think if I look back I think what we missed on was having people that could lock, could lock in on our games and. And, and really help us perfect our craft.
Mike Klinzing: [00:18:43] Yeah, I agree. I’ve said it a couple of times on the podcast here. That from the time I was probably a junior in high school through my entire college career, I basically had to.
Skill development workouts. If you want to call them that I had one that I would do when I was by myself and it was always exactly the same. [00:19:00] And then I had one that I would do if I had somebody that I could wrangle up that wanted to shoot with me or do whatever. And those are the only two workouts that I did.
And there was probably each one was an hour and a half or whatever it was. And, but it was the same. It was the same drills. Every single time. There was no variance. There was no anything. It was just, well, I think this is working for me. I feel like I’m getting better at yeah. You know, these particular things, but you look back on it now and you just see the variety that.
Of drills and just skill levels that kids are exposed to. And then you think about the trainers that are watching film and breaking down, not only your own individual game of the kids they’re working with, but they’re looking at pro players and college players and their footwork and the things that they do and how they work, and then transferring that over to the kids that they work with.
And I, I can only imagine kid like yourself who love the game and wanted to get better. You know, it’s almost like you’d be sitting down at all. You can eat buffet and just being like give me, give me some more of that because, you just would have eaten all that up [00:20:00] and taken it and continue to improve, like you said.
Stan Johnson: [00:20:04] Yeah. I mean it’s one of those things, right. and I had some, I talked to our guys about all the time I tell them I don’t know what it’s like. You guys don’t know what it’s like to be 40 like me, but I know what it’s like to be 20 right. 18 or 17. And if I could go back, and be you knowing what I’ve know now through my own actions, variance this is what I would tell you and this is the balance you have to have within your game.
And this is how you have to attack it. because I look back now and I’m sure as you do you go, gosh, If I only knew then what I knew now, if I only had this. but the goal now is to pay that forward and make sure the people that we encounter in our lives, don’t have those same experiences and we can help them have what we didn’t have.
Mike Klinzing: [00:20:55] Absolutely. So let’s think about coaching and [00:21:00] when coaching starts to get on your radar, you obviously have a chance to go and play college basketball first at Southern Utah. At what point during your college career, do you think about coaching being something that you might want to get into.?
Stan Johnson: [00:21:15] Yeah. Well, I was like every other kid you couldn’t tell me I wasn’t gonna play in the NBA.
There you go. You could not tell me even while you’re going to Southern Utah, they never had an NBA player and I would be the first you couldn’t tell me, but I was very fortunate, because I began to see there’s some guys that are fricking good, man. There were some guys that got some stuff you don’t have and to make it at that level is really, really hard.
And guess what? There’s some dudes just better than you at some point that hit me. That doesn’t mean you can’t compete. That doesn’t mean you can’t maybe have a living doing this, but it’s not going to be what [00:22:00] you want. And I think that really hit me after my sophomore year in high school, Or excuse me, in, in college you just started to see what greatness looked like.
What an NBA guy looked like, what a pro looked like, how they moved, how they thought, how different they were. And, and I said to myself, I’m going to give it the best shot I can, but I know that this is a game I want to be involved with forever. You know, even in college, in high school, my buddies called me coach.
Right. They, they used to say, you, you have such an old soul. It was just something that was in my blood. I mean, I know never wanted to take my hand out of the huddle and I go back to. When I said to you, when we begin this podcast for my life, I saw what basketball did for me. I saw the power of the ball I saw when it’s used correctly, man, what life changing impact it could have on [00:23:00] someone.
And I wanted to give that back because the game has given me a lot so, I felt like coaching and being in the game was my way to repay it, and help kids have even a greater experience than I did as a player. So that’s kinda how that started to unfold in my brain.
Mike Klinzing: [00:23:26] And did you think when you started thinking about coaching, was there a level. That you had in mind, did you think, Oh, maybe I want to be a teacher in a high school coach. Did you always think college coaching was where you wanted to end up? Did you think, Hey, maybe I can somehow work my way up and be a pro coach or was it just, I just want to stay involved with this game at whatever level the opportunity presents itself.
Stan Johnson: [00:23:49] Yeah. You know, initially in my mind I was like, well maybe I’ll go back to my high school and coach high school basketball coach. And then I started at Southern Utah. [00:24:00] I started hosting almost everybody. I mean, if a kid came on a visit to South Utah, I saw
Mike Klinzing: [00:24:06] You were the guy. Huh?
Stan Johnson: [00:24:08] Right.
And I started to find real joy in that. And I loved doing that actually. And I used to kill with my coaches. I used to say, yeah, you guys want me to host this kid? And he plays my position. Right. You know, I wanted to win. There’s a challenge in that I loved when a kid committed, I felt like, you know what?
I had a big part in that and I really found joy in that. And as I started doing that, the more I knew I wanted to be involved in college I love that aspect of it the, the recruiting piece, but I didn’t know where that would start.
These jobs are hard, man. Getting the GA position is hard. getting an assistant coaching position is hard. I mean, they’re all hard. but yeah. You know, it was that moment when I, as I began really hosting kids and selling them on Southern Utah, that I [00:25:00] knew, you know what? This is something I want to do as a college coach.
Mike Klinzing: [00:25:03] All right. So you left Southern Utah as a player and you finished up at I’m going to make sure I pronounce it right. Bemidji, Bemidji. I was right. All right. I was good
Stan Johnson: [00:25:12] Bemidji
Mike Klinzing: [00:25:14] Nice. There you go. So you still got it. You still got it in. All right, so you end up there and then you finish out your playing career.
And then you get an opportunity to join that staff. So too, this is a two part question. Talk a little bit about first of all, how that opportunity comes to pass, why there was an opening on the staff, how you ended up with that position and then two, you go from being a player. And I always find this to be kind of a fascinating thing where you go from being a player in a program, and then you get to the step behind the coaching curtain and kind of see what goes on behind the scenes that maybe as a player.
You didn’t necessarily know or appreciate all the things that that coaching staff was doing behind the scenes that you as a player. Couldn’t see. So talk about how you got the opportunity. And then what were some things that [00:26:00] when the curtain got pulled back that were kind of surprising to you when you got the job or maybe they weren’t surprising?
Cause you had kind of had your eye on being a coach at that point?
Stan Johnson: [00:26:07] Yeah. Well I was at Southern Utah for four years. I believe my third year there, we went the NCAA tournament, which, To this day. I’m so proud of one of the greatest accomplishments of my life. But we had a guy that, that came in as an assistant for a year.
And he was a enormous difference maker for us. I mean his, the way he thought, the way he dealt with players, he really helped us become a tournament team. After that year he left and got the head coaching job at Bemidji. I had a severe case of tendonitis, after that year that we went to the tournament and I could feel that Hey, we’ve done all we could here. I’m almost done. I’m going to graduate. I’m going to have one year. and I was talking to him and I just felt [00:27:00] like first of all, my knees were given out. I wasn’t that great.
Let me think about longterm picture here. So he said, Hey, why don’t you come out here, play for a year, finished your career here. When you’re done, we can talk about this coaching thing. And that’s what I did. And I went out and played for a year, had a great senior season, actually. Knees never felt as good.
And I don’t know what happened.
Mike Klinzing: [00:27:29] . Maybe it was like your knees were getting ice every day. Right.
Stan Johnson: [00:27:30] Get iced everyday whether you liked it or not. and then he hired me and I have to tell you there, there was, there wasn’t anything that I was really surprised about. You know, I just, it was such a natural fit for me. but that experience, man, it has been one that I have so much value you and I hold dear to me.
You know, I tell people all the time, even young coaches you have to make the big time where you are and the big time is not a place it’s who you are. [00:28:00] And I was so thankful, so grateful. To be a coach you’re making 10 grand a year. I’m sleeping in the coach’s basement. You drive the bus, you sweep the floors, you, you prepare the practice plans, you watch film you name it, you do it.
And it gave me, an understanding of number one, how hard jobs are. It allowed me to grow in every facet of a coach and, and three, and helped me understand then that even with less, you can still do more. And that’s what we did. And because of that experience, I’ve, I’ve taken that with me in every job and because of the Bemidji experience, really, and it’s allowed, want me to appreciate every step.
In my journey so I love living there. I tell people all the time, you couldn’t tell me when I put that Bemidji polo on, if I was working at Duke [00:29:00] or if I was working at Bemidji, that’s the sense of pride we had. And with that came a lot of success there.
Mike Klinzing: [00:29:08] I think what I always, I always use the phrase.
It’s the glamorous life of a college basketball coach. When you hear the story that you just described of somebody getting their first start in the job, and maybe they’re getting paid nothing, or they’re getting paid a couple thousand dollars and they’re sleeping in someone’s basement and they’re sweeping the floor and they’re driving the bus and they’re doing every little thing.
And I’ve talked to so many coaches on the college level who have started the same way that you started. And. To a person. They all say that those first couple of years where they’re maybe at a smaller all or school, they’re at a lower level there. On a staff that maybe has one or two others, maybe only one full time person and a couple of part-timers, but you learn to do so many different things that translate as you move on in your career, that you can always go back on those experiences and say, [00:30:00] yeah, I remember when I had to do that.
And I remember when I had to learn how to do this and by doing that, you can pass that. Information then along to the other people who eventually be are part of your staff as you move on in your career, but you can also kind of ground yourself and just say, Hey, I remember when I had to first learn how to do this, and now maybe I’m doing it at a higher level, but I’m still doing the same things.
And I think your line of make the big time wherever you are for any young coach out there. To me, that’s a key phrase that you should tape to your mirror every single day. And just remember that if you’re. Treating your job. Like it’s the big time then you probably will eventually have an opportunity to move on to a higher level or a bigger job, because if you’re doing a great job where you are, that’s opportunities open themselves up to, to you is by the effort that you put in, in the job that you’re in.
Currently, if you’re looking out the door all the time for the next opportunity, that next opportunity is going to be a lot harder to [00:31:00] come by, I would guess.
Stan Johnson: [00:31:02] Yeah. You know, another thing for me, it makes you more relatable. You know, like right now I’ve hired a staff. I have two young GA’s I laugh at them, you know?
Cause you know, you gotta do a lot of grunt work. I don’t treat them like GA’s. They have a voice that opinion, value it, but they have to do things that are hard. They have to do things that are not glamorous and one of them just got done playing and it, and I can relate to that.
I think sometimes when you haven’t gone through that, you have no empathy, no sympathy, no understanding for what that person is going through. You know, so I’m appreciative of that, but also I can also be demanding because I’ve been there and I know what that looks like. So you have both spectrums so I love that.
And you can tell people, Hey man, I’ve been there and I’m living proof of. If you continue to work and [00:32:00] you attack this as if you’re getting paid $200,000 a year, eventually that’ll come. You know, so that’s, that’s the part of really starting at rock bottom and fighting for every inch that I really love, appreciate and can understand as I see other guys go through that journey.
Mike Klinzing: [00:32:27] What was your favorite part of coaching that first year? Was there some aspect of it that stood out to you that you’re like, yeah, this is what I love. Was it the recruiting? Was it on the floor coaching? Was it something else? What was it that, that first year that really leaped out at you’re like, man, I love this.
Stan Johnson: [00:32:40] Well, I was very spoiled. You know, we won the league with four and a half scholarships and they had never been done the history of that program. So I love being on a winning team, so I was spoiled to have that [00:33:00] experience, but no, I think for me it’s one thing to become a coach.
It’s another thing to coach guys. You just played with so learning how to navigate that. And being able to coach them and hold them accountable and having their respect where things weren’t awkward. That was a great transition for me. That was a great teacher for me, you know?
So that part was awesome to be able to coach guys that you just played with and they respect you enough to listen and follow through on something. You know, that was, that was an awesome part of that experience.
Mike Klinzing: [00:33:40] So after you leave Bemidji, you have series of different jobs as an assistant at a bunch of different universities, different levels, different locations around the country.
So maybe just hit for us some of the things that you learned on your journey as an assistant coach that eventually. Here as you get your [00:34:00] first opportunity at Loyola Marymount, what are some of the things that you learned along the way as an assistant that you feel are going to help you to be successful in your first 10 as a head coach?
Stan Johnson: [00:34:11] Well, I think I’ve been so privileged I’ve worked with so many good coaches. you know, I think about Herps Sendek in our time at Arizona state. Jim Boylen, who is just the former coach of the ChicagoBbulls. When I was together at Utah going to a place like Marquette and, and seeing, how they treat basketball in how it’s done at an elite level.
Yeah. Being at Drake, with Mark Phelps, working for Bobby Braswell at Cal state Northridge, who was the longest tenured African American coach, for the longest time of college basketball I’ve seen every facet. And the one thing that I know is you have to continue to [00:35:00] evolve. As a person, you have to continue to evolve as a, as a coach and the best coaches never make it about them.
It’s always about the players. It’s always about making sure that these guys, accomplish the things that they’re dreaming about. And if your eye and your heart is on that target. Things will happen for you. These kids aren’t here to serve us. We’re here to serve them.
And in serving them, holding them accountable, developing them, helping them grow. There is no greater joy than that to seeing kids reach things they probably never even imagined or dreamed was possible. And for me, that’s done through [00:36:00] our relationship and I’m a big believer in that you have to have a strong relationship in order to have success.
And the relationships you have with your players are vital and those kids need to feel like. I am playing for somebody I’m being recruited by somebody who truly cares about me and who truly loves me. And in all my stops along the way, I can honestly tell you the people who have done that the best have had the best outcomes.
And if you have your time to, if I have 15 minutes in a day and I have the decision to make, whether to watch a little more film or spend that time with a player, you spend that time with the player, you know? So that would be one thing. The other thing I’ve learned is [00:37:00] as you progress, especially as an assistant coach, it’s okay to be happy for other guys’ success.
Someone getting to someplace sooner than you does not mean that your opportunity is not coming. And I think sometimes in this business we spend so much time being so competitive, which I love. And I get, especially in recruiting that we will negatively recruit against somebody to get a player. And I always say, you know what, that player, if we’re fortunate enough to be in your program for four to five years, but your career is way longer than that.
And the same guy that you negatively recruits against someday, maybe in a position to help you don’t be shortsighted. I tell our staff that all the time here, we’re going to sell us because what we have to sell is good enough. [00:38:00] You know, that would be a. You know, advice, I would give everybody sell. You, make it about you.
Don’t go negative. Tell facts if you want, if you want to sell data, how we style a play, all that, do that, but make sure you’re doing it the right way. Make sure you’re being classy. Cause this is a such a small business and I’m telling you, man, it’s very circular. You know, so that would be the second thing.
The third thing I would say is, and I kinda said it about making the big time where you are be happy with where you’re at. You know, don’t be a job hunter, a job seeker, where are you at be present, do the best job you can. And in due time, opportunity will find you. When it’s time to go out and advance [00:39:00] yourself and make yourself better do that, but be present, focus on you, work hard and don’t compare your journey to any one else.
I tell people all the time comparison is the thief of joy and there’s 300 and some of these. Okay. They’re hard to get. If you’re in the business, you’re very fortunate. So don’t, don’t take that for granted, but those are the things that I carry with me into this seat is it’s always about the players period.
What’s most important is what we’re doing, not what other people are doing. We take the high road and we’re always classy in how we do our business. Those things will come back to you. So that’s in a nutshell, You know what I’ve taken away from, from my journey and the places I’ve been. The other thing I’ll add to that real quick is support your [00:40:00] teammates.
You know that the coaches that you work with as an assistant coach, sell those guys get along it doesn’t have to be a, you get in something, right. It has to be us getting it. Right. You know, put your ego aside. Nothing has hurt more companies and more teams and more programs. And then our ego, because our ego gets in the way, if we win everybody wins, you know?
So that would, that would be kind of what I’ve taken from my journey.
Mike Klinzing: [00:40:36] So I think the overriding theme through all of those is something that you’ve talked about, not just when you were discussing that question, but also that you mentioned before, and that’s the relationships and how the connection with people, whether it be your fellow coaches on your staff, whether it be your players, whether it be on the recruiting trail, [00:41:00] when you’re working with players and their families.
Those relationships are so important. So when you look at how you’re going to develop relationships as a head coach, and obviously you’ve been put into a position with the pandemic that not a normal situation in terms of how you probably would have built relationships with your players, had you been hired on in March of 2019 instead of March of 2020.
But just as you envision, what building relationships with your players looks like, talk about what you’ve done to this point, what that looks like on the ground right now. And then moving forward, providing that at some point we returned to normalcy. What does that look like day in and day out in the practice floor on campus, what does it look like when you’re interacting with your players, building those relationships that are so important to you?
Stan Johnson: [00:41:54] Yeah, that’s a great question. You know, I’ll say this about the pandemic in a lot of ways, it’s [00:42:00] it? You know, it’s helped, usually when you get a job, you’re off and running, man, you hit the ground. You’re recruiting, you’re doing this. You’re at this, You’re getting pulled in so many different directions and for a while things slowing down.
So, yeah, I hadn’t met all my team. physically, until about three weeks ago, There’s about seven guys. I haven’t met, there’s still one coming in that have not met physically, but I talk to my guys every other day when I took the job on the phone and we zoomed as a team, like every Thursday we had a zoom and we were very intentional about what we were doing.
And the first thing I wanted them to know is I’m going to care about you and how do I care about you? Well, as a player we broke down who they were as a person who they were as a player who they were as a student. And we gave them the [00:43:00] areas that they had to get better. And we talked about that.
I got to know their parents spending time with their parents in the fall. So coming all their parents the connection piece is important. You know, there’s three things in our, my program that my three core principles one is we’re going to be selfless.
And two is connected and that’s what you and I talking about right now. That means relationships before championships. And the third is relentless and we attack everything. So. you know, the connector connection piece. There’s, there’s nothing bigger than that. Now that we’re in person, we meet, obviously we social distance it’s outside.
We have a meeting space. we meet every Wednesday as a team and. We call those culture meetings. So for example, we’re going through the six, six CS of leaders. and [00:44:00] today was the first day of that. and we, today we met about, communication we spent an hour on what communications looks like in our program from player to player, from coach to player, from coach to coach.
You know, I, every week I have an individual meeting with every member of my team where we, we I, I schedule out 30 minutes for each guy where we spend one on one time as, as things hopefully begin to open up I’ve envisioned us going to lunch, having guide in my house for dinner, like.
I want them to know my kids, my family. I want them to see that side. You know, I tell kids all the time, like we should have a kind of relationship where if you called me on a Friday night and said, Hey coach, I’m bored, I’m hungry. [00:45:00] I’d say, Hey, come over. You can come over. You can open my fridge. You pour yourself a lemonade, get yourself something to eat, fall asleep on the couch and never have to ask that.
That’s okay. I want that to feel like home. Because if we have that relationship, when we get on the court, now I say, Hey, you got to do A, B and C. You may not like A, B and C, but you’re going to say, you know what? I know coach Stan truly loves me. And I know it’s coming from a good place. Therefore, I’m going to do it.
So for me, man, I believe you have to love tough before you can show tough love. That’s just the society we’re in. And I think the days especially a guy like me, when you’re a no name and you haven’t done anything. Right. You know, you’re not just going to come in and we’re doing this, we’re doing that word.
You have to gain trust. You have to gain these kids trust. It’s different. You got to coach them a little different, but once they believe in you, once they know that you [00:46:00] care about them and you love them. Now you can be, you have permission to be honest. So for me, that’s what that looks like. And that’s how we want to build that here, with our guys.
And I think sometimes when people hear about love and relationships and, Oh, look at that, and that’s all fairy dust stuff. That’s soft that’s hard, that’s hard being vulnerable is hard. And to me, that sticks, that lasts, and it takes a lot of work to do it and you’ve gotta be really vulnerable to do it.
And that’s how we connect. That’s us building this relationship. Yeah.
Mike Klinzing: [00:46:41] I think what you said there about. Being able to put your ego aside and earn the trust of your players. That’s something that if I think about situations where I’ve been in as a player or that I’ve been in as a coach, I think it’s so [00:47:00] critically important that your players believe in you and trust that you have their best interests at heart.
And when that is the case, then I think you get more out of your team. And I think, especially in today’s world with players and kids, the way they are and the way that they’ve evolved over time to me, I don’t think you can really be successful without that. Connection piece that you just so eloquently described.
So you mentioned your six CS just for coaches out there who are curious what those six CS are. You mentioned the first one was communication. I could probably guess a couple, but I’m gonna let you just go ahead and run off those six for us.
Stan Johnson: [00:47:39] Yeah. So right now we’re in a leadership series with our team and I call it the six CS of leadership, man.
For example, today we went over communication. That was, our first C, but those six are communication, connection, character consistency in terms of who you are, [00:48:00] competence and courage. you know, those are the six CS and obviously those are the things I want our guys to embody here. You know, what, what is striking to me?
I think, and something that’s really stood out everywhere. I’ve been, you hear people talk about leadership a lot, and there’s a lot of kids who’ve never led. They’ve never been in those positions. They don’t understand it. And sometimes we have to teach them what leadership looks like in order for them to lead.
And you have to spend time doing that. And that’s a big part of our culture. So. over the next six weeks we’re going to take one of those CS and really break that down. For example, today, I gave our guys a sheet and it had our staff’s name on it as well. Everybody had their own sheet.
You started with your own sheet of paper, a piece of paper that had Stan Johnson and you would then pass it to the guy to your right. And everybody had to write. What they, how they felt that person was communicating in the program [00:49:00] and what they could do to improve so again, it gave us insight information and what we think of each other.
but we were also able to establish today how we communicate within the LMU program on the next meeting next week will be about connection and how we connect so that’s how we’re trying to build leadership and, and culture. Within what we’re doing.
Mike Klinzing: [00:49:26] That’s so important that you break it down for your players, that they can actually see.
And have you teach them what communication looks like? What character looks like, what connection looks like? Because so often we hear coaches. Say that this word or that word are the pillars of their program. And then the players can repeat what those words are, but they don’t necessarily know what behaviors are associated with those words.
And to me, that’s so important as a leader. When you’re trying to [00:50:00] develop leaders and develop your kids and develop your team is to give them things that they can actually do to demonstrate those things. And then of course we know just like you would coach a kid out on the floor in terms of their basketball skill.
You want to notice and praise and reward those kids when they’re doing the things that you want them to do for those culture building things that you were just describing as part of your six CS.
Stan Johnson: [00:50:24] Yeah. You know, I told them today one of the things they had to do after we all got our paper back.
We had a chance to look at it. We had now come up with an action step on what we were going to do to improve based on the feedback we got so now everybody heard what each member of the team is going to do, and now we have a chance to hold them accountable to that, you know? So those are things that you can.
You can hang your hat on and you can measure, so that’s, that’s how we’re trying [00:51:00] to build culture built leadership, but also have accountability behind it.
Mike Klinzing: [00:51:05] Yeah, that makes a lot of sense to me. Like I said, I just think that when you give something. Something to kids that they can hold on to something concrete.
It makes it a lot more real for them. And I think it makes it a lot easier for you to get what you’re looking for as a coach, as opposed to just a nebulous buzzword that the kids can repeat it, but they can’t necessarily act on it. And I love the fact that you’re giving them the tools that they need to be able to act on those things.
I want to be respectful of your time and wrap up here with one final two part question for you. And the first part is. When you look ahead from where we are today at the beginning of September at Loyola Marymount university. And you think about what you need to do to get that program where you want it to be.
What is your biggest challenge that you see moving forward? And then number two, what is your biggest joy when you get out of the bed in the morning, what is the one [00:52:00] thing that puts a smile on your face when you think, man, I cannot wait to get into work today. So your biggest challenge and your biggest joy.
Stan Johnson: [00:52:07] Yeah. you know, I think the biggest challenge for me is I’m always very careful how I say this because I have the utmost respect for coaches. I’m a defender of coaches. And I think sometimes when you take a job over, there’s a tendency to say we got to change the culture. And I think that’s so disrespectful to the people that came in front of you. I’m very appreciative. the people who’ve come in front of me and not only Coach Dunlap, who was just currently here, but, Max Good. And, and, and everybody before max, that had this job, they’ve all put me in a position to be successful.
So it’s [00:53:00] not, we got to change the culture for me. We have to grow our culture. And that’s the biggest challenge. We have to grow a culture that, our guys fight for every single day. And we have to grow a culture, not only within our team. But within our athletic department, within our university, have this expectation to be good.
We can be good. We can be great here, but here’s how we go about it. And here are the standards and you’re either above the line or you’re below the line period, because what it takes to be a great, you cannot negotiate with at any level. So that’s my biggest challenge is getting our team to understand that what it truly takes [00:54:00] that good is not good enough if better is possible.
And from our department and our university to all. Yeah, lock arms and be all in on getting this thing to the level it needs to be at. And I’m very fortunate to work with a president who’s committed to that, and I’m very fortunate to work with an athletic director that’s committed to that so I think we have alignment and we have three people, locked arm and arm, in trying to create that growth within our program. The thing that, what excites me most about getting up and getting to work is homework and Loyola Marymount. And I’m telling you, this is this beautiful of a place as I’ve, as I’ve been to. I mean, it’s incredible. And I see tremendous opportunities here, even in a pandemic, and it’s [00:55:00] not like When I was thinking about becoming a head coach, the one thing I always said is you want to be a head coach for a long time.
These jobs are hard to get, but you also have to make sure you take the right one. There is no doubt in my mind, I took the right one and our name here, the Loyola Marymount name still carries weight and it still has a national presence. Based on what happened 30 years ago. And what excites me the most is that when we get this back to where it’s supposed to be, it’s going to be one of the great stories in college basketball.
So that excites me in the fact that I get to have a chance to make a change there, a chance to wake up every day and work on this beautiful campus with, like I said, the athletic director that I work with and the president that I work with, [00:56:00] those things, those things bring that smile to my face.
Mike Klinzing: [00:56:04] Having all that in alignment is critical, I think, to any coach success. And I think you could talk to college coaches about that, and you could certainly talk to high school coaches about it, and you could probably talk to NBA and pro coaches about that when everybody’s in line, it makes it a lot easier for the coach to do what needs to be done before we wrap up Stan, I want to give you a chance to promote your program, share where people can connect.
With the Loyola Marymount Lions, where they can connect with you, whether that’s social media website, just tell us the best way to get in touch with you, follow your program so that people can, keep their eye on what you’re doing there. And what your building.
Stan Johnson: [00:56:41] Yeah. You know our program I hope people will follow us people who are listening, follow this journey as we continue to grow this program and.
And become competitive and consistent. you know, our, our website on Twitter and on Instagram is LMU [00:57:00] lions, L I O N S. and my Twitter handle is @LMUCoachJohnson. so you can find me on Twitter there, and you can find us on Instagram and on Twitter at LMUlions, so again, I’m excited to be the coach here, excited to lead this program.
Who would’ve thought I would’ve had my first job during a pandemic where it’s already hard enough to be a head coach, but there’s no blueprint for this, but we have really found opportunity in that. So I hope people will join us and follow us as we go.
Mike Klinzing: [00:57:40] Absolutely. I can say that we will definitely be keeping an eye on your progress and following what you’re doing and what you’re building out there.
We cannot thank you enough for taking the time out of your schedule to join us tonight and spend an hour of your time talking hoops with us and sharing your journey, given some great. Pieces of advice to coaches [00:58:00] out there who are at various stages of their journey. And just want to say to you, congratulations on the opportunity to be a head coach for the first time and based on the conversation that we had tonight and the way that you’re going to go about building things.
I have no doubt that you’re going to be a tremendous success, and we’re going to follow you every step of the way. I cannot. Thank you enough for joining us tonight. We really appreciate it. And to everyone who’s out there listening, we appreciate it and we will catch you on our next episode. Thanks.