MUNISING - One of the most veteran varsity boys basketball teams in the area this winter will be led by one of the youngest coaches around.
Lance Johnson, 24, has been hired as the new coach at Munising High School, replacing Dan Waterman, who took the same job at Negaunee in June. Waterman compiled a 68-23 record in four seasons at the Alger County school.
Johnson's hiring was made official at the Munising Public School board of education meeting and announced by athletic director DeeJay Paquette.
"We were pleased with the pool of candidates we had," Paquette said. "But Lance's knowledge of the game and his passion for the game were things that really stood out for us."
Johnson inherits a Munising squad that could have nine returning seniors and compiled a 19-4 record last season. Under Waterman, the Mustangs have won district tournament championships twice in the past three years after not previously winning one since 1957.
Last season, Johnson was a graduate assistant coach in Sioux Center, Iowa, at Dordt College, an NAIA Division II school. Those schools are generally similar in size to NCAA Division III programs, except they are allowed to offer scholarships unlike D-III.
Johnson is a Michigan native, having grown up in Spring Lake near Muskegon in the southwest Lower Peninsula.
Though a standout high school player, earning team MVP and some all-state honorable mention nods, Johnson said he decided to instead pursue coaching immediately upon entering Grand Valley State University, where he graduated in 2013.
In addition to coaching AAU and at several elite player camps, he was a junior varsity head coach and varsity assistant coach at several high schools near Spring Lake before taking the Dordt job a year ago.
"When I heard that Dan Waterman came to Munising after having been a coach at Northern (Michigan University), I thought that this program would be open to somebody with that kind of background and the rigorous discipline you learn in a college program."
Johnson said that like Waterman, he emphasizes defense, with the biggest possible change in style being that he prefers more motion offenses and a fast-break tempo rather than set offensive plays.