Johnson to retire after 31 years
Georgetown College women’s basketball program is synonymous with one name, Susan Johnson. When the Decatur, Ga. native came here in 1978, her goal was to eventually be a professor—and she was on the sidelines for Tiger women’s basketball. Now 32 years later, Johnson will retire at the end of the 2010-11 season.
“I cannot say enough about the impact she has had on our institution, not to mention the lives of the young women she has coached for these many years,” said GC Director of Athletics Eric Ward. “The legacy she has established will live on at Georgetown College and the vision of academic and athletic excellence she created will serve as a blueprint for the coach that follows in her footsteps.”
Since 1978, she has been directing the Tiger women’s basketball team, taking one sabbatical season in 1989-90. In her 31 years, Georgetown is 578-363, a 61.4 winning percentage. GC has advanced to 11 NAIA National Tournaments, including seven in a row, and three Elite Eight finishes. Georgetown has won six Mid-South Conference Championships, three KIAC Championships and three NAIA District/ Regional Championships under Johnson’s direction.
However, it seems an unfair question to ask what the veteran coach’s favorite memory is. “That’s a difficult one,” Johnson said. “I’ve had so many moments over the years.” Of course the title teams always seem to stick out. The 1989 team came from 16 points down to defeat rival Campbellsville, to earn the tournament championship and a first-ever appearance at the national tournament. As the first it was very memorable in its own rights, but what happened made it even more interesting.
“We were playing Tri- State University on the road,” Johnson said. “We made the trip a day early, did our practices and walkthroughs. Then it was game day. We went to get our uniforms and realized we didn’t have them.” GC ended up playing in the Tri-State road uniforms, losing just 86-81.
The 2001 team also started a string of seven straight national tournament appearances. Johnson does have a very special place for the 2003 MSC Champions and National Tournament qualifying team. All odds were against her Tigers during a bizarre season that saw a roster of 13 be trimmed down to five players and a manager due to injuries and other issues. Georgetown went 22-12 that season. The Tigers tied for the regular season title with three other teams, but were given the fourth seed in the tournament. This meant after a first-round home game, the team would be on the road the next two games to try and win the crown. “We beat Campbellsville at Campbellsville for the title,” Johnson said. “We couldn’t practice. Our bodies needed the rest,” Johnson said. “I didn’t have to coach that year, I just had to stay out of their way. “It is hard to top that team.”
In 32 years, she has coached 11 All-Americans, 26 All-Conference players and 17 NAIA All-Academic Scholars. The veteran coach’s laser-like focus on her team has her leaving out all of her personal accolades over the years. She has been named Coach of the Year seven times—four in the MSC and three in the KIAC. She was also the 1994 NAIA Great Lakes Region Coach of the Year. Most recently, March 16, 2010, in Jackson, Tenn. she became only the fourth Georgetown coach inducted into the NAIA Hall of Fame—the highest honor bestowed by the organization.
Andrea McCloskey, who at the beginning of this season was tabbed associate head coach, has served with Johnson for five years. “Before coming to Georgetown, the draw was to coach with Coach Johnson,” McCloskey said. “I had never played for a woman coach or coached with one, so I knew I was going to be able to learn a lot about what it is like in this business as a female. I knew she had been a very successful coach and it was all a draw to me in wanting to come here.” Johnson’s dedication to Georgetown and women’s sports does not end at the basketball court. The veteran coach is passionate about advancing female athletes’ opportunities, evident in her willingness to coach a sport she had never played, volleyball. She was a three-sport athlete at Furman University—field hockey, basketball and tennis— but when Georgetown asked her to take over as the volleyball coach she did not shy away. She coached for two seasons, keeping a sport that is now a dominate program on campus going. She also coached the tennis team for 12 years, with several doubles teams and singles players advancing to the national tournament, and the softball team.
Her dedication to female athletics extended to serving as president and treasurer of the Kentucky Women’s Intercollegiate Consortium and a member of the NAIA/ WBCA Nominating Committee, as well as a former NAIA representative to the WBCA Board of Directors.
Johnson is also a part of Scott County’s Habitat for Humanity and for the past 17 years the women’s basketball team has been helping run or organize the Habitat Classic tournament —the past 10 of which the Tigers have solely been in charge. The weekend tournament gives 100 percent of the proceeds back to the Scott County branch of Habitat and to date has raised over $68,000.
Johnson also incorporated the Ride & Stride event this year, a fundraiser the weekend before the tournament to raise more money for Habitat. She is also a member of the Georgetown Kiwanis.
The veteran coach will remain on campus through June 30, but what are her plans after that? “I’m ready for some weekends, Christmas breaks, spring breaks, fall breaks,” the veteran coach said with a laugh. “I don’t know what the future holds, but the doors are wide open.”
McCloskey next head coach
Georgetown College has tabbed women’s basketball associate head coach Andrea McCloskey the next Tiger head coach at the start of the 2011-12 season.
The 31-year-old from New Carlisle, Ohio has been dreaming about this for a long time. “I used to watch Bobby Knight coaching Indiana University growing up, and I always said I wanted to play in college and be a coach,” McCloskey said. “I was in fourth grade then, so this is definitely a lifelong dream come true.”
However, McCloskey did not simply sit around and dream for it to happen, she has been out making the best of every opportunity. “I’m really excited for Andrea,” retired coach Johnson said. “I know this has been her dream and she has been working really hard on building up to this moment. I have total confidence in her.”
Upon graduating from Tecumseh High School, McCloskey went to University of Rio Grande on a basketball scholarship. She was a staple on the Red Storm team, serving as captain her junior and senior seasons. Following receiving her Bachelor of Science in sports and exercise science, McCloskey stayed on at Rio to work on her masters and serve as a graduate assistant. “Coach (David) Smalley is one of my mentors and what he let me do really prepared me so much more to be taking over as a head coach at 31,” McCloskey said. “I wasn’t just in charge of tape exchange and office stuff, I was the head junior varsity coach. I got to get out on the floor and really coach a team there.” Now she will have a chance every season to coach against Smalley, as Rio joined the Mid-South Conference in 2009. She followed her time on the sidelines with the Red Storm with a year at Sinclair Community College in Dayton, Ohio, before coming to Georgetown.
“I wanted to coach and take every opportunity to experience all that I could to make me a more wellrounded coach,” McCloskey said. “I knew coming here would be a great advancement in my process. I had never played for or coached with a female, so just in that aspect I knew I would learn a lot. Then I also knew of Coach (Susan) Johnson’s success and wanted to learn under her.”
Johnson’s belief in her young assistant made it easy to stay year-in and year-out despite many offers coming in to try and lure her away from the Tigers’ sideline. “She had the confidence in me that I could be a head coach, and I felt I owed my loyalty to Georgetown and this program,” McCloskey said.
In her five years, Georgetown is 64-49 overall and 23-20 in the Mid-South Conference, giving her winning percentages of .566 and .535. “Her basketball knowledge is exceptional, she has great “people” skills, and she has a NAIA background,” Ward said. “All of these qualities make her a great fit for Georgetown College and the right person to lead our women’s basketball program.”
McCloskey is excited about bringing a fresh eye and system to the Tigers, mixing a bit from all her coaching experiences. But, there is also something to be said about being familiar with all things here and in the MSC. “I’m excited to try some new things and all that I have planned won’t be unveiled next year, I know it will be a process, but it’s exciting to bring this fresh look no one has seen yet,” McCloskey said. “But, I do see it as a bonus that I’ve been here; I know the conference, so this isn’t a completely fresh start.”