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Homecoming will be a bit early this year for Teri Johnson.
Lakeland College has announced that Johnson, a 2000 Lakeland graduate and former basketball and softball standout, has been named the Muskies' new head women's basketball coach.
"This is my dream job," said Johnson, who has served as head women's basketball coach at MacMurray College in Jacksonville, Ill., for the past two seasons.
"I respect the people here. I trust the people here. I have a tremendous amount of pride and respect for the program and the institution, and I'm thrilled that I will be the next head coach to carry on that tradition. Just look at the longevity of many of the faculty - that's a tribute to the institution."
Johnson replaces April Arvan, the winningest coach in the program's history, who after guiding Lakeland to five NCAA Tournament appearances and eight conference tournament championships in 13 seasons stepped aside in March to become a full-time faculty member at Lakeland.
"Teri is the perfect fit for this position," said Lakeland athletic director Jane Bouche. "Her passion for basketball coupled with her love of Lakeland really made an impact during the interview process. As we make the transition from April Arvan, there's a certain air of nervousness because of the great success that we have enjoyed. But Teri is clearly the right person to build on what we have accomplished and take us to new levels."
Johnson was a Lakeland basketball standout during her career from 1996-2000, and she still ranks sixth in the record books for career assists with 282. She was a four-year starter, a member of Lakeland's first-ever NCAA Tournament qualifier in 1998-99 (an at-large bid) and a member of three Lake Michigan Conference champions and two LMC Tournament champions from 1998-2000. She was named Lakeland Female Athlete of the Year as a senior.
Johnson served as a graduate assistant on Lakeland's women's basketball staff from 2000-02 before heading to Augustana College in Rock Island, Ill., where she was assistant women's basketball coach and assistant facilities manager for three years. She earned a master of education degree from Lakeland in 2004, and was named head coach at MacMurray in 2005.
During her first season, Johnson led MacMurray to a fourth-place finish in the St. Louis Intercollegiate Athletic Conference with a 6-8 conference mark, 9-17 overall record.
This past season, working with a roster of two seniors and 10 freshmen, the Lady Highlanders were 6-19, 6-12 in conference play.
Ironically, Johnson returned to Lakeland to open this past season as MacMurray was one of the guests in Lakeland's Play With Grace Tip-Off tournament in November. She faced her alma mater and former head coach in the consolation game, a 69-39 Lakeland victory.
"We (Johnson and Arvan) have always kidded each other that we would coach together some day, knowing that it would never happen," Johnson said. "Well, it could happen. I think it would be wise to use her as a coach in some on- or off-court capacity. She has a desire to stick with it, so why not take advantage of that? I grew up under her, I coached under her. We have a lot of similarities, but I am different than her."
Johnson clearly understands the big shoes she's filling, and plans on mixing the program's tradition with her own personal touches.
"I will lay out the direction and expectations that I have for the program, and I'll talk with my coaches and my team to get their input," said Johnson, who also taught physical education courses at MacMurray and served as liaison between the athletic and admissions departments.
"The philosophy I have is similar to the philosophy of the current program. When I was a player here it was instilled in us that it was a privilege to be here and be part of a great women's basketball program."