Ten high school coaches will relive memories of their days playing at Emory & Henry College when Lord Botetourt plays host to the “Bob Johnson Classic” in Daleville Saturday.
An all-day, five-game card will feature John Battle against Altavista at noon, followed by Goochland against Narrows at 1:45 p.m., Salem High against Fluvanna at 3:30 p.m., Monacan against host Lord Botetourt at 5:15 p.m., and Liberty Christian against Parry McCluer at 7 p.m. Every game will feature coaches who are alumni of Emory & Henry College, assembled by Lord Botetourt’s Andrew Hart.
“We’re very excited to host the inaugural Bob Johnson Classic this Saturday,” said Hart. “We have a great slate of games. The teams are all coached by former E&H basketball players and all have a tie to the late Bob Johnson. ‘Coach J’ impacted so many lives through his time as a coach, professor, and mentor at Emory & Henry.”
Johnson served Emory & Henry College as its men’s basketball coach and athletic director for almost 30 years. The winningest coach in program history with 370 victories over 27 seasons, Johnson is one of the legendary mentors in the history of the Old Dominion Athletic Conference. He was selected as a member of the 2009 class of the Emory & Henry Sports Hall of Fame.
Known for his strict military discipline, Bob inherited a program in 1980 which had not had a winning season in 13 years. In his fifth season, the Wasps began a string of 12 years in which they won 12 or more contests, six of which were 20-win campaigns. E&H reached the ODAC Tournament Finals five occasions, qualified for five NCAA Division III Tournaments and made it to the Sweet 16 in 1988 and 1993.
Johnson was the recipient of many awards, including three ODAC Coach of the Year awards, three NCAA Division III South Region Coach of the Year honors and he received the National Association of Basketball Coaches’ Division III Service Award in 2007.
On January 19, 2008, Emory & Henry dedicated the playing surface inside the John Rutledge King Center gymnasium as the “Bob Johnson Court.” In 2009, the ODAC ensured that Johnson’s legacy would be a lasting one across the league, designating the annual coaching award for men’s basketball the “Bob Johnson Coach of the Year.”
Johnson died of cancer in 2009 just two days shy of his 63rd birthday, but his legacy lives on in the number of coaches who learned under Bob. All 10 coaches in the “Bob Johnson Classic” are Emory & Henry grads, including the following and their graduating class: Mike Cartolaro (1983) of Parry McCluer, Steve Posey (1987) of John Battle, RJ Spelsberg (1998) of Monacan, Casey Johnson (2000) of Altavista, Heath Bralley (2001) of Fluvanna County, Patrick Bailey (2001) of Narrows, Preston Gordon (2004) of Goochland, Paul Redgate (2005) of Liberty Christian and Andrew Hart (2009) of Lord Botetourt. Brett Pearman (2014) and his Hickory High team were originally scheduled to play Fluvanna but had to drop out. They were replaced by Salem, whose varsity assistant and head jayvee coach, Hank Luton, played for the Wasps.
“Coach Johnson will always be known for his ability to get the most out of his players and teaching them to push themselves to their mental and physical limits in order to succeed,” said Hart. “His toughness and passion for helping others achieve was almost palpable. His legacy lives on through all of the coaches who have learned from him, including myself and many others.”