Died: 1989 – Overland Park, Kansas
Graduated: Hartford (KS) High School, Emporia State University, 1925
A legend among the ranks of the nation’s all-time great basketball coaches, Gene Johnson was the first to lead the United States’ domination of basketball in Olympic competition. He was the head coach of the U.S. team that won the first Olympic gold medal during the 1936 Games in Berlin.
Johnson was the inventor of full-court pressure defense that was later used with great success by John Wooden, Denny Crum and Ralph Miller, to name a few. “Just a few of us know that Gene created the 2-2-1 (press), not John Wooden, or Ralph Miller or anyone else,” Miller said in 1989. “He was one of those who go lost in the shuffle.”
Johnson became the head coach at Wichita State in 1928 at the age of 26 and coached the Shockers for five seasons and a 74-24 record from 1928-33. He coached both the Wichita Henrys and the McPherson Globe Refiners to National AAU championships. Several players from the Globe Refiners, including his brother, Francis, were members of the 1936 Olympic team. He created the Wichita Vickers Petroleum team, a power in the NIBL, a forerunner of the National Basketball Association.
Johnson is also a member of the WSU Hall of Fame, the Emporia State Hall of Fame and the Kansas Basketball Coaches Association Hall of Fame.