Wednesday, November 5, 2014

In The Dog Pen: exclusive interview with Wofford men's basketball assistant coach Tim Johnson

To help prepare for the upcoming basketball season, we talked to assistant coach Tim Johnson, who graciously agreed to field several inquiries about various topics of interest concerning the Wofford men's basketball program.

Courtesy Tim Johnson
Johnson, a native of Memphis, Tenn., helped lead the Terriers to their first-ever SoCon titles and subsequent NCAA tournament appearances in 2010 and 2011. With over 1,000 career rebounds, Johnson holds the distinction of being the program's leading rebounder since entering NCAA Division I play.

After graduating in 2011, Johnson spent two seasons at the University of Wyoming as a graduate assistant with the men's basketball program. He returned to Spartanburg in June of 2013, taking his position as assistant coach.

With the basketball season nearly upon us, let's take a look at his responses to our questions.

Could you describe what stands out to you most about the freshman players on this team (Cameron Jackson, Derrick Brooks, Larry McKnight, Jr., Bobby Perez)?

Johnson: Fortunately for us, our freshman have come to campus with a hard hat on their heads and a lunch pail in hand. They don’t, and have never, expected anything but to get what they earn. And because of that mentality, they are on pace to earn quite a bit during their careers. From getting extra shots up on off days to being extremely coachable, I think they all have the DNA to be impact players much sooner than later.

Does the coaching staff or players feel any pressure this season to continue the program's recent success? If so, what are you doing to lessen the burden?

JohnsonPressure isn't a burden to tough teams, it's more of a privilege. But we don’t focus on anything from outside our program because none of it really matters. The only pressure we focus on is internal. Teammates expecting teammates to give it their all every day. Players expecting coaches to be on edge and prepared. Coaches expecting the same from players. If there is any external pressure, it's from Wofford basketball alumni and the great things they've achieved. I'm sure our team wants to be remembered as the greatest in school history. What team wouldn't?

Karl Cochran is obviously one of the leaders of this squad. What is expected of him this season, and what makes him special?

JohnsonSome players can dominate a game offensively. Others can dominate a game defensively. Very few can do both, and at the same time. Karl Cochran would fit into the category of "very few". Defensively, he's among the best I've witnessed. Oftentimes, his defense is overlooked because our new 'media age' seems to glorify points and dunks as opposed to effort and grit. But at Wofford, where  effort and grit are glorified, Karl's defense is golden. He will assume the toughest defensive assignment each night and that's pretty special.

Who's someone on your team, in your opinion, whose contributions most often get overlooked?

JohnsonNo one gets overlooked inside our program. But from the outside looking in, people don’t realize how important our student managers are and how special their character is. They keep us afloat and are some of the most selfless and genuine people you could ever meet. It takes a special person to serve others every day, and wipe up sweat, and fetch water, and all those type things. Ironically, our managers lead each day without saying much. We all aim to have a 'servant's mentality' and do for others without expecting much in return. Unfortunately, they are hardly every publicly recognized but we know how special they are as a part of our team.

Courtesy Tim Johnson

What is is it like transitioning over a few years from a player to a coach? How has this program most changed since you played?

JohnsonIt's a special experience to coach at your alma mater and I'm about as passionate about Wofford as a person can be. Being a small part of the Wofford basketball team is something I take very personal and the success of our family means everything to me. Honestly, coaching at Wofford is a bit therapeutic for me. Although we won championships and I had a great career at Wofford, I made mistakes as a player and certainly, there are some things I would do differently if I could go back in time. We can't travel time (yet), but working with our guys every day affords me the opportunity to correct my past mistakes through them. I hope they learn from my past shortcomings and I think being imperfect is the most essential part of connecting with young people. In return, I learn new ways and new ideas from them too. No better deal.

Could you tell us a little more about the 'WoCo 3D' mentality and fundamentals, and how your team is particularly exemplifying them?

JohnsonWoCo 3D is just the short version of our team mantra, "Discipline, Dedication, and Determination". We feel like if we have those three things in everything we do, whether on or off the court, we will have the opportunity to be successful. We began WoCo 3D last season and that worked out pretty well for us. From then to now, it has grown like a wildfire throughout campus and the social media world. We love when people reach out to us on Twitter with the #WoCo3D hashtag because we know those are people that have done their research and it shows the Wofford basketball legacy and brand is growing.

Have you, Coach Young or your players set any unique personal goals for this season? If so, what are some examples?

JohnsonYes, to be the best we can be.

Any extra comments about the upcoming season?

JohnsonWe look forward to seeing everyone on November 18 at 7:00 A.M. for our ESPN Tip-Off game against Iona! Yes, at 7:00 A.M. And yes, there is Starbucks coffee available inside Ben Johnson Arena.

We would personally like to extend a great thanks to Coach Johnson for taking the time to answer our questions and provide some excellent insight on the season, of which our preview can found here, that is ahead.

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