When J.J. Johnson retired as Coronado softball coach after the 2017 season, he was 557-122-4 with 19 district championships. His victories total is fourth all-time in Texas high school softball, and his teams won district every year from the time he took over.
Like many titans in their field, however, that's not how Johnson had it mapped out. He really wanted to coach boys basketball, and maybe he wouldn't have been a coach at all if not for personal hardship.
The crowd at the Lubbock ISD Athletics Hall of Honor inductions Saturday night heard how Johnson had two open-heart surgeries as a teenager to repair a hole in his heart. He recovered well enough to be All-South Plains baseball player of the year in 1980 as the slick-fielding second baseman on a Coronado regional-final team.
Both experiences had a profound impact.
The surgeries came before his ninth- and 11th-grade school years. Doctors forbid Johnson from playing football or basketball the next two years.
"For two years, I couldn't do anything," he told the crowd at the Memorial Civic Center. "But I got to be a manager and hang out with the coaches, and that was cool."
Johnson later said that "planted the seed" to coach, and overcoming the surgeries to play on a great high school team clinched his career choice.
"When we had the success in baseball in 1980," Johnson said, "I wanted to coach and I wanted every kid to be able to experience winning like that. Every kid should have the opportunity to play on a team that won, have that fun. That kind of drove me in Coronado softball, to let those kids enjoy that."
Five other individuals were inducted into the Hall of Honor's eighth class, as well as the 1962 Dunbar boys state-champion basketball team and the 1974 Monterey state-champion baseball team.
The other individual honorees were long-time Lubbock ISD community supporter Bill Dean, Coronado girls cross country and track coach Melvin Houston (1985-2002), Lubbock High swimmer Thomas Klement (1993-95), Estacado football running back James Mosley (1966-69) and Monterey boys basketball coach Gerald Myers (1960-67). Myers led Monterey to state tournaments in 1962 and 1966 with teams that finished 30-5 and 28-3.
Klement was a high-school all-American in three events at Lubbock High and went on to be an all-American at Auburn in three events in 1996 and 1997 and in two events in 1998. The Tigers won the national championship in 1997.
Klement's family moved to New Mexico when he was 10, and he thanked his mother on Saturday for keeping him in swimming.
"This little town in New Mexico, there wasn't much of a swim team there, much less a coach," Klement told the crowd. "So my mom went to the U.S. Olympic Training Center, went through a coaches' clinic and learned how to coach — all from a person who doesn't know how to swim, doesn't like to swim, doesn't get her head wet when we go to the lake or to the pool.
"But my mom kept me in the water swimming for five years and really kind of developed a lot of what I became."
Mosley was a standout on the legendary 1968 Estacado team that won state in its first year of varsity competition. That team was already inducted as part of the 2013 class.
Mosley praised then-Matadors coach Jimmie Keeling for his leadership on and off the field, and discussed how the Mats flourished during a time of civil unrest in the country.
"At our school, not only the football team, but the student body itself jelled together and defied all the odds," Mosley said.
The 1962 Dunbar team was Hall of Honor coach Ernest Mallory's fourth PVIL state-title team to be inducted, following the Panthers' teams of 1953, 1957 and 1960. Hall of Honor baseball coach Bobby Moegle had four state-title teams, and the 1974 Monterey team was the second to be inducted, following the Plainsmen of 1972.
Spokesmen for both teams lauded their coaches.
"To me, coach Mallory was one of the best coaches in Texas high schools," former Dunbar athlete L.V. Andrews said, "and I miss him dearly."
The 1974 Monterey team started 6-4 and then won its last 30 games. Though that team had four players later play pro baseball, Jimmy Shankle said Moegle was the key.
"Coach Moegle was a little rough," Shankle told the audience, "but he was fair to a fault. The glue that held that team together was we had the best coach in America, Bobby Moegle, no doubt."