NC State's Kevin Keatts will be a first-time head coach in a power conference when next season begins, but he will have a former ACC head man alongside him on the bench in James Johnson, who led the basketball program at Virginia Tech from 2012-14. NC State announced the hiring of Johnson as an assistant coach Monday afternoon.
Johnson and Keatts were college teammates for two years at Division III Ferrum College in Ferrum, Va., from 1991-93. Johnson, a native of Powhatan, Va., was a three-year starter and three-time Conference Defensive Player of the Year while helping the team to two conference championships and a berth in the NCAA Tournament.
"James and I go back over 25 years, and my comfort level in his approach, his knowledge of the ACC, and my respect for his ability to teach and develop our student-athletes, makes him an ideal fit," Keatts said in a statement released by the school. "He is an outstanding addition to our staff, and I welcome him to NC State."
Most recently, Johnson served as the director of basketball operations for the last two years at Miami under Jim Larranaga. Before taking the helm with the Hokies, when he helped Erick Green become the school's first ACC Player of the Year and lead the nation in scoring, he was an assistant at the school for five seasons under Seth Greenberg. Virginia Tech went 103-67 with Johnson as an assistant and 22-41 with him as the head coach.
Before that, he coached for two seasons under Larranaga at George Mason, helping the squad reach the 2006 Final Four and go 45-23 during his time with the Patriots.
Johnson has also spent time as an assistant at Penn State, College of Charleston, Elon, Old Dominion, Longwood College and Ferrum College. Like Keatts, he has also coached at Hargrave Military Academy in Virginia.
In 2001, Rivals.com named Johnson — then at Elon — one of the top 20 assistant coaches at mid-major Division I schools.
The 45-year-old Johnson is the first official hire for Keatts, but more are expected in the near future. Earlier today, Evan Daniels of Scout tweeted that former UNC Wilmington assistant Takayo Siddle had pulled his name from consideration for UNCW's head job and is expected to join former boss Keatts at NC State. Siddle had been serving as the interim head coach at Wilmington.
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