The rise of FAMU Basketball coach Clemon Johnson


Before Clemon Johnson coached basketball at Florida A&M, he was a student athlete for the Rattlers.


“Whenever I talk about my greatest time playing basketball, I always come back to when I was here at Florida A&M,” Johnson said.


After leading FAMU High School to the state championship his junior and senior years, Johnson continued on to FAMU.


He came to school with the mindset that getting an education was the first step so he could have a fall back plan after basketball.


Johnson was selected 44th overall by the Portland Trailblazers in the 1978 NBA draft after graduating from FAMU.


“All-around, he was a great player,” said Kenny Robertson, a former teammate of Johnson’s at FAMU.


During his 10-year career in the NBA, Johnson won a championship with the Philadelphia 76ers alongside Julius “Dr.J” Erving.


He said Magic Johnson, a Hall of Fame guard for the Los Angeles Lakers who played against him and Erving in the 1983 NBA Finals, was studious of the game and athletic.


This made for a lethal combination on the court.


Johnson enjoyed playing with Dr. J. He reminisced about a play where Erving said, “Block this one,” and came down the court and dunked on the whole Los Angeles Lakers team.


Johnson moved to Italy to play basketball after ending his NBA career with the Seattle Supersonics. Providing for his family was his major reason for going to Italy.


The level of play in Italy was closer to an NCAA Division I level at the time, Johnson said.


He also liked that the Italian league put less stress on his body. They played one game a week, opposed to playing back-to-back games.


The 32-game schedule appealed to a lot of NBA players. Michael Ray Richardson, a former New York Knicks shooting guard, came to play alongside Johnson in Italy for Bologna.


In 1990, they won the Saporta Cup and the Coppa Italia championships.


Johnson left a contract on the table when he retired. He was ready to pursue other things in life.


Johnson wanted to coach basketball so he applied for the FAMU head coaching position. However, he didn’t get the job because they were looking for coaches with at least a master’s degree.


Johnson was an assistant coach at FAMU during the 1989-90 season and coached Jerome James, another FAMU alumnus who played in the NBA, before he began his high school coaching stint.


Governor Lawton Chiles, a friend of Johnson’s, helped him find a teaching job at Greenville Middle School in Greenville, Fla.


From there, he transferred to Shanks High School in Quincy, Fla., where he taught and coached basketball.


Johnson went on to coach East Gadsden High School, where he won Big Bend Regional Coach of the Year after a 27-4 season in 2004.


He received an offer to coach from the University of Alaska Fairbanks after his high school coaching stint.


Johnson said Alaska was exciting for the first two years he was there.


Johnson is in his second season as head coach of the FAMU men’s basketball team who finished 10-23 last season.