Greatness Chat: Coach Jim Johnson & Don Yaeger
Based on what transpired in a few short moments in early 2006, Coach Jim Johnson is now an authority on the subject of realizing your dreams. In his many public-speaking appearances, the Rochester, New York resident relates his role in a basketball game that got Hollywood calling. He also emphasizes the importance of teamwork and sportsmanship, delivering his talks with a heartfelt style that has brought audiences to their feet.
Coach Johnson has developed winning high-school basketball teams for 27 years, taking over three losing varsity programs and turning them into winners in short periods of time. Of his 362 career victories, one in particular will surely never be duplicated.
On Feb. 15, 2006, Coach Johnson made the kindhearted gesture of inserting his autistic manager, Jason McElwain, now known to the world as J-Mac into Greece Athena High School’s final home game, which the Trojans won 79-43. J-Mac scored 20 points in just over four minutes, including six three-point baskets, to become an instant national celebrity. Coach Johnson, also, was featured in major news outlets around the country.
To make the Hollywood ending complete, Greece Athena captured the first Section V title of Coach Johnson’s career a few weeks later. A second sectional crown followed in 2007, and Coach Johnson then coached the Trojans to their third straight league title in 2008 by posting a perfect 12-0 record in league play, netting Coach of the Year honors. His success continued in 2009 with a league co-championship (34-2 league record over a three-season stretch) and third sectional title in four years, with an overall record of 20-5, his first-ever trip to the state quarterfinals and more Coach of the Year accolades. In the reccently concluded 2012-2013 season, his Trojans won the sectional title for the fourth time in eight years.
Coach Johnson has made a number of radio and television appearances, including the Oprah Winfrey and Jim Rome shows. In 2006 he met President George W. Bush, Governor George Pataki, and Senator Hillary Clinton, to name just a few luminaries. The Athena team was also paid a visit at school by NBA legend Earvin “Magic” Johnson. J-Mac’s magic moment won the ESPY for “Best Sports Moment” at the ESPN awards show later that year.
Coach Johnson was named Coach of the Year in 2006 by several Rochester-area organizations, and was also presented with a National Sportsmanship Award. These honors brought to light an impressive body of work over the past two decades. His career record is now 362-216, with divisional titles in 1996, 2002, 2003, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009 and again in 2013. He has had winning seasons in 19 of the last 20 years, finishing .500 the other year.
Magic was once again in the air this past season as Coach Johnson’s Greece Athena team rallied from 20 points down with a little more than a quarter to play to win its state-qualifier game. Perhaps not so coincidentally, J-Mac was on the bench for that monumental victory: he returned to the Trojans as a volunteer JV assistant coach, starting in 2008-2009. In 2012-2013 Jason moved from JV to Varsity and helped the Trojans win another Section V Championship. He and Coach Johnson were also featured in a lengthy CBS Sports feature that aired during the 2009 Final Four.
Coach Johnson has rolled his accomplishments and experiences into a presentation, “Dreams Really Do Come True,” which he gives to various business and civic organizations around the country. His one-hour talk also emphasizes “The Essence of Teamwork” and “The Ultimate Level of Sportsmanship.” For instance, he likes to point out that J-Mac’s big night was made possible by unselfish teammates who kept passing him the ball even though they hadn’t been instructed to do so. He also notes how the game video captures Athena bench players going as wild as the crowd with every J-Mac basket.
Coach Johnson, who is a graduate of both SUNY-Cortland and SUNY-Brockport, lives in Greece with his wife of 30 years, Pat, and their son Tyler, 22. He is a physical-education teacher at Athena and has served 17 seasons as the Trojans’ varsity coach. To book Inspirational and Team Buiding speaker Coach Jim Johnson call Executive Speakers Bureau 901-754-9404.
Dreams Really Do Come True
Coach Johnson lived one of the most inspiring and heart warming stories of the 21st century. He shares his six essential keys: Passion, Mission, Goal Setting, Perseverance, Carpe Diem, and being a team player to help each audience member make their own dreams come true.
Leadership That Makes Dreams Come True
Using the remarkable story of J-Mac, Coach Johnson shares his six leadership keys that have guided his teams to immense success. The lessons in this presentation will help you become an extraordinary leader by learning to clarify your vision, build trust, create an edge, communicate effectively, lead by example, and leave a profit.
Dreams Really Do Come True (90 minutes to 4 hours)
This vision-oriented workshop guides participants through the 6 essential key principles which Coach Johnson has used to lead his high school varsity basketball team to extraordinary success. In this workshop, participants discover how to help team members work from their strengths, value others and achieve breakthrough performance. This workshop affects the bottom line in both your personal and professional lives.
Dreams in Motion Leadership Development (90 minutes to 4 hours)
This innovative workshop helps participants see their vision more clearly, develop increased confidence in their abilities, and reach levels of leadership achievement previously thought impossible.
Superintendent, Port Neches-Groves ISD
Your Convocation speech on August 18th certainly exceeded our expectations. Addressing the staff members of three districts at one sitting can be challenging, but the delivery of your message was perfect! Teachers and administrators from all three districts made numerous comments about your presentation on “Dreams Really Do Come True”. They were highly complementary and appreciated your willingness to share your personal feelings about the many experiences you have encountered during your career.
As educators, we face many challenges every day. The fact that you were a successful teacher facing such challenges gave you a great deal of credibility with the audience. It was so heartwarming to learn about your relationship with J-Mac. After all, it is those types of relationships that allow students to reach their highest potential. I hope that you continue to share your special story with educators throughout the country.
Senior VP, Agel Americas
Back in September we were honored to have Coach Jim Johnson give a keynote speech at our yearly convention in Salt Lake City, Utah. Coach Johnson was nothing but pleasant from the time that we picked him up at the airport to the time that we dropped him off.
On top of being an all around great guy, Coach Johnson inspired and motivated people to believe in themselves and have the courage to not give up on their dreams. From the first sentence to his closing remarks Coach Johnson had the audience in a trance.
It really was amazing to see someone capture an audience of 4,000 and have them transitioning from crying to laughter in an instant.We were very pleased with his performance and how he handled himself on and off the stage. In our eyes Coach Johnson’s speech added a missing link that we feel reached out to people in a way that we were unable to.
In closing, we in no way regret having Coach Jim Johnson speak at our event and would recommend him to anyone that is looking to motivate and inspire their group.
Dick Vitale, ESPN Basketball Commentator and Basketball Hall of Famer
I think it’s a great story — to follow your dream, follow your goals and never ever quit. It’s a great story for people of my age, people of any age.
CEO & Founder, The Ladders
Coach Johnson came and shared his inspirational story with our whole team of 225 employees and moved us to tears. Anybody who has seen the video of the game can’t help but be inspired by it. But what we found even more engaging about Coach Johnson’s presentation was “the story behind the story." I can recommend him to any group as a speaker.
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