Florida A&M University (FAMU) welcomes home one of its sons to lead the men's basketball program. Clemon Johnson was officially presented to alumni, fans and family at a pep rally and press conference in his honor. The world-famous Marching "100" and the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference (MEAC) coed Champions Cheerleaders were on hand to add to the excitement
Johnson was a star basketball player for the Rattlers from 1974 to 1978. He was an All-SIAC (Southern Intercollegiate Athletic Conference) and All-American selection his senior year at FAMU with several of his records still standing to this day. Johnson went on to a solid career in the NBA, winning a world championship with the Philadelphia 76ers. He later started coaching in the high school ranks before being hired at the University of Alaska-Fairbanks.
FAMU Interim Sports Information Director Vaughn Wilson presided over the event. FAMU Director of Athletics Derek Horne gave the welcome from the FAMU Athletic Department and FAMU President James H. Ammons welcomed the crowd of nearly 300 and introduced new head basketball coach Clemon Johnson.
Horne was excited to have the search completed and a Rattler hired to guide the team.
"It's a great day for not only FAMU, but our athletic department," said Horne. "We have an alum coming back to the hill that we think will do a great job for us."
Ammons expressed that it was important to regain championship composure for the basketball program.
"We wanted someone who could come back and ignite that ole Rattler spirit," said Ammons. "When you think about Rattler sports, you immediately think about some of the great student-athletes who have been a part of this campus. You think of Althea Gibson, Bob Hayes and legendary coach Jake Gaither. When you think about basketball, you think about Clemon Johnson."
To the sounds of the Marching "100," Johnson approached the podium with a smile as wide as it could go. This was a full circle moment for Johnson. From the late 1970s as a player for FAMU coach Ajac Triplett to this opportunity to take the helm himself, Johnson has prepared himself for his dream job.
"I know a lot of people had a lot to do with helping to get me here," said Johnson. "It's been a long journey. I've been preparing myself for this since I left here in 1978."
He told a story of legendary coach Jake Gaither, who was the athletic director when he arrived at FAMU.
"I caught the tail end of the blood, sweat and tears of coach Gaither," said Johnson. "We were in Atlanta, Ga. playing Albany State in the SIAC championship, and we were beating Albany State by 20 points at halftime. Coach Gaither came to the locker room and said, ‘Kill a mosquito with an ax.'"
The interest in Johnson's return could be the boost the FAMU basketball program needs. With his ties to FAMU Development Research School, Monticello and Quincy, the interest in the basketball program in and around the Tallahassee area will be increased as his roots are spread deep in the area.
Last season, the Rattlers finished 12-20 with a first round exit in the MEAC Tournament.
Johnson's goal is to return the team back to the championship caliber that was commonplace while he was a player and was repeated by former basketball coaches Willie Booker, Mickey Clayton and Mike Gillespie.
Several current players on the Rattlers squad were in attendance.
"Ladies and gentlemen I am looking forward to this opportunity," concluded Johnson. "As I've said before, I am prepared for it. I'm ready for it and we're ready to go to work. We need you to grab a friend and join us in the Lawson Center to come cheer the Rattlers on."