Putting some rumors to rest

There are a lot of rumors swirling around about Doug Johnson's retirement. I will never be able to put all the rumors to rest, but I can tell you what I know and what I believe to be the truth.

Johnson did meet with Petaluma High School administration officials last May to discuss concerns expressed by some parents. The meeting concluded with what I was told an understanding that this would be his last year coaching. That is not set in stone. I have been told point blank that Johnson would be welcome to coach girls basketball again next year if that was his choice. The meeting left, understandably, left some hurt feelings.

That is what I know. Everything else is speculation.

Johnson is old school. He believes in setting rules and having them obeyed, It doesn't matter if you are an All-Empire super star or the No. 12 player on a 12-player team. You obey the rules or you face consequences that can range from not starting to not playing at all. No alibis, no excuses, no reasons, no exceptions.

Johnson also tells you how he feels and what he believes. He pulls no punches. When I sat town and talked to him last week, he cited lack of attention from the media as a reason for the decline in basketball's popularity. "The coverage of basketball is atrocious," he said. "When I look in the paper I'm embarrassed. They're pushing basketball right out of the papers."

Did his comments sting? A little. Was he right? Absolutely.

Of course, when you stand on your principles and tell it like it is, you are bound to upset some people.

"Obviously, I haven't pleased everyone," Johnson said. "That's coaching, especially in this modern era.

While Johnson has had his critics, he has also earned the respect of other coaches, teachers, parents and especially of the hundreds of girls who still today proudly call themselves T-Girls.

Among many things, he taught them not only basketball, but also responsibility, respect for the game and themselves. He taught them that the team always comes before any individual consideration.

Johnson also got caught in the squeeze between parents and team that every coach experiences. It is an old story. Parents want what is best -#8212; or they perceive is best -#8212; for their child. A coach must do what is right for the entire team. Often those goals collide. It is a complicated situation because parents know their child better than anyone, but a coach knows better even than the parents how that child interacts with others and performs on the playing field, and that means in practice as well as in the games.

What happened to Johnson is symptomatic of what happens to too many coaches in these days of social networking, anonymous barking, loss of discipline and sense of entitlement. Earlier this year, a Casa Grande coach was criticized in a student column published in the Argus-Courier for the student's lack of playing time. Before John Behrs responded to an emergency call to become the Petaluma High School boys basketball coach, the man hired before him resigned without ever holding a practice, at least partially because of adverse online postings.

Johnson pointed out that only in coaching will parents come into the "classroom" and openly question and criticize the teacher. It doesn't happen in chemistry, English, math or any other subject. And yet, more kids learn more about life from sports than they do from any other subject.

Johnson is right that there should be some difinite procedures in place for dealing with disgruntled parents. It should be like a chain of command. Those with a problem should come first to the coach and move on to the athletic director and finally to the principal.

There should be ways of dealing with complaints and those with a problem should have the gumption to directly approach the person that has upset them.

Coaching is extremely difficult and full of pitfalls. It is also extremely rewarding. Johnson has hundreds of letters from appreciative parents and players who now understand what he has been teaching for 40 years.

I hope he understands how great a positive impact he has had on so many lives.

(Contact John Jackson at johnie.jackson@arguscourier.com)