Johnson says stay

The Orlando Magic's Anthony Johnson shoots a three-pointer against the Philadelphia 76ers during the second quarter of Game 2 of the first round of the NBA playoffs at Amway Arena in Orlando, Florida, Wednesday, April 22, 2009. (Gary W. Green/Orlando Sentinel/MCT)

Anthony Johnson never played a game in the Southern Conference, but the College of Charleston’s first NBA player says moving to the Colonial Athletic Association isn’t such a good idea.

Johnson, who interviewed for the Cougars head basketball coach position in March, said the Cougars are better off in the Southern Conference. Playing against the likes of Wofford, Furman, Davidson and The Citadel make more sense to Johnson than developing rivalries with Hofstra, Drexel and Northeastern.

“The College just doesn’t have a whole lot in common with some of the teams in the Colonial league,” said Johnson, who is preparing for next week’s 15th Annual AJ Basketball Camp at the College of Charleston. “You play The Citadel, Furman, Wofford or a team like Davidson and you can have a rivalry with those schools. The fans are familiar with those schools.”

The CAA, which lost league members Georgia State, Virginia Commonwealth and Old Dominion, is a superior basketball conference compared to the SoCon. The CAA has had four NCAA tournament at-large bids, while the SoCon has had none. George Mason (2006) and Virginia Commonwealth (2011) both advanced to the Final Four. The CAA’s Ratings Power Index is No. 14, while the SoCon’s is No. 27.

And it’s not like the Cougars have dominated the SoCon since joining the league in 1998. Their only league title came in 1999, which was the last time the Cougars appeared in the NCAA tournament.

“It’s a major step up in competition,” said Johnson, who played for Charleston from 1993-97. “If we had won a bunch of conference championships, that would be one thing. But I think our best chance of going to the tournament is by staying in the Southern Conference.”

Not to mention all the travel. The CAA currently stretches from Boston to Wilmington, N.C.

“Basketball isn’t the only sport,” Johnson said. “Boston is a long way to go for a volleyball game. There are a lot more knowledgeable people than me making this decision, but I hope they’ve done their due diligence.”

Johnson, 37, spent last season as a volunteer assistant with Atlanta Hawks coach Larry Drew. Johnson, who spent 13 seasons in the NBA playing for eight different teams, hopes to get a full-time gig as an assistant coach in the NBA for the upcoming season.

“I’ve got a couple of interviews coming up in the next two or three weeks and I’m optimistic I’ll be coaching next season,” Johnson said. “Right now, my goal is to coach in the NBA, but if the right Division I job came along in college, I’d definitely be interested.”

Johnson interviewed for the Cougars head coaching vacancy and knew he was a longshot to get the job. Johnson was pleasantly surprised by the grassroots support he received from inside the Cougars alumni association. The Cougars eventually hired former Tulsa coach Doug Wojcik.

“When an opportunity like that comes along, you have to jump at it,” Johnson said. “I learned a lot about the interview process and about myself. I’ve got no hard feelings toward anyone at the College of Charleston. I was disappointed I didn’t get the job, but at the same time I was honored they gave me the chance to interview.”