Former Texas Tech coach Marsha Sharp didn’t immediately know that Noel Johnson would be a coach one day.
What the hall-of-fame coach did know, though, is that Johnson had the perfect mindset and basketball IQ to do it.
At 2 p.m. today, Johnson — a fixture for the Lady Raiders on the court in the early 1990s and member of the 1993 national championship team — will return to Lubbock looking to knock off the team she played so hard for.
The Lady Raiders play the Johnson-led Midwestern State Mustangs in an exhibition at 2 p.m. today in United Spirit Arena.
“I know how much she loved basketball, and how passionate she was about the game,” Sharp said of her former starting point guard.
Johnson is in her fifth season leading the Mustangs, hoping to build off her best season at the helm: a 19-8 record and third-place finish in the Lone Star Conference.
The former point guard — who was a three-time All-Southwest Conference performer — was an assistant at Texas State and North Texas before she took control of her own program.
“That’s something that I always wanted to do,” said Johnson, whose Mustangs were picked to finish third in the Lone Star Conference this season. “It was just a passion of mine, and I just loved the game. I loved studying the game. I’ve been under some great coaches, obviously coach Sharp was huge influence on that.”
She’s faced Tech before, but never as the head coach.
Johnson said her Texas State team was blasted by a Sharp-led Lady Raider team, and Curry’s Tech team soundly beat the Lady Bobcats by 19 in 2006.
What Johnson has learned most about coaching is the need to communicate with her players.
She said Sharp was a “great communicator,” and it’s something she is trying to mimic.
“We would have ran through a wall for her,” Johnson said, “because she believed in us and we believed in her because there was this absolute mutual respect.”
Johnson already had some of the communication skills necessary to lead, Sharp said, since Johnson ran the point for the Lady Raiders for four years.
Since Johnson knew everyone’s role on the court, Sharp imagines coaching was a natural fit.
“We’re just really proud of her,” Sharp said.
Johnson, a 2005 Tech Hall of Honor inductee, hopes to give the Lady Raiders a challenge today, but she wants her team to grow from the experience.
Still a proud alumna, Johnson hopes Tech can grow by facing her Mustangs, too.
“I’m ready to see where our teams are at and have a good challenge,” said Johnson, who was voted the 2012 Lone Star Conference Coach of the Year. “I know Texas Tech is a really, really good basketball team. Hopefully we can play hard and improve and kind of see where we’re at.”
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