Hall of Fame
May 24, 2007
FAIRBANKS, AK - Clemon (Clem) Johnson, former Florida A&M basketball great and a member of the 1982-83 Philadelphia 76ers team that captured the National Basketball Association (NBA) Championship title, has been named interim head coach for the University of Alaska men's basketball team.
Forrest Karr, Director of Athletics for the University of Alaska Fairbanks, made the announcement of his decision to hire Johnson, following the recent resignation of former coach Frank Ostanik.
"Coach Johnson brings exceptional qualifications and experiences that will make him a valuable asset to the University and the greater Fairbanks community," he said.
An astute scholar off the court, Johnson earned a Bachelor of Science in Economics and a Master's Degree in Sports Management at Florida A&M University where as a collegiate player, the 6-foot-10 center, laced up his sneakers for the Rattlers from 1974-1978.
"He understands that the term student-athlete places student first for a reason," said Karr. "He has a deep-rooted commitment to academics."
Johnson is a member of the Florida A&M University Athletics Hall of Fame and still holds several Rattler records, including most rebounds in a game (25), a season (412) and a career (1,494). He is also 14th overall for career scoring with 1,381 points in 109 games.
Pat Williams, Senior Vice President for the Orlando Magic and an acquaintance of Johnson's for almost 25 years, was happy to hear of Johnson's coaching opportunity.
"I value him as a basketball man, a friend and an associate for many, many years," Williams said. "He is a man of high character and I'm very confident he will be a successful coach." "I'm really pleased to hear that he's getting this opportunity and I feel he will be a man that will make great contributions to the school and the community. He is a good man and will do a terrific job."
Johnson brings over 25 years of basketball experience to the program, with 15 years of professional playing experience that includes a 10 year stint in the NBA from 1978-88 and a five-year stretch overseas in the Italian Professional League (1988-93).
Taken in the 2nd round and 22nd overall by the Portland Trailblazers in the 1978 NBA draft, Johnson played in 761 professional games with four different teams.
After a year in Portland, he switched clubs in favor of the Indiana Pacers for four seasons.
Late in the 1982-83 season, he moved to the Philadelphia 76ers where he centered the team, which included "Dr. J" (Julius Erving) and that year's league MVP Moses Malone.
Johnson and the 76ers went on to capture the NBA Championship that season, the third and most recent title in franchise history.
Williams was the General Manager for the 76ers during the championship season and was the one who made the trade that brought Johnson to Philadelphia in 1983.
"Clem played a big role in our winning a championship that year, the NBA title," he said. "He is very capable, knows the game, played the game and has a world of experience."
Johnson stayed in Philadelphia for three seasons before closing out his NBA career with a two-year stretch with the Seattle Supersonics that ended in 1988.
Following his NBA career, Johnson opted to play internationally in Italy where he made several contacts that he utilizes today. Johnson's son, Chad, who played Division I basketball and graduated from the University of Pittsburgh in 2002, will be attending a professional team camp in Italy next month.
"He has contacts that will help our players receive opportunities after college," said Karr. "He is running a camp in Florida this weekend with the purpose of putting international scouts in contact with former NCAA players that have exhausted intercollegiate eligibility."
After retiring from his playing days, Johnson opted to pursue other opportunities in the sport and began his young coaching career at the high school level. He coached at two high schools in Florida over an eight-year span, compiling a high school head coaching record of 184-60.
Collectively he led his teams to three High School Sweet 16 or better appearances and seven district championship titles. In 2004, he was named the Big Bend Regional Coach of the Year after guiding East Gadsden High School to a 27-4 season (2003-04).
He has also served as the bench boss for two semi-professional teams, the Jacksonville Wave and the Florida Thrill, guiding the Thrill to a regular season championship and amassing a 16-2 coaching record.
"Clemon has received many individual accolades," Karr said, "but more importantly, each team he has coached has been successful."
In 2006, Johnson participated in an Internship with the Atlanta Hawks gaining valuable operations experience in the 2006 NBA draft, player practices, the Utah Summer League, ticket sales and marketing of Philips Arena.
"Clemon has been involved with playing and coaching basketball at high levels and has shown a pattern of success," Karr said. "He has a proven track record of developing young men into productive members of society."
"Parents need assurance that their sons are in good hands. Clemon has an engaging personality and is excited to contact the families of our current and prospective student-athletes."
Release courtesy of the University of Alaska Fairbanks Office of Media Relations.