To some degree, Jason Johnson figured he’d miss coaching high school basketball.
But after stepping down from his post as the Skyline boys coach after the 2005-06 season, the void was more intense than he thought.
“I missed it tremendously,” he said. “I missed everything about it. Missed the practices, missed the games, missed the kids.”
So when the Falcons job opened again last month after the ugly exit of former coach Michael Peterson, Johnson threw his name into the mix. Turns out, he was the perfect fit.
“He kind of became a natural fit for us,” Skyline athletic director Mike Green said. “Having been at Skyline, he knew the culture and the climate of the building then, and he knows what it’s like now. It was a win-win for Skyline High School.”
Johnson, 40, had coached the Falcons from 2001-02 to 2005-06. His first season was his most successful, when the Falcons produced a 16-8 record and won the Tri-Valley League. They advanced to the Sweet 16, where they lost at Canon City.
Johnson, who had also been a physical education teacher at Skyline during his initial stint, departed with a 54-66 career mark. He joined the financial world and has been coaching his sons’ basketball teams in the kindergarten and young-elementary age groups.
“I’ve always had a heart for Skyline,” Johnson said. “I think they have a lot of great kids, great athletes. I think they can be very successful, especially in the Tri-Valley. I love coaching and I really feel like I can help out there.”
Johnson was among roughly 15 candidates who inquired about the job, a list that was whittled to five who received interviews. Green said Johnson’s ambition to make it a long-term gig, which would possibly include coaching his own sons in several years, was among the tide-turning points in his favor.
Johnson has followed Skyline athletics since departing in 2006 and maintains friendships with Falcons football coach Kevin Rice, track coach Lonnie Jones and assistant principal Greg Stephens.
“I still have a lot of relationships there,” said Johnson, who had a meet-and-greet session with Skyline players and parents Tuesday night. “When the job was open, we started some loose conversations and I felt like it was a good time for me to come back.”
Peterson was fired in late March after three seasons at the helm, but didn’t go away quietly. The former coach put together information packets outlining his allegations of improper work conditions he was forced to endure. The primary claim focused around a player he had banished from the Skyline team for multiple rules violations who was permitted to transfer to Longmont with no penalty.
The St. Vrain Valley School District investigated Peterson’s myriad claims but uncovered no rules violations. The BoCoPreps.com story detailing Peterson’s firing and claims was one of the most widespread and hotly debated among readers in 2013.
With his extensive and successful basketball background, Johnson represents stability for the Falcons. A Kansas State graduate — he was a walk-on player for the Wildcats for one season — Johnson first coached at Flint Hills Christian in Manhattan, Kansas.
He guided the Warriors to the parochial school championship in 1997-98 and a runner-up finish the following season. He then fled west to Colorado, where he coached the Longmont Christian boys for one season. He then served as an assistant at Skyline for one season before taking over the reins.
Now he’s back.
“I didn’t know Jason before, so when he applied and we had the interview process, it was interesting to hear him reflect back on where he was and where he is now,” Green said. “He never really strayed too far from the basketball world.
“He has his own kids and is involved coaching them. It’s always nice to have people who are excited about what’s going on. They have experience, and they’re looking to build on those experiences from the past.”
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