Greenfield-Central boys basketball coach Josh Johnson speaks with his team during a timeout against Mt. Vernon, Jan. 6, 2012. Standing in the background (center) is Norm Johnson, Josh Johnson's father and volunteer assistant coach. Norm Johnson passed away July 1. On Dec. 22, G-C players and parents presented Josh Johnson with a mosaic fabric portrait picturing Johnson, his dad, and the coach's son, Brady. (Tom Russo photo/Daily Reporter)
GREENFIELD — In the late hours of the night, far after the game ended and their family went to sleep, Norm and Josh Johnson remained awake to talk basketball.
For Josh, the Greenfield-Central boys basketball varsity head coach, those late nights with his most trusted assistant are the fondest memories he has of his father. Even though they were both adults, the pair of kindred basketball souls often got into trouble for staying up and rehashing game situations or discussing rebounding positions in Josh’s kitchen.
When Josh was a child, he’d practice his jump shot in the driveway of his family’s house, which was located on a strawberry farm in Albion, a town 45 minutes northwest of Ft. Wayne. The driveway was actually more of a small country road, so Norm had his son practice dribbling up and down the length of the way. Norm also coached Josh’s youth league teams, and took pride in seeing young players reap the fruits of their labor.
Norm was a quiet observer of the game. When Josh played for Central Noble High School, his father stationed himself in a secluded corner on the visitors’ side of the floor at home games. He simply didn’t want to be bothered.
Years later, Norm traded in his corner seat for a chair on the sidelines as an assistant coach to his son, but remained reserved during games. Tired of his father saving his words of wisdom for their post-game kitchen conversations, Josh asked Norm to be more active in his intelligence-lending during the action.
Norm obliged, but insisted on adhering to his understated methods.
“When I got a tug on my coat, I knew it was something important,” recalled Josh, now in his fourth season at G-C.