The walking epitome of the word 'winner', he had amassed nearly 650 career varsity wins at the time of his induction. His skillful leadership has brought BHS basketball unprecedented success, including a state semi-final appearance in 1984, four quarterfinal appearances and multiple regional, district and conference championships. The BHS gymnasium was rechristened in his name in 2006, a fitting honor for the winningest coach in any sport in school history.
Basketball Coach Elected to the Michigan Basketball Coaches Association Hall of Fame in 2000 At the time of his BHOF induction, he had amassed nearly 650 career high school wins, among the best in state history His teams have won 16 Jack Pine Conference championships, 13 district championships, four regional championships, four quarterfinals appearances and one semi-final appearance Served as BHS JV coach for three years before taking over as varsity coach in the 1974-75 season Has also served as head coach or assistant coach for BHS football, baseball and girls' basketball Served as a fifth-grade teacher for 29 years, then named Middle School Assistant Principal, from which he retired in 2009
There's no getting around it: Roy Johnston is a coaching legend. His on-court excellence has earned him pretty much every accolade possible in his profession. After 36 years at BHS, some say he's mellowed; read his sit-down with HOF Q & A and decide for yourself.
You've spent an unusually large amount of your life on a basketball court.
I did some baseball for about four years, and I did it because if I didn’t do it, I was told the team would forfeit the season. The next year, Coach Van asked me to do it again as the AD and then John Mishler would take over. So that’s how I ended up coaching that sport, and we ended up doing okay. I also coached football with Van in my career in Beaverton - I enjoyed it a lot, but what I remember most about coaching football is that it rained a lot and was cold by the end of the year.
What is it about basketball that made you love it so much?
I entered basketball because that’s what I really wanted to coach - something to do in the winter. And basketball is different - it’s closer to the action, a lot more skilled than the other sports in many respects, I think. I tried to be like Dick Parfitt and Bob Sullivan, who ended up at CMU as an assistant - one of the best coaches in the state, from Marysville. I wanted to build a program like they did and be successful like both of them were.
You enjoyed quite a bit of success on the court.
I attribute a lot of that to the players who developed their game and being leaders in a positive manner. Times have changed, and I’ve tried to grow with the changes; without doing that, you’re lost. When Coach Van coached, he’d get his point across to a player. When he talked to you, he’d twist your helmet and look at you sideways and it never hurt anyone or anything, and it worked, but you can’t imagine that today.
Do you think you’ve mellowed?
Everyone who used to play for me tells me I have. I still get upset and ticked off. I know sometimes I’m an idiot, and they need to know that no matter what I say, just take the message, no matter what it looks like. I want kids to play to their fullest potential and I want to get everything out of them and have them look back for the rest of their lives and say, "Yeah, I get it." And I’ve had many kids come back, and parents or others who have said that it worked, and many who have said they wished they had worked harder, too.
What's your approach in trying to beat your biggest rivals?
You want to beat whoever is in front of you - they’re your rivals at the time. It’s as simple as that for me.
Who were the players from other schools who gave your team the most headaches?
Jamie McAllister of Coleman, Farwell’s Ruckles, Billy Shellenbarger, Dan Leir and Chris Smalley of Gladwin is a great player of recent times. Derek Fillmore of Meridian, and Nate Ashcraft of Harrison.
Outside of Beaverton players who would be your dream team?
Leir, Shell, Fillmore, Ruckle, and Smalley.
What does the word 'team' mean to you?
Guys that play together. If they’re open, get them the ball and fill the role.
Who’s your all-time Beaverton High School starting five?
Brandon Calhoon, Jeff Johnston and Doyle Durkee, and then there’s so many guys that are just so close together. But I’d also mention Mike Garvin and Jeff Roehrs, who didn’t have big numbers, but was so good in the middle and played the role for that '76 team. And we had so many just a notch below them that were so, so good that were such great team players, it’s very hard to answer.
What was it like coaching your own kids?
It was tough in a way, and in a way not. You must figure you’ll give them good coaching and demand more of them. I was too hard on Jeff, I think, at the time, and learned to back off. But I didn’t want my team thinking my kids were getting easier treatment, so it was tough. I also coached Jen and I’d say the same things; I really enjoyed that coaching experience though.
Brandon scored a lot, his senior year especially, and the players around him were like the team my daughter Jen played on - not all the best players, but unselfish for the team, and got along and played to win. Both great groups. Another group that didn’t have a lot of talent but I enjoyed a great deal involved Hess, Goerge, Ruhle as a freshman, and Dodman. They liked one another and played all the time, and it just made them better. Those are just fun kids to coach, and they all ended up very good.
Any coaching disappointments?
Every time you lose, it’s disappointing. But I think the biggest is probably the regional finals against Benzie Central where we were called for a traveling, a call that simply cost us the game. And it doesn’t matter where we would have ended up, but it was a loss.
Also over at Farwell when the game was cancelled early due to a snow storm, and then the game was called back on in mid-afternoon, and Farwell fans filled the gym and there was little room left for our fans. There were lots of traveling calls on the sidelines due to players slipping in water, and a lot of things went wrong. And we lost that game.
What is your philosophy of coaching?
Play with all the ability you have, hard work pays off and play up to your potential and get all you can out of it. When you’re done, you know and can say if you’ve done your best or not.
What about the thought of coaching grandkids?
That’s my goal, to coach them.
What are your favorite three athletic memories from your career so far?
Going to Crisler Arena in 1984; going two years to the quarterfinals was a great memory; and going to the quarterfinals in 1976. 1976 really started my coaching career. That team...as much as some might remember my yelling, I don’t really remember yelling at them much - they were very good.
Who would have won a game between the '76 and '84 teams?
I’m not involved in that. It doesn’t matter, and no one knows.
Are you superstitious and do you have routines that you've followed over the years?
Yes. I need to kiss my wife before the game. I wear the same tie all year long, but I can change to a new one at the end of each year. And I wear the same socks and shoes.
Has the sport changed? What do you think about the three point shot?
No, it hasn't really changed, not really at our level. I think the three-pointer makes the game better at the college level, but I'm not so sure at our level.
What is your proudest BHS moment as a player, coach or fan?
My proudest is probably the '84 team, but that quarterfinal team for two years was a great moment too. If we were Class C, who knows how far we could have gone?
Did you have a favorite gym?
I had a lot of great times in the gyms we’ve played in locally. I had a lot of games in the old high school, but have grown into our new home and like them both. A lot of great memories.
Is it true that you kissed the Big M on the floor at Crisler Arena in 1984?
Yes. However, I had a swab with alcohol so I didn’t catch any diseases.
BHS basketball seems to strike a particularly resonant chord with sports fans in Beaverton. Do you have any thoughts on why that is?
I think we have good knowledgeable fans, and that’s why I don’t allow crazy music beforehand. We stay traditional, like having our pep band that needs to be involved as a part of our school tradition. I enjoy seeing the same people year after year and we have the same fans no matter what; we have some very loyal and knowledgeable fans in Beaverton.
You’ve had some good coaches that have helped the program.
We had Pat Dillion coach for 25 yrs the 7th grade. We had Jim Emery coach for 30- plus years, and Dick Merkle, and Mike Showalter. We’ve had a lot of longevity, and guys that cared about the kids and the program.
Are there any thoughts and/or memories you can share on each of the other members of your Hall of Fame class:
Jeff Christian was a great runner. You watched him run around the track and you didn’t see him or his head bop up and down - just level and smooth. Doyle Durkee's a great ball player and great person. I have a lot of respect for Doyle Durkee.
How does it feel to be enshrined alongside those athletes - as well as names like Larry Gerow, Dan Grant, Dick Van Wieren, Becky Phillips, Ken Govitz and Clarence Metzger - in the BHS Hall of Fame?
I didn’t know or see Larry Gerow play, but in hearing about him, I knew he was good, and I know he’s worked the sidelines ever since I’ve been around, and he's done it for free. Larry is an All-American, and that takes some god-given ability and a lot of dedication and hard work.
I worked with Mr. Metzger a few years before his retirement. He was Mr. Beaverton as far as I was concerned, and I hope to outlast him in years of service.
With Dan Grant, again, I didn’t see him play. I was here a couple years after his graduation, but I heard a ton about how good he was. Coach Van talked so highly of him and Mike Loar, and was so proud to coach them. Dan Grant receiving the Golden Helmet Award is amazing; those didn’t get handed out to just anybody. He was working at the elevator when I came to town a long time ago now.
Becky Phillips: Of course she played before I arrived, but she taught and coached girls later in her career. She could coach all levels - girls at 7th grade through varsity. She was a part of Beaverton basketball and the evolution of full court, five-on-five basketball.
I didn’t see Ken Govitz play, but I recognized that he was always around and supporting sporting events; he was interested and always talking the game, no matter what it was. I heard from Whitey Wilson of Frankenmuth - who was a great coach - who went to school with Ken at Northern Michigan, and he spoke very highly of him.
With Coach Van, we became good friends in life. I was a quarterback in high school, and so was he at Cadillac, and then he went on to play at Indiana. When we coached together, he put me in charge of the line. I made sure we had good protection for the QB. He would just show me what to do, and I’d do it. He was a strict disciplinarian, and I grew into one too. He would get on peoples' butts, but if you get on them and they do it right, you can’t say enough good about them after they do it right.
This is a local hall of fame, versus the state hall of fame that you’re a part of. What's different?
Both are a high honor. I’m in the state basketball hall, where only your peers know what you’ve done. Here it’s the community, and hopefully they appreciate what you’ve accomplished. This community is good because in comparison to some others, there is no group of people that think they control things. When we came here, I didn’t know how long I’d be here, but we wanted a small community. I wanted a place to raise a family, and we stayed.
In high school, I just loved sports. I played football, basketball, baseball and ran a mile in track, too, in my junior and senior years. My parents seldom went to a game, so I didn’t know you were to be critical of coaches - I’d do sports and go home and do chores and be happy to play. I played hard - I was not a gifted athlete, I’m Just a competitor.
How did you style your coaching?
In competition. I grew up in Croswell Lexington and played Marysville. The coaches there, Bob Sullivan and Dick Parfitt, were the best in the state and beat everyone. So I wanted to emulate them; they had a great program and I just wanted to be like them.
Fifty years later Parfitt remembered me scoring in overtime to beat his team in high school, and he commented how the officials messed his team over that night. We had a good laugh.
This nomination and enshrinement in the BHS Hall ranks right up there with the gym dedication. It’s a great honor, but the other side is you need to be old to make that happen.
Welcome back to Hangtime Michigan! This week, Lorne Plant and TJ Kelley sit down with Beaverton Head Coach Roy Johnston. We'll talk about his team's start to the season, becoming the winningest coach in history, and his being named the Michigan boy's NHSBCA John Wooden Legacy Award winner. Presented by Lawrence Technological University and sponsored by the MHSAA, Rehabilitation Institute of Michigan, and the Basketball Coaches Association of Michigan.
Listen on Apple Podcasts: https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/hangtime-michigan/id1553383561?i=1000545310237
MLive Bay City Slam Dunk: No. 1 for the first time, Beaverton is the capital of basketball country Roy Johnston wins his 500th Career Game - Article Roy Johnston earns 700th boys' basketball victory as No. 2 Beaverton improves to 18-0 Beaverton Legend Wins Nearing Record
Roy Johnston Brag Board
“I want to congratulate Roy Johnston on his induction into the Beaverton Rural Schools Athletic Hall of Fame Class of 2009. In my humble opinion, I can think of no one more deserving of this honor. Roy has been a credit to his profession, his community, and to the game of basketball in the state of Michigan. Throughout the years, Roy has proven to be a loyal friend and a man of impeccable character and integrity. On a more personal note, I would also like to add that he is an incredible basement remodeler. Roy congratulations again on your induction, and thanks for all you have done for so many people.”
– Tom Izzo, MSU Men’s Head Basketball Coach
“Very conscientious and very dependable. He can be hard, but he educates his ball players to play the game the way it’s supposed to be played. He expects excellence in his players and is a winner, and also a good family man. The kids and grandkids love him.”
– Tom Bieganek
“I consider myself very fortunate to have spent nearly 25 of my 33 years in and around the Beaverton basketball program and Coach Johnston. From basketball camp and being a water-boy in the eighties to playing for him in the nineties to currently coaching on his staff, it has been a privilege to learn about the game of basketball from one of the greatest teachers our state will ever know. I would also like to thank Coach Johnston for teaching me so much about the game of life, the values of hard work and the importance of surrounding yourself with good people. Outside of my family, I can’t think of anyone who has made a bigger impact on my life. Congratulations, Roy!”
– Shad Woodruff
“Roy has been a credit to the coaching profession. He has not only been a mentor for his players but has helped many of his fellow coaches become true professionals. Roy truly loves coaching and is one of the most respected coaches in the entire state. It has been an honor to be in the fraternity of coaching because of professionals like Roy Johnston. My sincere congratulations on a well deserved honor!”
– Phil Odlum, Michigan Basketball Coaches Hall of Fame member, and Roy’s brother-in-law
“Probably the best basketball coach in the area. He’s a real competitor on the court and the field, having played softball against him. When you’re done afterward, he’s one of the guys, but on the court he’s a competitor and that’s what makes an athlete and great coach.”
– Mike Loar
“Not everybody has always agreed with Roy’s method of philosophy, and I’m sure not all the kids that played for him didn’t completely understand him. But we all have to respect him for what he’s done for Beaverton basketball and the Beaverton community. A solid addition to the Hall of Fame.”
– Larry Gerow
“Basketball has been a central part of my dad’s life, and our entire family’s. He lives for the success of his teams. The awards he receives proves that hard work and passion lead to success.”
– Jeff Johnston
“Roy’s will to win was my biggest motivator. Life a father-figure, I never wanted to let him down. Still to this day Roy lets every individual in the gym know he wants a ‘W’ more than anyone. His passion for the game and demand for success has continued in my life and many others who have had the privilege of playing for him.”
– James Ruhle
“Roy Johnston was and still is one of my heroes. He took a group of raw kids, pushed us, taught us and turned us in to a pretty decent basketball team. He was tough on us but we always knew he would be there for us if we needed him. I remember a new pair of high-top shoes showing up in my locker when I sprained my ankle severely my senior year. He knew my parents could not afford to buy me that pair of shoes. As was his style he never mentioned where they came from but I always knew.”
– Doyle Durkee
“Congratulations to Roy on his selection to the Beaverton Hall of Fame. Roy’s record and accomplishments speak for themselves, as evidenced by his induction into the Basketball Coaches Association of Michigan’s Hall of Fame several years ago. What I find even more impressive, however, is the fact that Roy coaches as he lives every day, with passion, honesty and integrity. And don’t be fooled by the crusty, competitive guy you see on the basketball court. Inside is a heart filled with compassion for those around him, his players, students, family and friends alike. Roy (and yes, Judy too), enjoy the moment, and take pride in knowing what a positive impact you have had on so many people, both young and old. I would like to thank Roy for all he has done for coaches all over Michigan and for being a special and trusted friend over the last 27 years. You are indeed special. Congratulations.”
– Doug Herner, Lansing Sexton High and Michigan State University
“Roy Johnston is THE best high school basketball coach in the state of Michigan. He teaches his boys a lot about life, as well as basketball skills. Roy loves working with young people and he puts great effort into every new season. With the unfailing support of his wife, Judy, he has positively influenced many young men and women. He is also a talented football line coach. Roy did a great job with the line in a year that the district had to cut spending and hired NO assistant coaches. Unsolicited, Roy came out to the field every day and helped me put together a team. His efforts were invaluable. He would accept no part of my salary. He spent many hours for no compensation or acclaim. He just wanted to help a friend and the students. My wife and I have enjoyed a cherished friendship with the Johnston family for many years. Roy and Judy are good people.”
– Dick Van Wieren
“The man single-handedly changed the culture of an entire town with an old school philosophy, passion and love for the game of basketball that made us all proud to be Beavers. Players would fear but admire (he always got the best out of all of us); fans would cheer and applaud; refs would fear for their lives; and opposing teams would mark us on the calendar every year. Remember the movie the ‘Hoosiers’? That’s what Beaverton basketball is all about – no gimmicks, no showboating, just guts and hard work. Coach Johnston embodies it all. If you play as a team, dive on the floor, take a charge and give it 110 percent, when the clock reads zeros, you’ll be a champion. Rock on, Coach Roy! Thanks for everything!”
– Brandon Calhoon