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Class Acts

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Class Acts

Postby Happy Mom » Thu Mar 19, 2015 6:13 am

Love and mutual respect -- until tipoff
ImageMark Johnson
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Chris Johnson

Posted: Thursday, March 19, 2015 5:00 am | Updated: 5:34 am, Thu Mar 19, 2015.
By Al Lesar South Bend Tribune

While they were younger, growing up in the small southeastern Indiana town of Brookville, the years conspired against the relationship between the Johnson boys.
More than a decade stood between Mark, the second of four children, and Chris, the baby.
Saturday night in Huntington, though, only a few feet will separate the two.

In a rarity of Indiana high school basketball, two brothers will battle for a berth in the state championship game. Mark Johnson will lead his late-blooming Riley Wildcats (12-14) against powerful Homestead (27-2), coached by Chris Johnson, in the Class 4-A semistate at Huntington North High School.
For two hours, family matters will be set aside.
It’s not like these guys don’t have a history against each other. In fact, this will be the sixth time they’ve squared off, but the stakes have never been anywhere near this high.
“I’m up 3-2 (four when Chris was at Fort Wayne Dwenger and Mark was at LaSalle, and once when Mark was at Riley and Chris was at Homestead),” said Chris, 50. “I suggested we quit counting.”
Don’t be fooled. They’re both counting.
Same DNA. Relatively same career trajectory. Maybe a little different style of coaching.
Should be interesting.
“Chris has talent as a coach,” Mark said. “He’s my best friend. We talk daily. Our dad has been dead 20 years. I’ve tried to bridge that gap when dad’s not there.”
Mom will be there, though. Their 89-year-old mother plans to make the trip from Brookville to Huntington. But … On which side will she sit?
“Dad would be so proud of us right now,” Chris said. “Mark gets nervous about (which side she’s going to sit on). I told her to sit on his side. That doesn’t bother me.”
Mark scoffs at the response.
“What that really means is (Chris) didn’t want to spend the 8 bucks for (mom’s) ticket,” Mark said. “My personality is such that I want to make sure everyone has a ticket. I worry more about making it all happen; making sure everyone is in position.”
Those sorts of quirks aren’t new among the Johnson boys. It’s been a career in the making.
Both graduated from Ball State. Mark, 61, did his student teaching at Connersville High School in 1976 under head basketball coach Jim East. He was an assistant at LaSalle under George Griffith, then was a head coach at Fort Wayne Dwenger for a decade. He took over the LaSalle High head basketball job in ’92, and was there until the school closed in 2002. That’s when he moved to Riley.
Chris was an assistant at Cincinnati Elder when an assistant’s job opened on East’s staff at Merrillville. Through Mark’s urging, Chris applied and was hired.
“Mark came (to Connersville) at a bad time,” said East, who has been retired for four years after a 31-year run at Merrillville. “They ran me out of town then, but that happens. Mark absorbed a lot. Chris was the kind of guy who could learn on the go. They’re both outstanding young men.”
After the 1994 season, Ron Dietz, who took over at Dwenger when Mark left, took the Concord job. Chris then got hired at Dwenger. After five year’s there, he’s now in his 16th season at Homestead.
“I rode (Mark’s) coattails for a lot of years,” Chris said. “I have so much respect for Mark.”
“Chris is more serious when it comes to his team,” East said. “Mark’s able to just let his kids play.”
“Remember, I learned to coach from Griff at LaSalle,” Mark said. “Our best offense was when a shot hits off the glass. Take the first available good shot, then go to the glass and get it.
“Chris learned the game from a very structured guy like Jim East. That’s how his teams have been and are going to be.”
Of course, it doesn’t hurt to have an All-American in the middle. Homestead’s play on both ends of the floor revolves around 6-foot-9, 260-pound Caleb “Biggie” Swanigan. Senior guard Jordan Geist, who transferred to Homestead from Penn this season, has been a significant addition on the perimeter.
“If I had to pick a favorite (Saturday), I’d say Chris has the edge because he has so many weapons,” East said. “But Mark’s kids shot so well (13 of 20 on 3-pointers in the regional championship against Crown Point), that they always have a chance.
“Mark’s young kids have no conscience. They play like they’re playing in the back alley. They didn’t let the situation intimidate them at all.”
Two brothers won’t let the competition come between them, at least after the final horn sounds.
“He’s an old geezer,” Chris said with a laugh. “We had a good relationship growing up. I remember I’d be pitching Little League, he’d be across the road in a car watching me.
“Mark was always a big part of my life. Did we hang out? No, because he was so much older. But, I always looked up to him. I wanted to be like him.”
Of course, the competitive spirit in Chris helped him answer the question: Who was the better athlete?
“I’d say me,” Chris said. “He’d probably challenge that. Neither of us had a lot of God-given talent, but we both worked hard. I remember him being a heck of a catcher. He went to Eastern Kentucky for a year (to play baseball).”
“It’s not a lie if you believe it,” Mark said with a laugh, stealing a line from a Seinfeld episode.
There’s one thing, though, they both will agree on.
“We got our work ethic from our father and our faith from our mother,” Mark said. “We both learned to do things the right way. No shortcuts. The right decision isn’t always the easy decision, but that doesn’t matter.”
It’s all about family. Until the ball goes up at 6 o’clock. ... 0a33c.html
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Re: Class Acts

Postby Happy Mom » Fri Mar 20, 2015 6:46 am

Sibling Rivalry: Mark and Chris Johnson are set to do battle in Semi State

Posted: Thu 7:05 PM, Mar 19, 2015
By: Jim Johnston Email

Mark Johnson and the Riley boy
While there is plenty of madness to be had in college basketball right now, at the high school level Hoosier Hysteria is still in full swing with boys Semi State coming up this weekend.

Riley captured the schools first ever regional title last weekend and in doing so became the first sub. 500 team to be named regional champs.

Wildcat head coach Mark Johnson said a number of times this season that he always believed his team would be good he just didn't know it would happen this fast.

"I don't know if anybody has noticed but my jaw is hurt because all I have been doing is smiling," Coach Mark Johnson said.

Now standing between the Wildcats and their first trip to the state championship game is Homestead. A team that features one of the best players in the state in Caleb Swanigan.

Oh, and there is a pretty familiar face sitting on their bench. Mark's brother Chris is the head coach of the Spartans.

"I am looking forward to playing against him," Mark said. "Unless he wins. Then I am going to have to hear about it for a long time."

This isn't the first time the two have coached against each other. Currently Chris, who is 11 years younger than Mark, holds a one game lead in their series. That doesn't sit well with his big brother.

"This is honestly the 6th time that we have gone against each other," Mark said. "He was the coach at Bishop Dwenger and I was the coach at LaSalle. Great games. He is up three to two which bothers me."

Chris on the other hand would be happy if the series didn't continue.

"At that time we were saying lets end it because I was ahead," Chris said with a smile. "But now he has another opportunity to knock us of."

Certainly Riley already has plenty to play for on Saturday, but they love their coach and want nothing more than to help him even the series.

"You never want to lose to your little brother," Riley sophomore Junior Scott said. "Especially 11 years younger. So we have to get this win for him."

While the trash talk and competition is all in good fun at the end of the day Mark and Chris' bond is bigger than basketball.

"There is nobody that I love more and I respect more than my brother," Mark said. "That has nothing to do with basketball. Then you throw in the ability he has as a coach and I am going against a very formidable opponent."

"He is an intense coach," Added Chris. "He gets his kids to play hard. I hope that people could say that about me,that our kids play hard. That is a big part of basketball and being successful is getting to get kids to play at a high level."

As Mark said on the floor after Riley's regional win, no matter what happens a Johnson brother is going to be in the state championship game.

Tip off for the sibling showdown is set for 6 p.m. Saturday night at Hunting North High School. ... 49541.html
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