Gabe Johnson prepared to lead rebuild of Skyhawks’ basketball program

Published 11:13 am Saturday, May 11, 2024

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After a lengthy search, Point University named Gabe Johnson as the new men’s basketball coach on Wednesday. This comes after former coach Jake Deer left the program to take over as Columbia College’s head coach after the season concluded. 

Johnson has had several stops along the way, with his most recent stop coming at Bryan College where he served as the women’s basketball coach since 2021. 

Johnson was familiar with the Skyhawks from facing the program on opposite sides of the court and decided that leading the program at Point would be a great next step for his career. 

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“I think Point is a great institution,” Johnson said. “They used to be in our conference, and they were very competitive in our conference. I know the team traditionally has been good.” 

Johnson had several stops before Bryan College, he served as an assistant coach for Boyd Buchannan School and helped turn that program around from a five-win season into a program that consistently finished with 20 wins. 

The Skyhawks’ basketball program is in need of a rebuild after finishing with a 6-22 record and losing 15 in a row to close out the season. 

Johnson is more than comfortable with leading that rebuild after his years of experience leading rebuilds at the high school and college levels. 

“I like building something new,” Johnson said. “I was brought in as an assistant to help build [Silverdale Baptist’s] program, and we turned that thing around in about two years.” 

“I know they struggled last year in the conference, but I think there are some good pieces there that I am excited about coaching,” Johnson said. “I think it’s a challenge, and I like that about Point.” 

Several coaches steer away from rebuilding programs, but Johnson is excited to have the opportunity to create something new at Point. Johnson believes that the first steps to the rebuild begin with having athletes that fit the team’s scheme and the program’s culture. 

Johnson is not coming into Point with the idea of this team losing in the midst of a rebuild. Johnson is expecting the program to win and start getting better immediately. 

“I think any coach is taking over a program to win,” Johnson said. “Our first small goal is to make the conference tournament, but our overall goal is to win the conference… If I’m coming here, I’m coming here to win.” 

Johnson can be classified as an offensive-minded coach. During his time at Bryan College, the offense relied heavily on the ability to hit shots from the perimeter. When recruiting, Johnson is looking for players that can shoot the cover off the basketball while also having the IQ and ability to be a playmaker. 

“I like shooters,” Johnson said. “When I was at Bryan, we led the NAIA with three-pointers taken per game. I think we averaged around 33.” 

“I’m a big three-point guy. I love the three-point shot, but also guys that can be creative and get to the rim,” Johnson added. 

While Johnson is an offensive coach, he does not allow slack on the defensive end. Bryan College held teams to around 60 points per game during Johnson’s tenure. 

Most teams that shoot a lot of threes and are wide-open on offense are not the best defensive teams. Johnson strives to have his teams be good at both through accountability and the culture he hopes to build. 

“We can score, great, but we have to get stops,” Johnson said. “Really holding players accountable. Once players start falling in love with getting stops and making other teams miserable, it becomes fun.” 

Johnson has spent a lot of time coaching mens and womens basketball. While womens basketball and mens basketball are the same sport, they hold a plethora of differences. 

Coaching both sports has helped Johnson become a better communicator and he learned that aspects from both sides could help his team when he brought both skillsets together. 

“I think it really helped me going from the men’s side to the women’s side,” Johnson said.

 “My communication and my teaching style really got better going from the men to the women… I think the men’s game is a little bit more athletic. I think players rely on athleticism, whereas on the women’s side, there is purity to it. There’s a lot of fundamentally sound players.” 

During his first season or few at Point, Johnson is measuring success based on whether the team is getting better every day and every year or not. If the program continually gets better, Johnson knows the wins and success will follow.