Former College of Charleston star Anthony Johnson’s next goal: Become NBA general manager
When Anthony Johnson’s NBA career came to an end in 2010, the former College of Charleston star knew he wanted to stay close to the game.
What: Hoopin’ With AJ Basketball Camp
When: Aug. 5-9
Where: College of Charleston
Information: Call (843) 224-0606 or go to www.ajbasketballcamp.com
He just wasn’t sure in what capacity.
Johnson, who played 13 seasons in the NBA for nine different teams, spent a week in 2011 shadowing Philadelphia 76ers president and general manager Rod Thorn learning about the business side of basketball. Then head coach Doug Collins tapped Johnson to help out the team as a volunteer assistant coach as they prepared for a playoff series against the Miami Heat.
The former Stall High School standout found himself torn between the front office and coaching.
“I loved the competition side of coaching,” said Johnson, who will hold his annual youth basketball camp beginning Monday at the College of Charleston. “I loved the day-to-day interaction with the players and working with them so they can improve and make the team better. You could see the results almost immediately on the floor that night.”
But there was something about the front office that intrigued Johnson. The notion of building a team — putting the pieces together toward a goal of winning a championship — was something that Johnson just couldn’t stop thinking about.
“At first, I didn’t think I’d like that aspect of the NBA,” Johnson said. “There was no immediate gratification for me like there was in coaching when you can see players and teams coming together for one goal. But the more I got involved with it and began to understand what it takes to run a front office person, the more I liked it.”
Last December Johnson got a call from Dell Demps, the general manager of the New Orleans Pelicans. Demps had been an assistant coach with the Mobile Revelers in 2000-01 when Johnson played in the NBA’s D-League. Demps wondered if Johnson would be interested in becoming a scout for the team.
Johnson jumped at the chance.
He spent the next five months, traveling throughout the country, evaluating talent in the NBA, the D-League and at the collegiate level.
“That’s where it all starts,” Johnson said. “Building a team means finding and evaluating players. Not just how they’ll do on the floor, but how they are going to fit into your organization. You can find players at every level. A guy who is playing for another NBA team might not be a good fit for his current team, but he could fit in with your team.”
Demps also encouraged Johnson to study the NBA’s current collective bargaining agreement and understand the league’s salary cap.
“Anthony is a very intelligent guy who’s been around the game for a long time,” Demps said. “You don’t play in the NBA for 13 years unless you’re a smart guy. Anthony has tremendous insight into players and knows how they’re going to fit into a team not only on the floor, but in the locker room. When Anthony talks in our meetings, everyone listens to him.”
Johnson signed a two-year extension at the end of the season to be a scout with the Pelicans. He’s hoping it is the first step toward eventually becoming a general manager.
“That’s the intriguing part to me,” Johnson said. “Building a team from scratch and competing for a championship.”
Johnson said he could return to coaching, but likes the stability of being in the front office.
“You have a bad season or two in the NBA as a coach and you’re probably out of a job,” Johnson said. “There’s a better chance to stay with a team for longer when you’re in the front office.”
In July, Johnson got a chance to watch former College of Charleston guards Andrew Lawrence and Andrew Goudelock during the NBA’s summer league in Las Vegas.