1st Forgotten Champions

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He hitchhiked his way to a Championship
Coach Johnson has been called a “sideline legend.” And some say Jerry Johnson teaches “old school” basketball. Hitchhiking his way to college with dreams of a brighter future, Jerry C. Johnson later became the first African American basketball coach to win a Men Division III NCAA National Basketball Championship in 1975. In fact, Johnson learned the game from John McClendon, who learned it from James Naismith, the inventor of the game. Take the journey with us while we illustrate his life from inception to victory. At 102 years young, his accomplishments and honors are numerous. In his illustrious career, he has to his credit, the 1975 NCAA Division III Championship, five SIAC Championships, five Championship titles in the former Volunteer State Athletic Conference plus many NCAA regional playoffs. Johnson was ranked first among active NCAA Division II coaches with 821 wins in 46 seasons and is one of just six NCAA men’s basketball coaches who have won more than 800 games at the time of his retirement. Through the years, Coach Johnson was named VSAC “Coach of the Year” four consecutive years (1971 through 1974) and SIAC “Coach of the Year” in 1999, 2000 and 2005. He was inducted to the Fayetteville State Athletic Hall of Fame in 1991 and to the SIAC Basketball Hall of Fame in 1995. In 2005, upon his retirement, the Memphis City Council named “Jerry C. Johnson” Street, he received the keys to the City of Memphis (February), he received the keys to Lemoyne Owen College (April) and was given a Lifetime Achievement Award by the City of Memphis (June). Maybe the most lasting legacy Coach Johnson will leave is the actual men he’s taught and coached. From his teams, there have been eight NBA players, numerous high school or junior high school coaches, college coaches, high school principals, a city councilman, and the first elected African American Mayor of Memphis. Most Americans do not know the first African American male basketball coach to win a Division III NCAA basketball championship. Most of us would ask, what relevance does this have? Understanding how we arrived at our current place is the very thing that makes America great. I think this is as important as possibly nominating our first female president of The United States. Americans have come so far, and it is very important for us to remind each other of how we arrived. These are the reasons why people from all over the world want to move here and start a new life. They know in America, you can be as successful as you desire with effort.

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Directed by Morreco Coleman

Written by Morreco Coleman

Production Company DayDream Studios

Produced by Morreco Coleman

Cast Jerry C Johnson
Anfernee Penny Hardaway
John Calipari
Josh Pastner
Steve Cohen
Dr. Willie Herenton
Ben Joeb
Verties Sails Jr.
Willie Gregory
Joe Towns