Effort is something former Madisonville boys basketball coach Johnny Carter thrived on throughout his coaching career.
Carter’s efforts did not go unrecognized either. He recently found out he will be a member of the Texas High School Basketball Hall of Fame’s Class of 2014.
“I was at the a long table at the entrance to the St. Mary’s University gym selling books when Sam Tipton of the Texas Girls Coaches Association tells me, ‘Coach, you’re working too hard. Have a seat,’” Carter said. “Sam then congratulated me, but I didn’t know why he was congratulating me. Then he told me I was voted into the Hall of Fame.”
The congratulations turned out to be news to Carter. In fact, he was shocked.
“The shock still hasn’t worn off,” Carter said. “It’s quite an honor and I feel blessed.”
Carter’s coaching career spanned nearly 40 years, with most of them taking place in the high school ranks. He coached at Kennard (1967-70), Howard Payne (1971-73), McLennan Community College (1974-80), Oklahoma (1981-82) and Madisonville (1984-2005).
Carter’s highlights included a trio of state championships at Kennard (1967, 1968, 1970), six consecutive conference championships at MCC (1975-80) and a state runner-up finish at Madisonville (1995). He also had the privilege of coaching former NBA greats Vinnie “The Microwave” Johnson and Sam Worthen at MCC.
If there is one thing Carter says he owes his coaching career to, it’s the full-court press defense. Carter’s teams employed the full-court press, and it took a desperation situation of Kennard’s 1967 Class B state quarterfinal game to evolve his way of coaching.
“We were down in the fourth quarter, and needed to get back in the game,” he said. “We were not a press team until that night, but we were not only able to force turnovers and get a few transition baskets, we were able to come back and win.”
Kennard won the state championship two games following its eye-opening, come-from-behind state quarterfinal win. Kennard’s 1967 season is chronicled in Carter’s book, The First Season, which is in the process of moving over to Amazon.com.
Following the 1967 season, Carter spent a lot of time at Sam Houston State talking to then-coach Archie Porter.
“Archie Porter won a state title at Dallas Jefferson running the full-court press so I picked his brain every chance I had that summer,” he said. “Full-court press defense is based on five guys with one focus, and the guys on the bench having that same focus. If one guy messes up, it’s costly.”
Kennard won state championships in 1968 and 1970 before Carter left to take an assistant coaching job at Howard Payne. Three years later, he became the head coach at MCC.
While at MCC, Carter coached in the highest-scoring game in the history of basketball — a 169-165 win over Kilgore in 1980. The game ball from that contest is now enshrined at the National Basketball Hall of Fame in Springfield, Mass.
From MCC, Carter served as Billy Tubbs’ assistant at Oklahoma for two years before coming back to Madisonville to finish out his coaching career. Carter’s career record is 903-241, which included a 160-13 mark at his four-year stint at Kennard.
While Carter is retired, he did help the 2012-13 Madisonville basketball team as an assistant. The Mustangs were 25-8 this past season — Brian Thurmond’s sixth as their head coach.
“I talk to Brian on a regular basis,” Carter said. “One time he asked me if I could come up to practice and teach his players full-court defense. It certainly rekindled some old coaching vibes in me, but the thing that made the press successful this past season was the fact that the players bought into it.”
The mantra of “run and press, forget the rest,” was a way of life for Carter-coached teams. But he credits his teams’ efforts for his successes.
“I always told my players that other teams may have more talent, but they won’t outwork us,” he said. “Effort applies to everything in life. The best thing about coaching is convincing kids to go beyond expectations through effort.”