SAPAKOFF COLUMN: C of C's Danny Johnson, like grandfather Bob Fulton, has the gift of gab
One name kept coming up last offseason as Jeff McCarragher went looking for an addition to the College of Charleston's basketball radio crew.
“Danny Johnson,” suggested former Cougars head coach John Kresse, and just about everyone else.
Why, of course.
Johnson oozes credibility. He was Rick Barnes' first Clemson recruit before transferring to the College of Charleston and helping the Cougars reach the NCAA tournament in 1998 and 1999. He played professionally all over the world.
Family ties to the business are stronger than hardwood.
Johnson, 36, is the grandson of the late Bob Fulton, the booming voice of South Carolina Gamecocks basketball, football and baseball for 43 years before retiring in 1995.
“The last few years of his life, I really got to spend some time with him,” Johnson said of the amiable Fulton, who died in 2010. “The one thing I'll never have that he was known for is that distinctive voice. That voice really carried. Everyone in South Carolina knew that voice.
“I don't have that voice, but one thing I learned from my grandfather is to use any advantage you have to get one step ahead of the next person. One thing I have is a perspective that's very different than most people; I've been through a ton of things in basketball.”
Not surprisingly, Johnson has been excellent while serving as an analyst alongside radio teammate Everett German when McCarragher takes his play-by-play duties to television, working with Kresse and Nate Ross. Johnson is at it again tonight when the Cougars play host to Davidson in a televised Southern Conference showdown at TD Arena.
“At first I looked at (broadcasting) as a hobby,” Johnson said. “But it's been very relaxing for me. The arena. The smells. The balls bouncing. As the sound of the ocean is relaxing to people lying on the beach, the sound of balls bouncing around is relaxing to me.”
Ready for ESPN
Johnson is already ESPN-ready. The man needs an agent.
Listen, and see if you agree.
“I'm outspoken,” said Johnson, a Summerville resident. “I'm definitely not shy, and I know the game pretty well. The opportunity came about and I was just really excited about it.”
McCarragher wasn't aware of the family connection until a studio taping session with Johnson last fall.
“Do you know who my grand-father is?” Johnson asked.
“No,” McCarragher said.
“Well, he recently passed away. But he was the longtime voice of South Carolina.”
“Bob Fulton was your grandfather? I've heard so many great things about him.”
Johnson told McCarragher about the heart-tugging night that paths crossed, when Fulton called a Gamecocks-Tigers game with his grandson in the Clemson lineup.
“Danny told me how much Bob was loved and respected,” McCarragher said. “I could tell from the tone of Danny's voice how much he missed his grandfather.”
Why didn't someone think of this broadcasting thing sooner?
Mostly because Johnson was busy.
He played pro basketball, getting long looks in NBA camps or summer leagues with the Knicks, Bucks, Pacers and Bobcats. The overseas resume includes stints in Greece, England, France, Turkey and Lebanon.
Johnson completed work on his College of Charleston degree.
He works as a sales rep and account executive at a chemical supply company and helps run Teacups & Trucks, a Summerville children's party planning service.
'It's a process'
He caught his breath for a quick take on Davidson.
“Coach (Bob) McKillop is just so highly respected, just the discipline his teams play with,” Johnson said. “They're a tough matchup. If you look at the starters, their free throw percentage is in the 80s. Let's say a predicament comes where you're close at the end. The statistics say the advantage is to Davidson because they have five guys on the court that can make free throws. That's a testament to what coach McKillop thinks is important.”
The part-time radio analyst has been around the globe, and around the College of Charleston program a while. He realizes many Cougar fans won't be satisfied without the first NCAA tournament appearance since that 1999 team lost to Tulsa.
“We have a lot of talent,” Johnson said.
“Coach (Bobby) Cremins did a good job of bringing talent in and now coach (Doug) Wojcik has a completely different philosophy on basketball. A lot of times people don't understand that success is a process. It's fun to watch that process.”
And fun to listen.
Reach Gene Sapakoff at 937-5593 or on Twitter @sapakoff