What appeared to be a slam dunk for the College of Charleston and Anthony Johnson in the school's search for a new basketball coach unraveled Monday when the former Cougars standout informed college officials about an arrest stemming from a domestic dispute three years ago.
Johnson, 39, was on the verge of getting his "dream job" as head coach but reluctantly pulled his name out of consideration Wednesday, a day after the administration reviewed details of the incident with his wife, Crystal Johnson.
Police were called to the former NBA player's Atlanta home on June 10, 2011, after the couple got into a "heated argument" that night. The arrest warrant states that Johnson used one hand to push his pregnant wife in the throat. The confrontation took place in front of the couple's son.
Johnson was charged with two counts of simple battery, one count of simple battery of a pregnant female and third-degree cruelty to a child, the affidavits said. All four counts were misdemeanors. If convicted on all four counts, Johnson faced a maximum prison term of four years and a $4,000 fine.
Through a pre-trial agreement, Johnson pleaded no contest to disorderly conduct, serving 19 days in jail and one month of probation, which was suspended. He also attended an anger management session.
By pleading no contest, Johnson did not admit guilt or offer a defense. Pleading no contest can be more advantageous than pleading guilty if there is a likelihood of another court proceeding. In a civil case, for example, he would still be able to deny any wrongdoing.
"I pleaded no contest because I thought it was in the best interest of my family," Johnson said. "I told the administration about the incident before they started their preliminary background check on me."
Johnson and his wife were divorced in 2013 but are working toward reconciliation.
"Both Anthony and I take full responsibility for the failure of our marriage," Crystal Johnson said in an email to The Post and Courier. "There has never been any domestic violence or physical abuse between us. We still love each other and are committed to co-parenting our children and have started to have discussions about reconciliation."
Johnson said he pulled his name from consideration because he didn't want to embarrass the school or his family.
"I let a lot of people down who were really supportive of me throughout this entire process," Johnson said Thursday. "I let down my wife, my two beautiful children, my family and the College of Charleston and the Cougar community. I cannot tell you how sorry I am for this. Crystal and I are working toward reconciliation and we're moving in the right direction."
When it became apparent he was a finalist for the job, the former Stall High School star said he told the school's administration about the incident.
"I wanted to be as up-front as possible about what happened," Johnson said. "I was trying to be transparent about it."
On the heels of the firing of coach Doug Wojcik on Aug. 5 for allegations of verbal and physical abuse against players and athletic administration staff, Johnson and school officials decided to part ways Wednesday.
"Becoming the head basketball coach at the College of Charleston was my dream job," said Johnson, who interviewed for the job in 2012 before Wojcik was hired. "This was a job that I have wanted for a very long time. After everything that has happened at the College of Charleston this summer, I couldn't, in good conscience, put the school or my family through this and add to the controversy."
Johnson said he was never offered the job or began negotiations on a contract.
College of Charleston athletic director Joe Hull, who was chairman of the school's search committee, did not return multiple calls seeking comment Wednesday.
School President Glenn McConnell declined to comment through the college's media relation's department.
Johnson and Wofford coach Mike Young, the other finalist, both took their names out of consideration for the position within hours of each other Wednesday afternoon.
The college's eight-person search committee interviewed six candidates for the job - Johnson, Young, Clemson assistant coach Earl Grant, University of Connecticut assistant coach Karl Hobbs, former UNC Charlotte coach Bobby Lutz and Virginia assistant coach Ritchie McKay.
With Johnson and Young out of the picture, McKay, Hobbs, Grant and Lutz were all back in the mix to replace Wojcik, a source in the athletic department confirmed.
McKay and Hobbs have emerged as the top candidates, the source said.
Hobbs, 53, is an assistant coach at the University of Connecticut and was the head coach at George Washington from 2001-11. He was 166-129 with three NCAA Tournament appearances and one NIT bid with George Washington. Hobbs was fired in April 2011 after George Washington went 17-14 and failed to make the postseason.
McKay, 49, has been a head coach at five different schools - Portland State, Colorado State, Oregon State, New Mexico and Liberty. In 13 seasons, McKay is 204-186 with one NCAA Tournament appearance with New Mexico and an NIT berth with Colorado State. He is an assistant coach at Virginia.
"The College of Charleston job is a great job and I'm sure the school is going to find a quality coach," McKay said in a telephone interview Thursday. "As far as my candidacy, I'm not going to comment. My main concern is the team and the players here at the University of Virginia."
The Cougars open the 2014-15 season on the road Nov. 14 against Furman.