Basketball coach Damian Johnson comes to the court with expectations and plans

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Sam Best

Mr. Damian Johnson spends his school days working in the Admissions Office and his nights coaching Red Knight basketball.

The BSM basketball community is getting a new addition this year. Damian Johnson is the newly hired head boys’ basketball coach replacing coach Hans Hoeg. The change comes a season after a less-than-glamorous record of 5-21.

While the team has not been the best in recent years, Johnson is not phased by it. “[We] need to set standards and build a culture. We are gonna work hard while holding ourselves to high expectations,” Johnson said.

For players, the expectations reach outside of practices because of the need to improve. With the last couple of seasons being rough, Johnson wants the mindset of these players to change. “We need a culture where kids just want to be in the gym no matter what time it is, and we are coming off a bad year, so we need to work to catch up with everyone else,” Johnson said.

We need a culture where kids just want to be in the gym no matter what time it is.”

— Damian Johnson

The changes to the season due to COVID-19 could be what helps the team catch up, but they have also caused some mixed feelings for Johnson and his team. These outside forces will help them with developing the mindset they need to focus on things other than basketball. A downside though is that the changes will affect the energy at games due to a lack of fans. “I like the idea of less games which gives us more practice time and gives the guys more time for more things like school work. I am not the biggest fan of having no fans in the stands because you can use your fans to get energy, but I also do understand we are going through a pandemic and need to decrease the spread,” Johnson said.

While the schedule has not come out yet and the opponents will be limited to conference teams, Johnson is ready to see the Red Knights play and show their improvement. While only being at BSM since June, he thinks there is going to be a lot of improvement within the team. “I am excited to see the growth of everyone, and since my start here in June what the guys have done is impressive,” Johnson said.

He is also excited to see leadership from newly appointed senior captain Charlie Hansen. “He is a real hard worker and a really good kid,” Johnson said.

Before coming to BSM, Johnson has had a lengthy basketball career playing and coaching. First attending the University of Minnesota on a basketball scholarship, then getting to play professionally in the United States and abroad. After his professional career playing basketball (2005-2014), he then went on to coach. “My first coaching position was a varsity assistant at Eden Prairie (2014-2016) and then had my first head coaching position at North Saint Paul High school (2017-2020),” Johnson said.

I am excited to see the growth of everyone, and since my start here in June what the guys have done is impressive.”

— Damian Johnson

While he’s a coach now, Johnson first tried a corporate job at Cargill. “I was inside the Cargill headquarters for a while and got a chance to see the other side of it, but coaching is just something I am a lot more passionate about. It’s something I really want to do,” Johnson said.

Eventually wanting to coach college or professional basketball, Johnson wanted to start at the high school level. ”I want to start here while my kids are still young and learn how to be a better coach before I take a swing at college or pro basketball,” Johnson said.

In addition to being a basketball coach, Johnson wants to further his education in the business world. “[After attending the University of Minnesota,] I started at Walden University working on my Masters in Business Administration, but it had to be put on hold while my wife and I had kids,” Johnson said.

This summer, Johnson also started working at BSM as an admissions counselor where he will help prospective students become Red Knights.