Born to coach

Krystle Johnson was born to coach.

Her father is a coach and her mother is involved with the state’s AAU girls’ basketball program.

To top it off, Krystle told her high school coach at Hoover she was going to take her job.

Well, she didn’t get that job when it opened but was given the JV team and was an assistant at Hoover, helping the team to two state championships.

Then, came an opening at Huntsville High.

“It was a leap and I was scared,” she said.

But after interviewing, she was offered the job to lead the Panthers.

And, last year – her second with Huntsville, she was named the state’s coach of the year.

“God had a plan,” she said. “And it was to come here.”

The journey wasn’t a simple one for Johnson.

After graduating from Hoover, she went west to play at UCLA – but that didn’t work out.

And it almost caused her to leave the game.

“The style of play didn’t fit me,” she said. “I was starting to get unhappy and lost the love of the game.”

Then Bama came calling.

“The SEC is more my style and coaches who wanted me (while at Hoover) were still there,” she said.

Because she transferred, Johnson had to sit out a year – which she called a “humbling experience.”

Now she uses that to help her relate to her players when she has to bench them occasionally.

“I tell them ‘Whatever I say to you, it’s to help you, not hurt you,’” she said.

And the girls help energize her.

“I get excited by going to the gym,” Johnson said.

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She is also constantly learning from other coaches. Johnson said she had three high school coaches, three college coaches and three AAU coaches.

But that’s not a bad thing to her.

“I’m constantly taking other people’s plays,” she said. “I take a piece of them each day. You can’t be stuck in playing one style.”

The Panthers have adopted her style  – or styles – of play and it has paid off quite well for the team. Huntsville returned four of the five starters from last year’s state championship team but, she said, the team lost its leader and had to adjust to that  – as well as having a target on its back.

Though she is proud of what the team has accomplished on the court, it’s preparing the young women for college and life that makes Johnson beam.

“The players who went Division I, I’m so proud of them to get their bachelor’s and master’s,” she said. “I want to help people change their lives.

“Watching these young ladies develop into adults is very rewarding.”

She said her relationship with the girls is like a “big sister” but they know she is the coach and have bought into her system.

“I give my all to the team and I hope they return it,” Johnson said. “If we play four complete quarters, we can do well.

“Hopefully, it will all come around.”