ROFF — Larry Johnston is approaching his 15th year of coaching basketball. And he’s about to do something he’s never done before.
Johnston, the Roff High School boys basketball coach, has agreed to take over the girls program heading into the 2016-17 school year.
Johnston will remain the boys coach at Roff but will replace Blake Crawford, who left to take an administrative job at Piedmont High School, as the new Lady Tigers’ head coach.
“I told them if they needed me to help, I’d be happy to do it. They decided it was the best thing for the program right now,” Johnston said about pulling double duty. “It will definitely be a big change. But we have people in place to make this transition as smooth as possible.”
Johnston said Roff boys assistant Troy Miller will likely have a bigger role with the Tigers next season.
“We’re basically co-head coaches anyway with the duties we do. We’ll just give him a few more day-to-day responsibilities,” he said.
Roff also hired Linlee Blevins to be the new girls basketball assistant coach. Blevins is a graduate of Dale High School. She helped the Lady Pirates advance to the Class 2A State semifinals in 2009 and was a part of Dale’s state championship squad as a senior in 2010. She played one year of college basketball at Oklahoma Baptist University. Blevins started her teaching/coaching career at Dickson two years ago before accepting the job at Roff this summer.
“She’s a go-getter. She’ll be real good for those girls, and she’ll kind of keep me in line too,” Johnston said.
Blevins said she’s looking forward to working with Johnston and the Lady Tigers.
“He’s awesome. I can’t wait to learn with him. He’s already taught me so much. He’s great with the girls, especially with the way he manages things. I just sit there and soak it up mostly. He’s been amazing,” she said.
Blevins is already anxious for preseason practice to begin in a few short months.
“I think (the Roff girls) have a lot of potential, and I can’t wait to get in the gym and work on different things,” she said.
Johnston and Blevins didn’t have much time to work with Roff over the summer. But they did take the Lady Tigers to the Ada High Team Camp.
“We had all but a couple of girls there. It was a pretty good three days, especially for not being able to practice anything,” Johnston said. “They played hard, so that was a good thing.”
Johnston said he’s not sure exactly how the Lady Tigers will stack up against with other Pontotoc Conference foes.
“To be completely honest, I don’t know enough about the other girls teams in the area to know where we even stand. We have two girls that played a lot last year — Jessi Scott (senior) and Carlee Eaton (junior). They should to be able to carry the load,” he explained.
McKenzie Darnell also got valuable minutes as a freshman. But after that, the Roff roster will contain a lot of youth and inexperience.
“Those are the only three that had significant minutes. We’re really young, but we have a wide variety of girls that can do different things,” he said. “We have girls that can get after it, we have some little, quick girls and we have some girls with some size. Hopefully we can find the combination to give us a chance to be successful.”
As far as girls basketball goes, Johnston is inexperienced himself. But he has already reached out to some veteran colleagues, including Ada head coach Christie Jennings and Stonewall head coach Brian Davis. He also worked with well-known girls coach Rocky Clarke during his time at Washington.
“I’ve talked to a lot of good girls coaches, and the biggest thing they told me was don’t treat them any different — coach them just like you do your boys. Some of the better (coaches) just get after them and expect a lot out of them,” Johnston said. “There will be some things that will be different, but the big thing is to just expect a lot out of them.”
Of course when all else fails, Johnston has his father, Rick Johnston, to lean on. Rick Johnston spent 30-plus years coaching girls basketball, including a number of those at Konawa High School when Larry was a student.
“From the time I was in junior high and high school, it seemed like his teams were in the state tournament every year,” Larry recalled. “One of the things he said was to give them some direct instruction and give them some guidance, and they will buy in and do whatever you ask them to do. I’ll be keeping his phone hot, I’m sure. I’m glad he lives close.”
Roff opens the 2016-17 season Nov. 1 at Vanoss.